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New Zealand - By the Way
Published by Jenner Zimmerman, P. O. Box 46250, Herne Bay, Auckland.
128 pages, 129 photographs. Hardback $75
Subtitled Immigrant photographers & photographs of immigrants , it was only the persistence of Jenner Zimmerman which saw this book to fruition.
After numerous setbacks, this Agfa sponsored book has emerged as a fine showcase for the work of a group of individuals united on one theme for the purposes of this book: Arno Gasteiger, Gil Hanly, Glenn Jowitt, Haruhiko Sameshima, Greg Semu and Zimmermann himself, who is the book’s publisher. Each photographer had 18 or 20 pages with which to present their own selection of work within an unusually flexible design brief.
Arno Gasteiger, who is Austrian, chose to show the more mundane activities of members of the Black Power Club going about their business and recreation. He sometimes names individuals, and this has the effect of personalising their being in a less confrontational way than their bold patches and trademark tattoos.
Tattoos fascinate Gasteiger every bit as much as they did the first Europeans coming in contact with this distinct facet of Polynesian expression.
German-born Jenner Zimmermann took this opportunity to present a set of personal and sometimes whimsical black & white images made throughout his travels in New Zealand - lyrical landscapes as well as close-ups of people who fascinate him.
By contrast, the third immigrant photographer, Haruhiko Sameshima, took as his subject the very concept of immigration and turned it on its head. His essay, `The Shopping Mall as a Place of Contemplation,’ argues that we are all immigrants in a multi-cultural Pacific nation; that we belong in an international consumerist society in which our very perception of ourselves is constantly reinvented, reinterpreted, and taken advantage of, through the all-pervasive influence of mass media and merchandising.
He treats, with provocative good humour, his photographs of televised advertisements, and scenes from television drama, exactly the same as the rephotography of his family photographs and his impeccable photographs of shopping malls. He demonstrates that all photographs, whether made for business or pleasure, can be seen as part of a myth-making, identity-manufacturing process. Something that we buy into every day, and need to constantly scrutinise.
Glenn Jowitt, the first of the three New Zealand-born photographers featured in this book, contrasts the contestants in three relatively small events that have their roots in other cultures: the Rose of Tralee celebrations and Scottish highland dancing, juxtaposed with images from a Waikato rodeo. The best pairings are poignant (pp. 74-75 for example) with a gentle poking of fun at male and female vanities in the projection of identity.
Gil Hanly’s essay is focussed on the experience of Cambodians and Vietnamese arriving at our own Ellis Island, the Refugee Resettlement Centre at Mangere, Auckland. Like Lewis Hine, she wants us to understand and feel what it is like to restart life in an entirely different culture. The intense concentration on the faces of a large group watching television on a cold afternoon (page 100) speaks volumes about the impact of our foreign culture. She does not say whether they are watching live sport, a film, or an advertisement, but they are clearly experiencing our culture with the freshness, so well described by Haru Sameshima, that makes one take nothing for granted.
”New Zealand-born Samoan” is the title I came up with for myself, part of a sub-culture comprising both cultures, never fully standing in one or the other, I, too, feel like a tourist in my own home.’ Greg Semu’s themes are semi-formal portraits of friends and acquaintances, a Samoan tattooing session, and unnamed people from Otara. His photographs are presented in the form of a family album that is inhabited by mostly unnamed people, which has his subjects hover in the imagination as either stock Polynesian “types” or loved ones whose identity is withdrawn to protect their privacy. - J.B.T.