Interview: Conor Clarke
by Michael Dooney of Galerie Pavlova (Berlin),  25 July 2014

Conor Clarke (b. 1982 Auckland, New Zealand) is a photographic artist who has been living and working in Berlin since 2009. She shares a studio with fellow New Zealand fashion designer Sherie Muijs, and NZ / South African artist Nicky Broekhuysen who she met whilst completing her BFA (2005) at Elam School of Fine Arts. Since 2004 she has exhibited her work in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Turkey. Her most recent series In Pursuit of the Object, at a Proper Distance is part of the group show Typologien and continues her exploration of the picturesque and fascination with the German Industrial Landscape.

Conor Clarke - image01 by Michael Dooney

Michael Dooney: How did you come to start the project In Pursuit of the Object, at a Proper Distance? I imagine that a lot of work went into it, you travelled all over Germany.

Conor Clarke: it took me a while to come to this point. I began looking at the old industrial area in east berlin; rummelsburg. I lived there one summer and became interested in plotting views around the Rummelsburger Bucht, trying to create picturesque compositions from positions i considered most pleasing. it was kind of tricky, creating picturesque compositions with a camera is more difficult than a painting where one can easily add and erase objects, or shift them around. The composition is very important, following the rules, for example framing with trees in a shaded foreground, guiding ornamental figures, a leading subject resting asymmetrically in the distance and so on. The leading subject of my earlier works eventually became the subject of my current work.

MD: I’ve seen your previous picturesque series (Viewing Stations around Rummelsburger See) on your website. Would you say In Pursuit of the Object, at a Proper Distance is effectively the next chapter?

CC: Yes, this is like the next chapter which continued a few years later. For Viewing Stations around Rummelsburger Bucht, I made three final works which we (myself and a small group of NZ artists) showed in Istanbul, then later at the Grimm Museum in Berlin. Sometimes it was quite challenging and frustrating following the picturesque recipe, but in the end I was quite satisfied with the pictures. In each one the leading subject is the former Klingenberg Power Plant in the background and the towers. It was summer at the time they were shot so there is no steam in these pictures. I tried again later to photograph the towers in the winter, beginning at a distance, still trying to create picturesque compositions, but it became more and more frustrating. I experimented with this for around a year or so but in the end I just wasn’t satisfied. I then hired a telephoto lens and decided to focus on my leading subject closely. It was enough, a symbol of the industrial landscape, the environment was no longer necessary. Now isolated, I call it the post-industrial picturesque.

MD: Are there any other artists that you’re aware of explored that?

CC: Well there was Doré? I don’t really know much about him to be honest, but he was making picturesque views of England following the industrial revolution, cramped housing conditions, etc. one memorable image by him is his portrait of ‘The New Zealander’ painting the London Bridge in ruins, an imagined future of London.

MD: So keeping with the tradition of painting.

CC: They were etchings I think. Gustave Doré. Maybe he was French?

MD: So you started in Rummelsburg?

CC: I started in Rummelsburg. The reason I was attracted to the industrial landscape in the first place was of course because of photos I’ve seen before. The work of Bernd and Hilla Becher is an example of my early experiences with German photography and perhaps explains my romantic association with the German post-industrial landscape, it’s interesting what sticks. Not that I expected the German landscape to be covered in industrial structures, but I was attracted to it and in the beginning sought out this kind of landscape.

MD: Is there something similar in New Zealand, do you have heavy industry there?

CC: We have industry, just not in the same way or on the same scale. We don’t have the mining industry like you do in Western Australia or west Germany, but we have the occasional steel mill way in the distance, or we have beautiful hydro dams. So it’s not completely foreign for me, but when you think of New Zealand you think of nature, mountains and beaches, of birds, lush green and Lord of the Rings, am I right? You know this from pictures. It’s not that Germany doesn’t also have these things, but the image is very different. We are always in pursuit of otherness.

Continue reading the full interview HERE

Galerie Pavlova was established in 2013 by Michael Dooney as a platform for Australian and New Zealand contemporary photography in Europe.

Galerie Pavlova
Linienstraße 116
10115 Berlin



Wellington based street photographer, Gabrielle McKone has recently published  her first photo book, containing  a selection of photographs sourced from her long running daily visual diary.

