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Wellington

architecture, digital, New Zealand, Wellington

Photoforum Members Show 2018

April 2, 2018

I am participating in the Photoforum Members Show at Studio 541, Mt Eden, Auckland,  New Zealand. I rejoined Photoforum when I was at Photobook-NZ in Wellington after several years absence.   I submitted 3 images (medium format,  colour negative film)  for inclusion in the Members Show, which were made when I was   walking Wellington on a recent visit. The exhibition was oversubscribed,  so  the  curators/organizers  reduced the three images to two. However, it was only due to the stirling work at very short notice  by the team at Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide that I was able to get the images printed, framed and couriered to Auckland.  We had a week to do it.

All  the images in the Photoforum exhibition are posted on  Studio 541’s website along with  the bio’s and artist statements.    These show a diverse range  of work that stands in opposition to, and digs beneath,  the NZ is beautiful or a paradise  school of photography.

 

 

Photo Forum Members’ Show 2018.

Photoforum  was co-founded in  1973 by John B Turner,  Tom Hutchins and Max Oettli to promote photography as an artistic and expressive medium, to encourage co-operation and collaboration amongst the photographic community, and  to provide mentoring  for photographers.  A secondary, but crucial  aim,   was  to encourage photographers to actively engage in the public risk-taking of critical writing and curatorial practice, outside of the universities and polytechnics.

Over its 40 years history Photoforum  has also helped to  nurture a critical environment, but there is still a lack of  critics and historians to better cover the field of photography in New Zealand. My memories of the early years when I was a member was that documentary photography has been  the dominant  language of PhotoForum photography.There is nothing like this  community-orientated non-profit organisation, which   has made valuable contributions to New Zealand art and art history,  amongst the art photographers in Australia.  We independent Australian art photographers are much poorer as a result of not having a similar DIY community of expressive photographers.       Continue Reading…

New Zealand, photography, publishing, Wellington

Photobook-NZ

March 30, 2018

I made a quick  return  to Wellington just after my walking Wellington trip to take part in Photobook-NZ  book fair   that was organized by Photoforum in association with Photography stream  of the College of Creative Arts at  Massey University and Te Papa.   I didn’t participate in the masterclass for   creating and publishing photobooks, nor did I submit a photobook for the New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards.   I missed the talks by Bryan SchutmaatCarolle Bénitah and Athol McCredie at Te Papa  on the Saturday as I had to mind my little stall in the   book fair   at Te Papa. The books on my  stall included Edgelands, Abstract Photography and Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2018.  Surprisingly, the book of mine that  people were the most interested in was the Abstract Photography book.

I  attended the opening on Friday night at Te Papa, heard  the  Peter Turner Memorial Lecture given by Jem Southam   on the Saturday night,  spend the Sunday at Massey University listening to the talks and panel discussions, reconnected with Sally Jackman (an old friend who I hadn’t seen since my time in Melbourne in the 1970s) on  the Sunday night,  and photographed around Newton on Monday.  I  flew back to Adelaide on Tuesday. All in all it was a wonderful and fruitful weekend.

Whakatane, New Zealand

The highlight of the Sunday session  at Massey University for me was the  talk by Katrin Koenning, a German photographer now based in Melbourne. The talk centred around the ongoing  Indefinitely project, which is  about the space created by her  family’s migration. The notion underpinning this is  that this space is not a vacuum or a void, but rather the creator of new narratives. This grew out of an earlier project Near, which was about Koenning’s  migratory experience. What I found interesting in this body of work in her talk  was the emphasis on emotionality,  darkness, and strong contrasts between darkness and light  in her pictures. Continue Reading…

architecture, digital, New Zealand, Travel, Wellington

walking Wellington

March 18, 2018

In early March I spent a week walking  Wellington, New Zealand  as well as  photographing in the city,  whilst Suzanne walked the Grand Traverse,  Queenstown way with her Adelaide  walking friends. I had  studio apartment in the Aro Valley courtesy of Air bnb,  and I spent about 8 hours a day walking the city in a Situationist mode. I drifted through central Wellington with two camera bags on my shoulders: one containing a Rolleiflex (TLR) a  Leica M4-P rangefinder whilst  the other held  my newly acquired  Sony Alpha A7r111, which I was slowly learning how to use.

2 houses, Wellington

I loved Wellington. It’s a funky,  vibrant cultured city. I was so at home being there. Even though Wellington is  a much smaller city than Adelaide in population terms, it is so much more alive in an urban sense. Despite the revitalisation since 2013 of the central city and the liquor-licensing reforms  Adelaide remains a  doughnut city.  Wellington  was much more alive than it was when I worked there in the 1970s as an economist in the public service. Then it  was empty of life at the centre with little in the way of depth of character. The central city is a much better place these days.

