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.

I don’t really have  much of a  sense of art photography in Wellington,  or its history since the 1970s–in contrast to the photography  of the Auckland region. I did know that PhotoForum/Wellington  wound up in 1992.  Documentary photography has been a dominant language of PhotoForum photography, and this  often focused on social and political issues. PhotoForum’s  ethos was to publish the contemporary work of members and fellow travellers.

Caledonian Chambers, Wellington

Caledonian Chambers, Wellington

What I did see at Te Papa Tongarewa, was some 8×10 black and white  prints by  Mark Adams —eg., his Land of Memories’— and those by Laurence Aberhart. I also saw some of  Wayne  Barrar‘s  colour photographs of  salt ponds/works . These images  were in Te Papa’s impressive  New Zealand Photography Collected  photography exhibition.  Aberhart’s  work has included images of memorials in New Zealand and Australia  as well as rural churches, masonic halls, graveyards, glass-case museum displays, and suburban housing on the edge of dereliction.

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  • Reply critical writing about photography - Thought FactoryThought Factory December 17, 2015 at 10:26 am

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  • Reply Gary Sauer-Thompson December 19, 2015 at 9:18 am

    From Julian Ward:

    Hello Thought Factory. Nice site and nice writing. I have just been reading about your views of Wellington photography. Mostly correct but there is a lot more going on just beneath the surface. Wellington has a very healthy art photography scene and three galleries mostly dedicated to photography. PhotoForum also is healthy in Weliington with major exhibitions and publications going on right now. I am very active as well and you can see my work at Please if you wish to know more about Wellington please ask a local. Cheers Julian Ward.

    • Reply Gary Sauer-Thompson December 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Hello Julian,
      It was a superficial look, based a quick visit. I take your point, and agree, that if I wish to know more about Wellington photographic scene then I should ask a local.In all fairness the problem I faced was that I did not know any local photographers to ask. Maybe I can ask you the next time I visit?

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