As Gabrielle explains, “Every day since August 2007 I have recorded what I have seen. I am attracted to the eccentric and to the ordinary. I am also interested in the small things that we sometimes miss and discard, and I like to give them a new life. Fifty seven of my favourite images have been gathered together and published in a book called Catch My Eye.”

Visit here to listen to her interview on Radio NZ’s – Arts on Sunday programme and here to view additional images from Gabrielle’s publication.

Book details: Catch My Eye
Photographs/text: Gabrielle McKone
Publisher/distributor: Karaka Books, P.O. Box 15-149, Wellington 6022
Designer: Donna Cross
Printer: Printlink, Wellington
Offset printed, casebound & stitched
ISBN 978-0-473-20894-3

This publication is available for purchase from Unity Books (Auckland/Wellington) and Photospace Gallery (Wellington). Or you can email Gabrielle McKone.

Reviews so far received include this by Gregory O’Brien (recipient of 2012 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement)

“I love the pairing of the images–the black-trousered gents on Lambton Quay peering across the page to where wetsuited legs protrude from a stationwagon… the roundness of an ice-cream across from a triangular sandcastle/tower… I approve of the lightness and whimsy (which are very different things, I hasten to add, from being lightweight and flippant). The figure in black watering the back wheel of his Morris 1100 strikes me as a classic NZ ‘gardening’ photo…The lurching gorilla…Favourite images: well, the bird taking off in the final photograph strikes me as a truly great, inexplicable image… The pavlova going down the road…the hand above the hamster…

There’s a joyfulness in the taking of the photos and this surfaces in the pictures themselves, even when they’re a little melancholy and dour (as life tends to be). Most street photos I come across (and it’s a genre I love, needless to say) tend to be a little existentially under the weather…narratives of entrapment. While some of your pictures are troubling (the plastic child across from the resuscitation dummy), there always seems to be more than enough oxygen to go around. Effervescence, even, aplenty. Look, the boat floats!”

Read a further book review on Beattie’s Book Blog

Editor’s note: Gabrielle McKone’s images are also featured in our  latest MoMento (issue 12) – Wellington Streets (alongside photographs by Lester Blair and Julian Ward, and essays by Des Brough). To receive this issue and other membership publications/benefits check out how to join PhotoForum here.

If you haven’t already checked out the current Art News NZ issue (winter 2012) it’s well worth  doing so.  Photography related articles include:

“Highly regarded documentary photographer Ans Westra,  talks to Janet Bayly about her long and distinguished career.” (The solitary observer, pgs 82-87)

“Virginia Were talks to Geoffrey Batchen and other experts about contemporary photography and where it’s headed.” (Beyond the junkyard scrap, pgs 94-99)

Sourced: Art News New Zealand

Here’s two recent articles just in from Matakana based photographer (and blogger) Richard Smallfield:

The Developing Tank Blog –  Richard’s book review of Nadav Kander: Yangtze, The Long River (included are links to Sean O’Hagan’s On Photography column for The Guardian newspaper and a narrated slideshow by Nadav Kander)

Rodney Arts Notes – an article on new gallery ‘The Vivian’, scheduled  to be opened in Omaha Valley Rd, near Matakana in Sept 2012.

Related links:
The Developing Tank
Rodney Art Notes
Richard Smallfield

Photographer John Miller was recently interviewed for the Cultural Icons project. In the two part series, he talks with Denys Trussell about his long career photographing and filming protests, political conferences, demonstrations and art events,  many of which have been pivotal in New Zealand’s contemporary history. They discuss the  Springbok Tour of 1981, the Maori Land March, Waitangi protests, the 2006 tangi of the Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu and much more.

Read more on Miller’s photography and view his online interviews here>>

Hilla Becher interview

July 24th, 2008

Jörg Colberg has translated an interview with Hilla Becher, originally published in Süddeutsche Zeitung, and published the translation on his blog, Conscientious.

For almost fifty years, photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher lived and worked together as a world-renowned artistic couple. Here, a year after the passing of her husband, Hilla Becher for the first time speaks about her life and about the future‘…. Read the translated interview here.