Wellington  also has  a strong art photography culture  which, unlike Australia,  is connected to,  and a part of,  a literay culture.  There is also a  vibrant café culture with excellent coffee scattered amongst  the Wellington ‘walkability’.  The  funky changes in the urban culture happened  in the 1990s apparently, but I am not sure what the driving forces  for the city’s transformation were, given that Wellington is largely a public service town.   Was the emergence of a lively urban culture caused by  the acceleration of diverse migration flows? Continue Reading…

architecture, critical writing, urban, Wellington

critical writing about photography

December 17, 2015

I have been digging around  the web looking for more contemporary Wellington-based photographers,   other than those I mentioned in an earlier post here and here  on this blog.  In doing so I came across  the work of Mark MarriottHans Weston, Tracey Kearns  —art photographers who have both an online presence and who exhibit regularly. Wellington has a number of  good active photographers and  small artist-run spaces.  The scene appears lively and the work interesting and diverse.

A good example  is Mary Macpherson’s Old New World, a  book of her photographs made over seven years  about change in New Zealand society as seen in the small regional/rural towns throughout the country.   The narrative is one of a shift from a traditional New Zealand, to places of prosperity and development that look very different to the 1960s and 70s. Presumably, the background reference  is to the way that the neo-liberal mode of capitalism has systematically  shaped New Zealand’s economy and society,  so deeply affected aspects of everyday life as the process of  commodification permeates all segments of society including art.  A book is an appropriate form of expression  for this kind of  photographic work about our historical experiences about what is passing away.

In  reworking  of the photographic approaches of  Walker Evans, Steven Shore and Joel  Steinfield Old New World  is against forgetting the past by proposing to remember the poetry of  place in the landscapes and urbanscapes  of the backroads of New Zealand. In doing so the text puts the  past and recent works of New Zealand art photography into a different light,  and opens them to different  meanings inside and outside the art institution.

 Macpherson, who is a poet as well as  a photographer,    says that this body of work is part of trying to understand her world and where she fits in it–ie., a trying to make sense of the changes.  In that sense photography, as meaningful, sensuous, particular works of art  is a form of thinking and self-discovery. What this suggests is that though artworks are indeed objects, the truth-content of art is of the world while also offering critical reflections upon it. This is a stance that is quite different from the contemporary adherents of the Romantic notion that art must establish itself as the antithesis of reason.
tree, Wellington CBD

tree, Wellington CBD

Whilst  reflecting on  Macpherson’s  Old New World  work  I  became curious about the breadth and depth  of the critical writing about photography and the visual arts in Wellington. I wondered if the situation in Wellington was the same as Adelaide. Both are provincial cities with the  mainstream newspapers getting smaller,  the resources devoted to journalism and editorship dropping, and the space for the visual art continuing to shrink.   So where to for critical writing on photography?

Mark Amery, speaking in relation to Wellington,  says that the closure of his fortnightly visual arts column with the Dominion Post newspaper in 2014  leaves Wellington without any visual arts commentary. The story is a familiar one: the mainstream media are increasingly treating the visual arts as irrelevant. The consequence is that Wellington’s visual artists are  left with the  critical writing about their work having a marginal existence in niche online publications, just like Adelaide with the  Adelaide Review.  Emery, who runs  public art programme Letting Space, mentions  the Pantograph PunchThe Lumière Reader,  Eyecontact and The Big Idea  in relation to New Zealand.  Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, digital, urban, Wellington

art photography in Wellington

December 7, 2015

My last two visits to Wellington ( New Zealand) have  enabled  me  to  see  that art photography in Wellington looks  to be centred around the PhotoSpace  gallery that is  run by James Gilberd. The gallery  opened in 1992 and it is the longest running photographic gallery in New Zealand.  It  remains the only gallery in the Wellington region dedicated to exhibiting contemporary New Zealand and international photography. It values  a high level of craft and has a stable  of established, regular exhibitors.

 Unfortunately,  147 Cuba Street was closed, when I visited it.  Though there  are no state funded photography galleries in New Zealand,  the   City Gallery Wellington,  regularly exhibits photography. The nearest photographic gallery to PhotoSpace is the McNamara Gallery  in Whanganui.  The current exhibition  is   contemporary ambrotypes and daguerreotypes by Joyce Campbell,  and the gallery has  good  links to contemporary New Zealand photographers and publications. 

This gallery  has done far more foregrounding New Zealand photography over the past decade than the largely conservative Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery,   which have acted to  marginalise  photographers vis-a -is the public gallery system. They  do so  with  exhibition programmes that function as if New Zealand photography wasn’t happening, or if they acknowledged photography’s existence,  they  were noted for their absence  over the past couple of decades in dealing with the medium of photography critically.

Coop Bank, Wellington

Coop Bank, Wellington

The established Wellington-based photographers include Mary McPherson,   Andrew Ross, Peter Black  and  Julian Ward. I knew the photographic work of Lester Blair  from his Flickr days and came across  the photos of Gabrielle Mckone recently whilst  photographing in Wellington. I know next to nothing  about the critical writing on New Zealand art and photography.  I’ve only just discovered that  Geoffrey Batchen  is  currently teaching at Victoria University. That is the extent of my surface knowledge of Wellington art photography.

Continue Reading…