In the late 1970s, Aberhart took on a number of commissions to photograph rock musicians playing in Christchurch for Auckland-based music magazines Rip It Up and Extra. He’d met their editor Murray Cammick a few years earlier at Snaps Gallery in Auckland. Cammick had studied photography at Elam under Tom Hutchins and John B. Turner, and was encouraged by them to take social documentary photos for the student magazine Craccum. He began a series of gritty photographs of music gigs in Auckland and documented the V8 car culture of Queen Street. When he launched Rip It Up with his friend Alastair Dougal in 1977, Cammick intended that the magazine would also provide a forum for contemporary photography, including his own. But the need to sell advertising meant that it didn’t quite work out like that: ‘We never had much space, and the photos often ended up at postage stamp size. The first issue had a double-page spread of the Commodores, and that was my original vision for the magazine.’
With Rip It Up, says Cammick, he and Dougal wanted a ‘back-to-basics approach to music. No art rock or country music!’ They were particularly interested in soul, but covered the emerging punk and new wave scenes. ‘When you start a magazine you think you’re going to be telling people what they should like, but you end up reflecting their taste.’ He first used Aberhart in late November 1978 for a photograph of David Bowie in his Christchurch hotel room. ‘We were thrilled to have Laurence taking photos for us … It was pretty obvious he was a great photographer, full stop.’
Cammick launched Extra in 1980 in an attempt to give more space to photographers. It ran for two issues, and featured Aberhart’s images of XTC and the Ramones, taken in the car park at the back of Noah’s Hotel, Christchurch, in July and September of that year. While the homegrown music scene was expanding rapidly, New Zealand was also becoming established as a destination for international concert tours. ‘At that point’, says Aberhart, ‘rock acts would often fly in to Christchurch and out from Auckland, and it was easier to do the media stuff in Christchurch. Murray couldn’t afford to fly down, so he’d ring me up. Free tickets weren’t involved.’
Aberhart photographed the Ramones and Bowie using his 35mm Leica camera, ‘for expedience’. For XTC, however, he used the vintage 8x10 camera that he’d bought from American photographer Larence Shustak. The images he produced belong, I think, in the pantheon of great music photographs, in which the emotional vulnerability of the performers is exposed along with their showmanship. And though the faces are in some cases household names, the photographs are first and foremost Aberharts, full of the same dense, melancholy time as his landscape photographs. Cammick comments: ‘He pulled it off with XTC and the Ramones. XTC were a band who didn’t like their photos being taken, and the Ramones were sick of it. And somehow he managed to take photos of Bowie without Bowie controlling the image. I don’t know how he did that.’
Aberhart Starts Here
Iconic and unseen early photographs of Christchurch by Laurence Aberhart
Representing Women: Ann Shelton’s Dark Matter
What is ‘dark matter’? For theoretical physicists it is matter that cannot be directly observed but whose existence is nevertheless scientifically calculable – productively present yet simultaneously invisible. In a similar vein, the everyday phrase ‘dark matter’ describes objects, conditions and situations that harbour unease or trauma. Trauma that is often concealed, repressed, or buried. Both definitions are active in Ann Shelton’s mid-career review exhibition Dark Matter, and they provide a rich point of entry into this compelling collection of her photographic work. These are photographs that bristle with intensity and refuse to let their subjects die a quiet archival death.
Ann Shelton: Dark Matter
An expansive view of Ann Shelton’s tightly conceived, large scale and hyperreal photography
In early March we were lucky enough to have the incredibly talented Grayson Gilmour performing at the Gallery, supported by the equally talented Purple Pilgrims and New Dawn. I love these gigs, but there is a lot of work to be done behind the scenes to make sure that, by the time the public walk in the door, the foyer is gig ready. The process normally feels like a long, slow marathon with a sprint at the final corner. So here’s a guide to how you too can get the NZI Foyer gig-ready in five (or six) easy steps.
The Devil’s Blind Spot
Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery has a long-standing tradition of curating exhibitions of emerging and early-career artists. We do this in order to contribute to the ecology of the local art world, as well as because – quite straightforwardly – we’re interested in the practices of artists at all stages of their careers, and would like to bring the work of outstanding younger artists to wider public attention. The Devil’s Blind Spot is the latest in this ongoing series, but unlike earlier exhibitions, it’s concerned with a single medium – photography.
J.G. Thirlwell is man of many monikers and even more projects: from the epic avant-garde electro-rock of his thirty-five-year Foetus act to scoring orchestral work; creating sound installations to writing cartoon soundtracks. Fellow sonic artist, Jo Burzynska caught up with the Melbourne-born but long-time New York-resident composer/producer/performer at the Gallery before the opening performance of his first ever New Zealand tour.
The Devil’s Blind Spot: Recent Strategies in New Zealand Photography
Recent photography by an emerging generation of New Zealand artists.
The Camera as a Place of Potential
To Māori, the colour black represents Te Korekore – the realm of potential being, energy, the void, and nothingness. The notion of potential and the presence of women are what I see when I peek at Fiona Pardington’s 1997 work Moko. And I say peek deliberately, because I am quite mindful of this work – it is downright spooky. Moko is a photographic rendering of a seeping water stain upon the blackboard in Pardington’s studio, taken while she was the recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in Dunedin in 1997.
Joyce Campbell: Flightdream
Joyce Campbell’s immersive video work takes the viewer on a journey into the ocean’s fathomless depths, exploring processes of creation and annihilation.
Death, sex, flesh and the female gaze are among the many themes explored in the Gallery’s newest exhibition, Fiona Pardington: A Beautiful Hesitation.
The Lines That Are Left
Of landscape itself as artefact and artifice; as the ground for the inscribing hand of culture and technology; as no clean slate.
— Joanna Paul
The residential Red Zone is mostly green. After each house is demolished, contractors sweep up what is left, cover the section with a layer of soil and plant grass seed. Almost overnight, driveway, yard, porch, garage, shed and house become a little paddock; the border of plants and trees outlining it the only remaining sign that there was once a house there.
Fiona Pardington: A Beautiful Hesitation
A survey exhibition by a leading New Zealand photographer explores sex, death and the female gaze.
Kamala, Astral and Charlotte, Lyttelton, March 1983
Laurence Aberhart's 1983 photograph of Lyttelton children is displayed on our Gloucester Street billboard.
Selwyn Toogood, Levin
I spent much of my adolescence in hospital, confined to bed due to a chronic illness. With a 14" TV beside me, I’d travel to imaginary places via the controller of my Nintendo games console. At the time, I couldn’t imagine walking to the letterbox, let alone experiencing the more exotic places of the world.
A generous, multimedia selection of animal-themed works, both lively and thoughtful.
Answer: No one cries when you chop up a piano.
Apparently that's only the third worst piano joke of all time...
November sees the 30th anniversary of my favourite record label, Flying Nun Records.
The 2011 Christchurch Arts Festival has been full of highlights, from theatre to dance to the visual arts. However, it's been the music that has made the biggest impression on me.
Finally, the chance to listen to some loud rock music!
Taryn Simon's known unknowns
In 2003, the American photographer Taryn Simon embarked upon a four-year heart-of-darkness journey. In response to paranoid rumours of WMDs and secret sites in Iraq, she turned her gaze to places and things hidden within her own country.
Laurence Aberhart: Nature Morte
Nature Morte is an exhibition of 105 photographs, taken between 1971 and 1989 by New Zealand photographer Laurence Aberhart.