November 6th, 2016
I gave a summary of the install and opening of the Pingyao International Photography Festival (PIP) a few weeks ago. Time has passed and it’s taken a while to be able to report on the running and conclusion, partly because of the need to clear my head of the crazy China experience which included a trip to Beijing with John Turner as host.
In Beijing I saw the follow-on from the initial interest in “Tom Hutchins – Seen in China 1956”. This included stronger interest in a new show that John is curating with Phoebe Li (“Recollection of A Distant Shore: A Photographic Introduction to the History of the Chinese in New Zealand”) which opened on 21 Oct at the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China. The Chinese Photographers Association filmed him talking about Tom Hutchins for a film documenting their 60-year history, as part of a teaching curriculum.
Some of this was the result of the high level of interest in “Tom Hutchins – Seen In China” at PIP. The installation pictures show that we were given a very prominent position with a huge poster image and text in English and Chinese facing the front door of Diesel Factory A2. We also found that we had a rich red wall which really made the black and white images ‘ping’ and even with the crowding of the 89 images the show looked stunning. This came courtesy of Zhang Guotian, the director of the festival who seemed to have taken a personal and professional interest in the show, emphasising the importance to Chinese at a number of levels.
On the first day, a communist party contingent came to view the show, and the entourage flew through so quickly that we missed documenting it. John and I spent some considerable time talking with the many visitors on the first two days and we saw a large audience from young to old, with the elderly often taking an especial interest. One of John’s hopes is that an adult visitor recognises themselves as a child in or near a picture that Tom took, and can recall the ‘lao wai’ – foreigner with the camera who came through in 1956 – this person would obviously be older than 60 now.
We also had a visit from Shangxi province TV reporters. The reporter seemed to have (mostly) done her homework and came prepared for a good length interview. She followed up with clarifying questions and produced a good segment that can be seen here:
The site has a transcript in Chinese but a translate app like Google Translate (unavailable if you are in China without a VPN) will give an approximate version.
One result of the level of interest in the show is that the NZ embassy has got behind the Chinese in NZ show and it is hoped that they may help with further stages of the Tom Hutchins project that John is working on. The history of the Chinese in NZ show is scheduled to open at the Auckland Museum in February 2017.
After the hard work and excitement of the first couple of days we managed to venture further afield to see some of the many other exhibitions.
Despite the variety and quality of the work on show, one of my personal concerns was that Pingyao is very much about traditional photography as opposed to ‘lens based art’ and because of this there seems to be a pinch on experimentation. A lot of the work that was trying to be challenging seemed to apply self imposed bounds. One work that showed promise was 4 framed ‘pictures’ that turned out to be video projections of torsos that were just perceptibly breathing but at a quick glance appeared to be straight photos.
Another, that sought to bring in political content and used multimedia, was ‘Since Then, No One Has Talked With You’ by He Bo. Based around recent terrorist bombings, the large full face portraits of attackers were built from small images of varying density, then overlayed with very tiny red faces of victims that built up a morse code message across the surface of the pictures. Small boxes on the wall, when opened, held typed messages.
There was perhaps too much layered meaning for me to work through (having to decode the morse was just a bit much) but I applaud the attempt to try and make personal meaning and public statement about political terror acts that impact many of us as individuals and as a society.
As well as a lot of commercially oriented work, there was some wonderful student work in the 7 huge buildings set aside for universities, and probing work in the Group Exhibition of Female Photographers. One in particular, by Chan Oi-Yan was inspiring to see. It looked at a Hong Kong wetlands area ‘beautified’ into a tourist hotspot. Her text started “Land use can hardly stop its pace due to the intense population…” Her pictures contrast the fog-covered beauty of the area with the disorganised look of a native wetland. “The nature faked a natural scene, humans? do it well too”.
