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.      

My  2 images in the exhibition are from  a new project tentatively entitled Reconnections –ie., reconnecting with a very different Wellington after an absence of  40 years.   I had worked in the public service in a depressing Wellington in the early 1970s,  and I briefly returned around 2015 to find it a very charming and walkable city.  Once my mother, who was living in Christchurch  had died, Wellington became my entry point  into New Zealand, and the city where I felt most at home. As my return  visits to NZ became more frequent,  Wellington  emerged as  my  base  for my personal and photographic reconnection with  New Zealand.

The Reconnections project is about the space created by the  migrant experience: the running  away from an oppressive and inward looking NZ in the 1970s,   the absence or void  from not being in NZ,  and then returning  to NZ,  and more specifically to a funky  Wellington that rests  uneasily within a volatile ecology, plate boundary subsidence,  and rising sea levels in the low lying areas of Kilbirnie, Wellington’s central business district, the Hutt River floodplain and Porirua Harbour. Wellington, unfortunately,  has several  vulnerable coastal areas.

poetry wall, Newton, Wellington

Reconnections  is a project about personal trajectories, being separated by, and crossing borders. The narrative is one of journey, memory,  forgetfulness and remembrance with the photographic language  being around emotional states and so it is quite different to my  poodlewalks work  or the Mallee Routes project.  The project  is envisioned as a book,and I will avoid self-publishing through  Blurb as they never promote their high cost  books (it’s  the  cost of the postage from the US that pushes up the price).   Blurb  is probably the well-trodden path to obscurity, unfortunately.

Back to the Photoforum Members exhibition at Studio 541.  The danger that can surface is  what Mary Macpherson calls the snippet syndrome in her review of Pictures They Want to Make: Recent Auckland Photography.   By this  she means that  as  each person only has two or three pictures to support a statement in an exhibition (or book)   covering 50 photographers, so  the images  can become a series of easily forgotten glimpses,  as there is simply not enough work from each artist in the exhibition (or book) to provide depth or resonance with respect to their projects. This is more pronounced when viewing the images on a computer screen and there is no website  attached to the artist statement to allow the viewer to dig more deeply  into the photographer’s body of  work.

I  have spent some time doing a bit of  digging  to find out more  of the  exhibitors projects. Most of them  have websites,  and the links below are  what I have been  able to find about their  photographic work online. These include Tamara Azizian,   Mark Beehre, Harvey Benge, Caryline Boreham, Jon Carapiet, Cathy CarterSonja Gardien,   Lara Gilks Deborah Hide-BayneNiki Hill, Veronica Hodgkinson,  Mary Hutchinson, Brendan Kitto, Maurice Lyle,  Stuart Mackenzie, Julius Margan, Anton Maurer,  Daniel Mayo-Turner,  Gabrielle McKone, Solomon Mortimer, Tony Nyberg, Bertie Plaatsman,  Maria Sainsbury, Haru Sameshima, Céline Sayé,  Yvonne ShawGeoff Short, Stacey Simpkin, Ellie Smith, Mark Smith, Stuart Sontier, Martin TaylorJenny TomlinJulian Ward, Ans Westra,  Yvonne Westra, and  Jan Young. This represents a solid body of work.

1 Hanson St, Wellington

The images on the above   websites indicate that art photography in New Zealand is in a very healthy state. Photoforum should be very proud of what they have achieved over the 40 years. It should be a good and interesting exhibition, and one  that  indicates the scope and vitality of art photography in New Zealand.   This recent burst of exhibition life by  Photoforum shows that they are not resting on their well earned,  historical laurels.

The work that I have across and which attracts me with respect to the second movement of the  Reconnections is that by Céline Sayé  especially The infinity thoughts   and  Visages Multiples projects.



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