A unique and priceless document of Thames from 1973-76.

John James Fields (1938-2013) was born on January 18 1938 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.A. He first came to New Zealand as a petty officer serving in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Rowan. This country made an impression on the young sailor who would return in 1966 with his Australian bride and settle in Auckland.

John Fields underwent specialist training including at the Leica Photography School in Boston in 1963. Further study at Harvard University in expeditionary filming and enthnographic stills technique and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology  (MIT) in colour photography/stills completed his formal training. By this stage he had already become one of the The Boston Globe’s most successful photographers winning three awards for most popular photographs at that leading newspaper.

He went on to become photographer at Massachusetts General Hospital 1964-66 including in electron microscopy. He was invited by Dr. Stan Bullivant to accompany him to Auckland with a cutting-edge electron microscope and be the photographer. In 1966 he began work at the Cell Biology Department at the University of Auckland where he commissioned the darkroom.

In 1967 John first became fascinated with Thames. He started photographing in July 1973 and in 1975 he was awarded the first QEII Arts Council grant to conduct a photographic survey of Thames. From 1973-75 he spent all his spare time photographing the town, its people and heritage. “I want to capture through photography the atmosphere of the town and its people.”

John Fields wanted to “make New Zealanders conscious of the history of their towns and inspire them to keep records of every building to be demolished, to make a master set of old negatives, photographs, maps and land deeds as a comprehensive and permanent record of the towns.” It had become apparent that a one-year survey as funded by the QEII Arts Council would not do justice to the subject. John Fields undertook an extended survey at his own expense that would eventually take him until April 1976 before he was satisfied with the results.

He talked about how he was attracted to the wooden built environment that Thames shares with this hometowns of Rockport and Gloucester on the eastern seaboard of the US in the state of Massachusetts. As a photographer he was visually attuned; additionally as a foreigner he saw Thames not just as another New Zealand town, but as something unique and special.

Clearly the town cast a spell on him because he would return most weekends over a period of three years. At first John confessed to feeling a rank outsider. The town folk and those he met at the Brian Boru Hotel, where he often boarded, were initially suspicious of him. Who was this inquisitive individual and why was he taking photographs of everything? When they realized that he was quite harmless he was embraced, perhaps not as a local but, as a regular visitor, who took an interest in everything they did and whose aim was to document the entire town.

The photographer was frequently armed with several cameras: his 5 x 7 inch large format Kodak view camera with large tripod and black cape and two 35mm SLRs. The 5 x 7 (with 4 x 5inch reducing board) was used for back and white film aswas one of the 35mm cameras. The third was to record Thames loaded with colour slide film.

To that end from 11-18 January 1976 John Fields exhibited along with some other work a small number of the Thames photographs at the North Thames School,Tararu, which later become an arts centre. It is fitting that in 2017, the 150th anniversary of the founding of the goldfields, 50 of the photographs together with almost all of the images made at the time will been seen by the public for the first time. Today these photographs are a unique and priceless document of Thames in 1973-75.

Firstly we must acknowledge the years of work by John Fields in bequeathing to us such a rich legacy of extraordinary images. They range across a broad range of styles to show the Thames and townspeople. All show his sophisticated vision and his unerring technique. Fields’ work is notable for its exceptional clarity and precise tonal balance – all of which he achieved before Photoshop and digital enhancement were thought of.

Curators at Te Papa recognize John Fields as one of the foremost photographers of his generation. Recent acquisitions by our national museum include several of the Thames photographs from this project. We are indebted to John Fields for his dedication and we are very sorry that he is not with us to share in the recognition of his achievement on a project that was very dear to his heart.

Thanks must go to all the support we have received from friends and family to bring the exhibition to fruition. Thank you to Patricia his wife, and his friend and colleague Ken Ball. We especially wish to thank Malcolm and Marcia Sowman who befriended John when he started his project in the 70s and for their unwavering support for this display. Thank you to Peter and Claudia Pond-Eyley for lending their Ford Prefect so John could drive in comfort to Thames when he could not get the NZ Road Services bus.

Thank you to the Committee of the Bella Pumphouse for their support and to John Isdale at Thames Museum of Mines, where an identical TV on which the same 30minute display of 500 images may be viewed.

This volume presents John Fields’ own edit of the 170 black and white of the more than 500 black and white and colour images he made.

Curators
David Langman
Allan Chawner, Conjoint Professor, University of Newcastle, NSW.