The tall and striking character of Xu Hao held also a critical intellect that gave her images (in a series called ‘Home’) an ability to question consumerism and its power to manipulate human needs. The mundanity of Ikea store interiors, with a price tag on everything, was where she set up a camera and captured people treating the mock Ikea home displays as their own. Families lounging as if at home, in-store but looking out as if wondering whether something was lost “… where people seemed to forget their beating hearts”.
The photographs of Tu Chun, whilst superficially similar to Xu Hou because of the interiors in artificial light, were very different in intent. I sat with Chun for a long while enjoying his infectious smile in his own makeshift ‘home’ for the time of the festival, while he told me how he photographed immigrant families living in China. These interiors were real homes, styled by the owners themselves, the pictures considered and full of respect for the participants.
Peng Xiangjie showed some arresting, rich, black and white images of a dwarf community that appears to be both exploited and given a liveable job and lifestyle in a commercial theme park. I learnt this by talking to Peng for an hour through a translator. He sees Arbus as a strong influence but his approach with subjects seems much more long term and considered. Intense in his consideration of his own work and able to talk about the social politics, nevertheless, like many photographers he is mindful of his career, and this could influence the scope of his work.
As mentioned previously, the New Zealand show from the Auckland Photography Festival, curated by Rosanna Raymond, gave space for Maori and Pacific Island photographers who look at their place in New Zealand in quite a different way to the Pakeha view that we often get. Many of the images can be seen at the link and some of the standouts for me were the constructed psycho sexual scenarios by Russ Flatt and the edgy and potentially conflicted work of Emily Mafile’o.
The quality and interest value of the international shows was high, with known photographers such as Bruno Barbey, Claudia Fährenkemper and Marcus Lyon and many other equally interesting people and work. Even with the days I had, I didn’t get through nearly enough. Visitor numbers just seemed unlimited, and it appears all the forums and talks were very well attended. Chinese photographers value the opportunity to meet and question overseas photographers.
Seeing Marcus Lyon’s work ‘in the flesh’ was inspiring, although it took until I got home and read about his intent that I really came into his work. This is a thing I despair over with galleried shows and festivals. They generally still treat the single image as ‘a work that communicates without language’. My personal viewpoint rejects that as outdated and untrue. I’m interested in the individual motivation and the politics that invade even a non-political picture. I might get hints of this from an image and some more from a series or curated show. But so much more can come out, inspire and move me if I can connect image with words and go back and forth.
I didn’t know, for instance, that Lyon creates his single images with digital manipulation, e.g his iconic “Exodus II, Dubai, UAE, 2010” – 750 cars filling the 12 lane Sheikh Zayed Road in a perfect grid, is in fact a composite of 1000 images. Lyon: “I think an image taken at 125th of a second is kind of a lie” … He works up a final image with a goal of having the viewer ask “Is that really the world we live in?” This is the thing that really gets me buzzing and going back into the picture, but I had to come home to find it.
A group show themed on the Three Gorges Dam was shown in a rundown area of the Cotton Mill buildings where you had to almost crouch down to enter a layered and dilapidated series of gloomy spaces. A variety of photographers presented work related to the dam and the forced migration of more than a million people in a variety of ways from straight documentary through to conceptual.
There were flaws to be sure, and it did give the impression that activism around the dam and the continuing social and ecological impact is a fait-accompli but nevertheless it was exciting to see the topic so strongly raised and it would be great to see Pingyao continue raising such topics.
So political intent was apparent at Pingyao in more than one way, but maybe the biggest political event was created by the local Communist Party representatives who seemed to be on orders from Beijing to do just the opposite.
‘Jean-Pierre Laffont Legendary Photographer’ was a top-billed show with Laffont speaking at the opening ceremony. His work covered major political events through recent American history, yet the work was not immune from the flimsy and fickle hand of Chinese censorship. Twenty two images were removed from the large show with no warning.
Rumours circulated about which images and why, but the best and damning summary comes from Jean Loh in this article:
and commented on by John Turner: “…it is time the Communist Party actually listened to its art experts and stopped insulting them with petty, dense and foolish censorship”.
