Mary Macpherson

The photographs of Mary Macpherson – with a dash of poetry

Posts Tagged ‘photoforum

Interview with Harry Culy of Bad News Books

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I had fun interviewing Wellington’s Harry Culy one of the enterprising co-founders of Wellington’s Bad News Books, an indie photobook publishing company right here in the capital.

The interview is on the PhotoForum website where we’re building a resource of information and critical writing about New Zealand photographers and photography.

Harry Culy and Lucy Aitchison, owner/directors of Wellington’s Bad News Books (photo: Sam Stephenson)




Written by Mary Macpherson

05/08/2018 at 7:27 pm

Review of the Visibility Paradigm

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Recently I reviewed the Allan McDonald curated show, The Visibility Paradigm, on at Unitec, Auckland until 13 June, for the PhotoForum website.

Do check out the PhotoForum site where, with the aid of a CNZ grant, we’re building a resource dedicated to reviews and critical writing about New Zealand photography.

Sheryl Campbell, ‘Breathe Dolly Breathe’. A video work against pornography and part of The Visibility Paradigm group show at Gallery One, Unitec, Auckland.

Written by Mary Macpherson

11/06/2018 at 2:32 pm

Responses wanted to PhotoForum NZ website survey

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Everyone loves a survey – yeah right I hear you groan.

But if you care about NZ photography please take a moment to complete this short survey about the PhotoForumNZ website. PhotoForum wants to revitalise the site and make it a place that photographers and the wider arts community visit regularly. They’ve got great ideas for content and features, but would like input from the wider arts community in NZ and internationally.

And there’s an opportunity to do into a draw to win a year’s free membership of PhotoForum.

Thanks for your input. The deadline for responses in 5 February 2015.

Written by Mary Macpherson

27/01/2015 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Photography

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Something like a history of NZ art photography

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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.

Man at Outdoor Cafe, Auckland 1973, Glenn Busch

Man at Outdoor Cafe, Auckland 1973, Glenn Busch (image copyright Glenn Busch)

Selwynn Toogood, 1981, Peter Black

Selwynn Toogood, 1981, Peter Black (image copyright Peter Black)

Aboriginal Children, Roebourne WA 1976,

Aboriginal Children, Roebourne WA 1976, Bruce Connew (image copyright Bruce Connew)

Mary Macpherson at Gus Fisher

My talk about Bent at the Gus Fisher gallery. In the foreground current PF director, Geoffrey H Short, and past director, John B Turner (photo copyright Peter Black)

Written by Mary Macpherson

13/06/2014 at 11:20 am

Auckland talk

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On Saturday 7 June at 2pm, I’ll be talking at the Gus Fisher Gallery about my memories of PhotoForum Wellington, and my series Bent. I’d love to see any mates who are in the vicinity.

Selected Auckland images from Bent are also showing downstairs at the gallery, alongside the big PhotoForum exhibition.

More information


Written by Mary Macpherson

02/06/2014 at 1:35 pm

Peeking in Auckland

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In Auckland recently, I was lucky enough to peek at the book PhotoForum plans to launch to commemorate its 40 year history, along with an exhibition at the Gus Fisher Gallery. Apart from what the book and show will encapsulate of NZ’s essential art photography history, I suddenly realised that period of time was my life. (Duh!) A weird feeling that something you lived through, and was part of your confused existence, has became a narrative in the past tense. But as an art photographer, I know that period was an important time for nurturing my work and that of many significant figures. I’m really looking to June when it will all be unveiled – and thanks to the people in Auckland who are burning the candle at both ends to complete the projects.

Another Auckland pleasure was staying in a room on a 13th floor at the end of Queen St. In this land of head offices I felt like a sparrow flying for the air between buildings (not unlike the feeling of my childhood dreams when I constantly swam through the air to escape some peril or other).

Room and buildings in Auckland

Auckland 2014 (Image copyright Mary Macpherson)

Written by Mary Macpherson

05/03/2014 at 5:41 pm

Reality unchained

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The thump of a courier package at the French doors heralded my keenly awaited copy of Pictures They Want to Make – Recent Auckland Photography. It’s a handsome landscape hardback published by PhotoForum Inc, Auckland,  that features of the work of 12 photographers, either from or with a connection to the Auckland (New Zealand) region.

In recent years there’s been a small flood of New Zealand photographic monographs, either wrapped around a project, or providing an overview of an artist’s work. It’s been awhile since the last compilation – think Into the Light, A History of New Zealand Photography by David Eggleton (Craig Potton Publishing 2006), or Contemporary New Zealand Photographers  (Mountain View Publishing 2005).

Books featuring collections of photographers – grouped under a heading implying a round up of the latest new voices, or an overview of world photographic history – often suffer from snippet syndrome. There might be generous selection of artists, but if each person only has one or two pictures to support a statement, a publication covering 20 – 50 photographers can become a series of easily forgotten glimpses, because there’s simply not enough work from each artist to provide depth or resonance.

Happily, Pictures They Want to Make, edited by Chris Corson-Scott and Edward Hanfling, avoids this trap. Each artist is given a one page introduction, a sketch of what’s interesting in their practice, similar to the wall panel that would introduce work in a gallery, followed by around 10 full page pictures. The work is carefully selected, either covering different periods in one artist’s career, or providing a coherent view of recent projects. It’s possible, therefore, to get a real sense of what each individual photographer is about, and the strengths and orientation of their work.

The book also has a central direction governing the inclusion of the individual photographers, so there’s an overall coherence – rather like a well curated exhibition. The underlying drive is to address the perception that a photograph which begins with an image taken from reality is merely a document of what’s in the image.  The editors are keen to remind us that strategies and deliberate intention underpin the work, and it takes sophisticated viewing to understand what’s going on – in much the same way as any contemporary artwork.

This is not a new battle for photography. The introductory essay by Leo Rubinfien in the wonderful monster Garry Winogrand monograph I’m currently reading, notes how in the 1960s Tod Papageorge challenged curator John Szarkowski’s use of the word document – “To use it, even innocently, he argued, was to say that photographs were dumb transcriptions of the real – to say they were not art.” In New Zealand it seems this point needs to be made again and again.

The work itself ranges from projects which subvert viewer expectations, series, like the one from Edith Amituanai, that draws on snapshot and portrait traditions to mine cultural territory, and work from Chris Corson-Scott who uses the view camera to create large landscapes of the quotidian, but where the viewer uncovers resonant information and so keeps returning to a complex image (a similar strategy to American large format colour work – but with a distinct Auckland tang). The 12 series might not challenge the boundaries of what’s acceptable, but works are sophisticated, culturally engaged and contemporary.  Whatever your preferences there’s enough variety among the 12 photographers to keep a reader returning to the images.

The book was supported Nikon New Zealand, Progear, Vista Entertainment Solutions and the Wallace Arts Trust (with Creative New Zealand or a public gallery missing from the funding line up). But as a publication driven by people who understand the art in photography, and how to put together a photography book, it’s emerged as fresh and relevant.

Even allowing for my bias as PhotoForum member, I highly recommend this book which at a is available from selected bookshops in Auckland (e.g. Auckland Art Gallery, Unity Books, TimeOut, Dear Reader, The BookLover) or is part of the member benefits package of joining PhotoForum.

(RRP NZ $59.95)

PhotoForum book

Front cover image, Edith Amituanai, Khin Nu and Rawa From Up the Street (from the series La Fine Del Mondo) 2010

Written by Mary Macpherson

22/06/2013 at 5:08 pm

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