Fragments_Stuart_Mackenzie

www.theframingworkshop.co.nz

 

Mac Miller

July 28th, 2014

HOW I SEE IT

I don’t remember who said it but a mother sitting on the beach takes a snap of her child, this could be called the purest form of photography, recording a moment in time that can be looked back on, not only by her but anybody else concerned. War Correspondents did and do the same thing now.

Camera clubs must have started with a few keen ‘chemist types’saying “ let’s get together and share our knowledge and look at each other’s work”. A good place for anyone to learn the skills of making a photograph. Not so bad!! Until fast film interchangeable lens cameras and J B Turner hit the scene! Now we had John’s PhotoForum showing us the American greats who had developed still photography as an art form that could be sold for hard cash (how American). I bought a $70 Edward Weston print. We were made to rethink how to take our photos with more soul, meaning and quality. These were great times and John did show a lot of us a sense and purpose to our photography. No more Bank window displays, but target Art galleries and sell prints when we could (most of us swapped). I, to my embarrassment, wrote to Imogen Cunningham asking her to swap six of my prints for one of hers??

I believe this period perhaps ended with The Active Eye Exhibition. I must relate attending an Auckland workshop and seeing one new photographer arrive wearing a black beret, ‘ doctor who’ scarf and a very long coat, straight from Monmarte Paris but the next day dressing as the rest of us in jeans and T shirt. Had the beginning of the ‘art set’ photographer just arrived in Auckland NZ ?

I stopped taking photos for 20 years and started again in a completely new world of photography. A lot of things we used to dream of had happened. Digital cameras meant endless shots , colour, sharpness, instant review and no exposure meters and the computer gave us Photoshop, Wow! Forget all the old ways we had learned, this is space age stuff. The art set would surely go mad with the chance to make up anything and not even have to print it, but no, black and white stayed the thing, purposely out of focus, badly framed with explanations of why it was taken printed alongside. This is what I discovered when my wife Babs and I took the trouble to go to see the new update of The Active Eye Exhibition in Palmerston North. I expected some brilliant new Photoshop creations but no, same old or worse. A blurred black and white photograph doesn’t make it art.

I can’t lay claim to any greatness or originality in my love of this medium but if I took a photo of one of my kids on the beach it would just have to be something with an edge of humour involved, that’s me coming through in my photograph. I am not against artists, I do understand how the real ones push us all into new understanding, it’s the pseudo wannabe’s that grate with me.

New Zealand’s own Dennis Waugh says in the PhotoForum at 40 book “Photography at best is a specialised craft, not art”. Dorothea Lange has also made similar comments. I know the argument has been going for over a century but l enjoy photography for being the skilled craft it is.

Well, that’s how I see it, so rip into me!

I’m just out of focus
dreaming black on white
memories long forgotten
passing through the night

Mac Miller
Hamilton
July 2014

Editor’s note: Our thanks to Mac Miller for inviting further discussion on photography. Mac’s involvement with PhotoForum  goes back to the beginnings of the society. In fact, one of his images featured on the cover of the first issue of Photo-Forum magazine (issue 18 – February/March 1974). You can view a portfolio of his more recent work  via the PhotoForum Members online gallery here

photoforum_18_feb_march_1974

 

freeville_ramp gallery June 2014


Freeville
– David Cook / Tim J. Veling
5 – 27 June 2014
Opening preview: Wed 4 June, 5 – 7pm

The Freeville Project is a photography-based project developed in collaboration with students and staff of Freeville Primary School in New Brighton, Christchurch, NZ. The result of an intensive workshop with 67 students; discussing ideas of community and future vision for the school environment in light of the impending closure of their school (due to regional earthquake damage).

Children wrote stories and created visual proposals for future developments. David Cook and Tim Veling collaborated with teachers in facilitating this process, and also created a series of photographic portraits and landscapes. The finished body of work was first exhibited as billboard-sized prints in the local New Brighton shopping mall, as part of the TEZA (Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa), produced by Letting Space in November 2013. The RAMP exhibition is a reconfiguration of the show, incorporating work that was not able to be shown in the Christchurch exhibition.

Prior to the February 2011 earthquake, Freeville School commissioned the ‘Freeville School Landscape Concept Draft Plan’ (Rough & Milne landscape architects). This plan incorporated a wildflower bed, native trees, native shrubs and children’s artwork. With a clear agenda to educate and engage the community in the school’s surrounding ecological landscape, this plan could never have foreseen the dramatic events that followed its conception. Read more HERE

RAMP GALLERY
School of Media Arts
Gate 5, Wintec City Campus
Collingwood St
Hamilton
Gallery hours: Mon to Fri., 12 – 4pm