The pictures removed included fairly mild nudity, some images of Rajneesh or Hare Krishna community members having a good time and others documenting Mexican migrants. One can speculate about why – Western access to extreme nudity and the concurrent ‘moral decline’ in the first case; China’s concern with large religious minorities and the potential power they can wield (e.g. Falun Dafa). In the Mexican case it was suggested that there is a political link with Mexico that is sensitive.
China, from my short visit, seemed incredibly safe and friendly, characteristics that arguably come in part from a naive but heavily policed state. For instance, after the awards ceremony, I was asked by fellow New Zealanders why the police had bailed me up and had been searching my bag. In fact, myself and two Chinese photographers had been photographing and showing our images to the military and police, leaving lenses on the ground . The ‘search’ was actually a policeman kindly zipping up my unzipped bag and making sure I didn’t lose anything.
So, nice for foreigners, but not so nice if you need to express an opinion about your very livelihood after your farm land has been confiscated by corrupt businessmen and compensation isn’t forthcoming.
How China deals with its complex transition is hard to know but heavy-handed and inconsistent censorship especially in the arts just creates ridicule, both inside and outside the country.
Pingyao will be in its 17th year next year and the links with New Zealand continue to be strong. PhotoForum and the Auckland Festival of Photography have helped curate and manage a number of shows over the years and independent photographers such as Harvey Benge and Jenny Tomlin have brought their own work, so the potential for New Zealand work to be shown should only grow.
I want to acknowledge the hanging helpers that we had: Zhang Weihuan, Wang Shengyuan and Fu Haocheng, and our de-hanger and transportation support Hedyah Song. Along with translation from Chin Jay, and friends who helped get me lost and found around town Linda Zhang, Kaidi Huang and Yang Lu.
All of the accompanying photographs were made by Stuart Sontier unless otherwise noted.
September 24th, 2016
Report from Stu Sontier at Pingyao International Photography Festival, 2016.
The festival is well under way now and the craziness of hanging and captioning well behind us. This year, John Turner has curated an approx 100 image show of Tom Hutchins work from 1956, and I am here as the PhotoForum representative.
We both arrived on the 17th with the exhibition to open on the 19th. There was no sign of our framed prints so we killed time meeting a local photographer friend of John’s.
The following day we, and our 3 assigned helpers, had to first unpack and then arrange the pictures in order. Then came the task of arranging them on the wall, with less space than we had expected.
We gradually worked our way through a number of problems including missing pictures and reformatting and printing captions, finishing late in the evening. Although without captions on the wall. Throughout the hanging we already had a stream of people coming through, peering closely, taking pictures of the pictures and pictures of us with the pictures, and selfies with the pictures. Pictures of anything it seemed.
The following morning we were treated to what can only be called an extravaganza of Chinese proportions, with huge video displays showing bizarre cartoons for some unknown reason. There were some formal speeches as there are at such things but the main purpose seemed to be to get the foreign photographers out in public and subject them to what they sometimes impose on others. Again we were photographed photographing our peers photographing all manner of subjects and in a sign of the time we were also filmed from above by several drones.
The military, police and swat teams were all out in force but generally used just to keep the photographers under control. After these formalities and another million pictures added to the global stock bank, we came back to our show to interact with the audience.
Pingyao is awe inspiring to say the least, with the work of 200 overseas and 2000 Chinese photographers on show. The visitor number is huge too and an uncountable number are moving through the space, with greater or lesser levels of interest. John has been interviewed numerous times with at least two TV crews being on the list. We’ve also started visiting a few of the many other exhibitions and meeting some of the many local and overseas photographers. That includes the other NZ contingent, who are part of a curated show by Rosanna Raymond and organised by the Auckland Festival of Photography. The show, Ata Te Tangata, showcases Pacific Island photographers with a range of cultural interests. Four of the photographers, and the curator are in Pingyao, and all, with John, participated in the “Dialogue with NZ Curators and Photographers” with a good audience turnout.
