Leo White was born in Auckland on 4 July 1906. His lifelong love of photography was sparked as a young boy when he acquired a Brownie box camera. Before he turned 20, White was a photographic contributor to major major New Zealand periodicals - The NZ Herald, The Auckland Star and The Christchurch Weekly Press.
He also knew the importance of being first off the mark in publishing. When he covered important events outside of Auckland, White would always take his 'baby Austin' car to seal his chance at the first image. It meant he could race home and beat the competition, who generally travelled by train.
White captured some of the first images of Auckland from the air in 1921, beginning a lifelong passion for flying which he combined with his love of photography. By 1945 White established the now famous Whites Aviation Ltd.
Today the hand tinted photographs captured by Leo White are highly sought after and are a great reference to the history of New Zealand. Every single photo coloured by hand? Using cotton wool? Yes, such was the era of hand-coloured photography – a painting and photograph in one – the way you got a high-quality colour photo before colour photography became mainstream. Some of New Zealand’s best hand-coloured photos were produced by Whites Aviation from 1945. For over 40 years, the glorious scenic vistas were a sensation, adorning offices and lounges around the land; patriotic statements within New Zealand’s emerging visual arts. Now, despite massive changes in society and photography, the stunning scenes and subtle tones still enchant, as coveted collectibles; decorations on screen; and as respected pieces of photographic art.
Whites Aviation Ltd was established 1945 by Leo White (1906-1967) to produce a series of popular illustrated publications of aviation history and aerial photography. White began to freelance as a photographer in the 1920s, and later worked for the Weekly News. He was closely involved with aviation in Auckland 1920s-1930s, and pioneered aerial photography in the region. He compiled Wingspread, a history of New Zealand aviation, in 1941; and served as a photographer with the RNZAF during WWII. During the early 1950s he covered New Zealand by air, taking photographs for Whites pictorial reference of New Zealand. In 1988 the business was purchased by Air Logistics.
What an absolutely fabulous book. A large coffee table format, biographical information about not only White, himself but his 'ladies' in the studio. I learned that to further his company's income many of their commissioned photos were used not only for commercial and civic purposes but also recoloured for display on the walls of good homes all around New Zealand.