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Key dates 

1927 Born 27 June, Wellington.
1932-44 Lives in Christchurch, visiting Arthur’s Pass, where his father runs the general store, during weekends and school holidays.
1945 Moves to Wellington to work for Spencer Digby studios as an assistant photographer.
1948-54 Employed by National Film Unit, beginning as assistant cameraman.
1952-53 Director and cinematographer of Snows of Aorangi (released 1955).
1954 Sails for Europe with the intention of gaining work in the British film industry, but fails to gain employment due to union rules.
1955 - Joins the cooperative picture agency Magnum as a nominee member.
- Photographs Picasso and Cocteau at a bullfight. The photographs are published in Life, Paris Match, and the Sunday Graphic, and represent Brake’s first picture story to receive international coverage.
- Visits Moscow in winter on his first major magazine assignment.
1956 - Covers Queen Elizabeth II’s tour to Nigeria.
- In June embarks on an extended global journey with Nigel Cameron with the plan to write and photograph magazine articles together. Visits the Middle East, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
1957 Visits China. Photographs both May Day celebrations and the visit of the Soviet head of state, Kliment Voroshilov, in Beijing. Continues photographing in China for three months.
1959 - Works in Sri Lanka, Sikkim, and other parts of India.
- Photographs the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing. Stays for a further two months.
1960 Visits New Zealand to photograph a National Geographic story, ‘New Zealand, gift of the sea’, with text by Maurice Shadbolt (published 1962). The story is later reworked into the best-selling 1963 book of the same title.
1961 The ‘Monsoon’ essay is published in Life magazine, followed by Paris Match, Epoca, The Queen, and many other international picture magazines.
1962 Begins living in Hong Kong in order to continue to concentrate on covering Asia, and for the next six years photographs mainly for special issues of Life magazine.
1963 New Zealand, gift of the sea is published as a book. It is updated in 1973, and republished as an entirely new version in 1990.
1963-64 Photographs in Japan, particularly for special issues of Life and Paris Match timed to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
1965 Photographs a series on the Roman empire for Life. Images are also later published in the 1978 book Rome and her empire.
1966 Works on a series on ancient Egypt for Life magazine, taking 18 months to complete. It is published as a six-part series over 1968-69.
1970 Forms a documentary film company in Hong Kong. Over the next six years produces a series of films for the Pertamina State Oil Company of Indonesia on corporate topics as well as on Indonesia and its cultures.
1972 The sculpture of Thailand is published, the first in a number of similar books on Asian art during the 1970s and 1980s.
1975 Commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council to photograph Mäori and Pacific works in New Zealand museum collections for the book Art of the Pacific (1979)
1976 - Returns to live permanently in New Zealand but continues to work internationally.
- Brian Brake: 40 photographs, a retrospective exhibition with a fully illustrated catalogue, is organised by the Dowse Art Gallery in Lower Hutt and toured nationally.
- Begins undertaking photography for annual reports and corporate publications.
1980 Following Hong Kong in 1977, Sydney is the second book published in the Time-Life series on great cities that features Brake’s photographs.
1981 - Craft New Zealand: The art of the craftsman is published.
- Awarded OBE for contributions to photography internationally and in New Zealand.
1985 With Brian Enting and Matheson Beaumont establishes the New Zealand Centre for Photography.
1987 Produces a lavish promotional audiovisual on Brunei for the sultan titled The abode of peace.
1988 - Reader’s Digest Guide to New Zealand, with photographs by Brake, is first published and, through further editions, remains in print to the present.
- Dies 4 August of a heart attack.
1990 A new version of New Zealand, gift of the sea, with a new publisher, is released.
1992 Brian Brake: The beautiful New Zealand, a multi-projector audiovisual, is shown in the New Zealand pavilion at Expo ’92, the world fair in Seville, Spain.
2007 Monsoon is published in book form.
2010 Brian Brake: Lens on the World exhibition and catalogue.

Brian Brake as a toddler
Brian Brake as a toddler, circa 1930, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Gift of Pamela Salmon, 2009. Te Papa

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.