The festival continues for another two full days and as a first time visitor, I can recommend attending if you want a mix of culture shock, great food, misinterpreted English and Chinese (learn a little), and an awful lot of photography covering many genres and at many levels, from top local and international names, to outstanding student work.
July 18th, 2016
The Black Asterisk Gallery – 10 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland August 3 to 31 2016
After a 40-year absence, the classic Queen Street V8 images, shot in the late 1970s by photographer Murray Cammick are making a return to Auckland at Ponsonby’s The Black Asterisk Gallery from August 3 to August 31. The exhibition will include the classic documentary images that are known, plus photos that have never been seen before of the cars and the people that roamed Auckland’s main street, late at night.
In 1974, while still a student at Elam School of Fine Art, Cammick began photographing people and their V8 cars as they congregated late at night in Auckland’s Queen Street. When the theatre patrons went home, the city’s main street was their place to park-up or cruise.
Cammick spent many weekend nights from 1974 to 1981 photographing the scene. While he documented the V8s, his mode of transport was a diminutive Morris Minor that he hid in a side street. Cammick was a shy and naïve 20 year old when he started this series and revellers would see his SLR camera and hassle him to – “take our photo!” – unaware that they were giving the quiet photographer the opportunity (and images) he was looking for.
In 1977 Cammick and long-time friend Alastair Dougal established RipItUp music magazine. After he photographed concerts for RipItUp he headed for Queen Street – but as the eighties got underway – the Queen Street V8 scene faded. A later photo might be a single car moving through the bleak environment, looking for a scene that is no longer there. The dark, empty street has a character of its own and starts to takeover the images.
When he ended his involvement with RipItUp magazine in 1998, he set out to do a series of photographic exhibitions but was thwarted by the digital takeover of photography and the realisation that key images from his Flash Cars series were missing – last seen in the 1980s. In mid-2014, the missing negatives were found, allowing a comprehensive exhibition to be undertaken. Jenny Tomlin, a specialist in the field of silver gelatin printing has made the new prints for the show.
Cammick’s Queen Street photographs are represented in the Te Papa National Gallery & Museum, Wellington. His photographs have been published in Art at Te Papa (2009), NZ Photography Collected (2015, Te Papa Press), PhotoForum at 40: Counterculture, Clusters, and Debate in New Zealand (2014, Rim Books), Into The Light: A History of New Zealand Photography (2006, Craig Potton Press), and Photo-Forum issue 39 (1977, PhotoForum Inc.)
Flash Cars has been shown at Snaps Gallery, Auckland in 1976 and 1977 and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney in 2015. The photographer’s photos have also appeared in group exhibitions including The Active Eye (Manawatu Art Gallery 1975), Drive (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth 2000) and History in the Taking: 40 Years of PhotoForum (2014).
The Black Asterisk Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5pm.
Selective Exposure is a group exhibition, organised by Haruhiko Sameshima, featuring a new generation of contemporary photographers based in New Zealand, Germany and Japan. It features samples of prints from each photographer’s sustained projects. Originally exhibited at Photospace gallery in Wellington in November 2015, the opening at In Situ Photo Project will be the exhibition’s first showing in the South Island.
Including work by Caryline Boreham, Conor Clarke, Peter Evans, Shelley Jacobson, Julius Margan, Asumi Mizuo, Solomon Mortimer, Stephen Roucher, Shigeru Takato and Tim J. Veling, these photographers use analogue film technology to reflect aspects of reality filtered through their own experiences, mediated by the old world photographic process.
The artists in this exhibition have all graduated from New Zealand art schools majoring in photography, within the last 25 years. They then went off to explore such diverse subject matters as steaming towers in the industrial hub of Germany, television news studios from 40 countries and 70 cities, contemporary views of the city rebuilt after destruction by an atomic bomb, and petroleum industry related sites across New Zealand from the perspective of ‘peak oil’. Others travelled to scout for alternative identities in the country’s heartlands, the shifting border between urban and rural in a home suburb or, even closer to home, looking deeply into family and kinship under duress.
