Something like a history of NZ art photography
While searching to match labels to pictures in the over 100-image show, History in the taking – 40 years of PhotoForum, it dawned on me that this show at the Gus Fisher is the nearest thing to a history of New Zealand art photography that we’ve had in a gallery. The show stretches from an early daguerreotype used by ex-PhotoForum director John B Turner as a teaching aid, through the years to Chris Corson-Scott’s 2013 large format colour image New Year’s Day.
The main gallery hosts historic work through to the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s – needless to say an exercise in black and white photography. But what an exercise. On the walls were images that were part of my formative years as a photographer, that in retrospect took on new dimensions. There were intriguing works by people who’ve disappeared from the photography scene, early works by artists like Peter Peryer and Laurence Aberhart – waiting to grow into their careers – and work that was strong in its time and now.
In the latter category I really enjoyed Tom Hutchin’s 1956 Saturday night dance in a worker’s club at Changchun, North East China, where a young Chinese couple dance with touching delicacy, an image that seems related to the mood of early Ans Westra pictures. Glenn Busch’s large penetrating portrait Man at an Outdoor Cafe, Auckland 1973 bowled me over, as did Marie Shannon’s 1985 Rat in the Lounge. Other treats were Aboriginal Children, Roebourne W.A. 1976 from Bruce Connew’s first documentary series, Lucien Rizos Wellington n.d., featuring an intense camera-carrying boy and Peter Black’s Selwyn Toogood 1981, an image with a strange dining room glamour that reminds of how tv came into our lives. To name just a few of the treats …
The foyer of the gallery is given over to contemporary work. Although the show has a good selection of significant work, with the wider arts photography scene now, not every significant contemporary name is here. But there’s enough to show the energy and direction of these times – Chris Corson-Scott’s layered image, Roberta Thornley’s 2009 Couple and one of Geoffrey H Short’s sensuous Untitled Explosion 2007 glowing away in its lightbox, are among the highlights.
If you are in Auckland before 28 June, this show is a must visit among the Festival of Photography exhibitions. Also showing at the Gus Fisher is Ane Tonga’s Grills, a beautifully considered installation, while downstairs is a small selection of my Bent work, along with my book. Towards the end of the month, PhotoForum will be releasing a significant publication of the images in the show with commentary about PhotoForum’s history and the people involved.
(Let’s hope that plans to tour this exhibition work out. In the meantime, big ups to the Gus Fisher for hosting this significant show)
Thanks to the photographers below for permission to reproduce their work.