George Chance was employed in 1901 at the London photographic supply wholesaler George Houghton and Sons, before moving in 1904 to the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, where he worked as a private photography tutor. Chance emigrated to New Zealand in 1909, where he found work at the Dunedin optometry firm Dawson Limited. In the early days of photography, it was much more closely linked to optometry professionally, due to both fields being reliant on the production of precision lenses and an understanding of the science of optics.
While in London, Chance studied under the pictorialist photographer Alfred Horsley Hinton. Hinton was a member of the Linked Ring, a photographic society who were concerned with moving the popular perception of photography away from the sciences (such as optometry) and towards the fine arts, by producing photographs which imitated the atmospheric effects and classical compositions of painting. To this end, they pioneered many photographic manipulation techniques, altering their images during the printing and developing process and sometimes even compositing multiple images together in early examples of photomontage, as seen in works such as Henry Peach Robinson’s Fading Away (1858). They were also amongst the first to treat photographs as art objects in their own right, rather than as disposable reproductions.
Chance brought these ideas and their attendant technologies to New Zealand, where he found a receptive audience for them. He produced numerous views of New Zealand’s landscape, buildings and people in the pictorialist style, which were well-received both in New Zealand and internationally. He also won several competitions and awards for his work, including a silver cup in the landscape section of the second international photographic exhibition held by Hong Kong University in 1933. Chance occupies an important place in the history of photography in New Zealand, because his body of work represents an early example of a photographer treating their practice as part of the discourse of fine art, rather than as a purely commercial exercise.