The anachronism of using film cameras detaches the images from today’s immediate use-value in that it is, for example, unable to be uploaded instantly to Instagram but it does slow down the process, giving time to contemplate the consequences of image making. The resulting printed photograph will carry that residue of the legacy of veracity, which transcribes the ‘look’ of the world. Accumulation of their selected exposures feeds the artists’ narratives.
This exhibition is a survey of tertiary trained art photographers’ views of where we stand in the global world, staring intently into their individualised evidences of reality. Works here reflect notions of art as social and personal inquiry – seeking to better understand humanity from their chosen environments, and is a record of their experiences within.
6pm, Friday 8th July at the BNZ Centre, 120 Hereford Street, next to Scorpio Bookstore.
Show runs until 5th August
Open daily, 10am – 5pm
– 11 July 2016: In Conversation – Haruhiko Sameshima, Mark Adams, Tim J. Veling, Hannah Wilson. Following the discussion there will be a film screening of ‘Pictures on Paper – Photobooks in New Zealand’ produced by Tangent NZ Photography Collective.
Full details at https://www.facebook.com/events/580140728813539/
April 20th, 2016
Red Earth Reconnaissance – Emil McAvoy
23 April – 4 June 2016
Saturday 23 April, 10:30am – 2pm: Opening and combined Artist Talk – with Dawson Clutterbuck.
Papakura Art Gallery
10 Averill St, Papakura, Auckland
Hours: Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm, Sat 10am – 2pm
‘Red Earth Reconnaissance’ is a botanical survey of the Papakura area beginning at the site of the Papakura Art Gallery and travelling outwards. ‘Red earth’ references the Maori name Papakura, and its soil rich in iron oxides. The botanical specimens come from and are connected to this fertile ground. The project aims to document and reframe fragments of the unique ecology of Papakura, toward a partial and poetic guide to this place and its peoples.
http://emilmcavoy.com/peoplespark/ – a recent photographic project by McAvoy, exploring an environment similarly unfamiliar to him.
Gallery Public Programme:
Wed 11 May, 10.30 – 12pm. Flowers for the Home Workshop
Dawson Clutterbuck and Emil McAvoy will lead a workshop introducing the mechanics of floral arrangements. This workshop will be hands on and interactive. Please bring some flowers, greenery or containers to contribute on the day. Limited spaces available. Please contact the gallery to register. email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (09) 297 7510
April 20th, 2016
From Guangdong to Aotearoa – Sue Gee
5 Feb 2016 to 1 May 2016
J.T. Diamond Reading Room & Gallery, Level 2, Waitakere Central Library,
3 Ratanui St, Henderson, Auckland
Hours: Mon to Fri: 9am – 5.30pm (Thurs open til 7pm), Sat and Sun: 10am – 4pm
Parking: Alderman Drive car park – 2hrs free.
Walk across the bridge into Trading Place and the steps going up to the library are straight ahead.
This exhibition uses images, sound-bites and text to trace the journey of six New Zealand born Chinese as they trace their ancestral roots back to Guangdong, South China.
Six remarkable NZBC (New Zealand Born Chinese) talk about their lives.
Born in Eketahuna, Rotorua, Tamaki Makauru & Manaia, Taranki, they trace their ancestral roots to Guangdong, South China, previously known as Canton Province. Sound bites, written excerpts & photographs reveal fascinating insights into a cultural group once described as “The fearful race“.
‘The oral history project From Guandgong to Aotearoa came about through my wish to know more of my ancestral heritage. My mother and father, Lily and Jack, were born in Opunake and Manaia, in Taranaki. As young people, they left Aotearoa NZ to spend several years in their Cantonese villages, learning to speak Chinese, and something of our Chinese customs. I never asked them questions about their time in Guangdong and after they died, deeply regretted it.
The exhibition was initiated by and created with tautoko – support – of the people at the West Auckland Research Centre, WARC.
The interviewees are Connie Kum, Suzanne Chan On, Gillian Young, Watson Kitt, Lily Lee and Elsie Wong.
I’ll be in the gallery from 2-4pm on Saturday 30th April, also from 2-4pm on the 1st of May. Do come. See / hear the work, and join us for a cup of Chinese tea.’
05/02/16 news photo. Simon Smith/Fairfax NZ.
The launch of the oral history exhibition From Guangdong to Aotearoa by Sue Gee, on display at Waitakere Central Library, Henderson, Auckland.
From left: (back row) Gillian Yang, Lily Lee, project manager Liz Bradley and Suzanne Chan On, (front row) Elsie Wong, project interviewer Sue Gee, and Connie Kum.
October 29th, 2015
Open Book – Photobook Exhibition
‘Open Book’ – exhibition coordinated by Shelley Jacobson
RM Gallery, 307 K’Road (first floor), Newton, Auckland
5 – 21 November
Opening Wednesday 4 November
Physics Room (library), Christchurch 5 December – 30 January
Opening Friday 4 December
Tim J Veling
‘Open Book’ consists of twelve new photobook works, created specifically for exhibition. Its premise is to provoke artists’ experimentation with the book form and to position the book as a gallery experience. Each artist has been given autonomy to pursue and realise a project of their individual interest, as relevant to their current practice. The collective result of these endeavours is a compact exhibition: each artist’s work is folded in on itself or cut and stacked, the content largely hidden from view. To experience it, you are invited to open a book.
Exhibition coordinator: Shelley Jacobson
Display furniture: Andrew Kennedy
October 15th, 2015
A Carwash Photo Show in conjunction with Art Week Auckland.
Selected work by Auckland Photographers: Joe Hockley, Kieran Lowe, Mark Barber, Nigel Roberts, Raymond Sagapolutele, Route52, Stjohn, Tim D & Edward Howie
Opening, Thursday 15th October, 7 pm
Music provided by Logan Duff
Gallery open: Friday 17th to Sunday 19th, 10am-4pm
CARWASH GALLERY & STUDIO
6 Upper Queen St, Auckland
October 15th, 2015
16 Oct – 7 Nov 2015
Opening Thurs 15 Oct 2015, 5pm
Reflecting back on the last quarter century, so much has seemingly changed, happened. Technologies emerged that fundamentally altered the way we do things, the methods by which we gather and disseminate information, and how we communicate. This last quarter century is also notable for the technological restructuring of photography by digital processes that now dominate the industry (Photoshop 1.0 was launched 19 February 1990). Less perceptible, but perhaps more important, are shifts in values attached to things and ideas, like the value of art, education, institutions, their ideologies.
This exhibition samples images from recent projects by photographers who have graduated over the past 25 years from New Zealand tertiary art education, and who majored in the specialist medium of photography. All photographs were made with analogue film technology and loosely fall into the field of extended ‘documentary’, with subjects carefully sought from specific environments of the photographers’ choosing.
The selection is not an attempt to suggest a collective attitude, or a stylistic manifesto. Nor is this an attempt to weave a larger narrative using the threads of individual pursuits. It was based on a question why such a seeming anachronism as film photography is still consistently used by a diverse range of graduates from different New Zealand art schools and over such a long period.
– Haruhiko Sameshima, October 2015
‘Selective Exposure’ includes photographs by Caryline Boreham, Conor Clarke, Peter Evans, Shelley Jacobson, Julius Margan, Asumi Mizuo, Solomon Mortimer, Stephen Roucher, Shigero Takato, Tim J Veling. The exhibition is supported by a grant from Creative New Zealand, and Rim Books is a sponsor.