Laurence Aberhart

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1949

Interior, Tomb, Epernay, Champagne, France, 22 September 1994

  • 1994
  • Platinum print
  • Purchased by the Friends of Christchurch Art Gallery with special contribution from the Life Members, 2008
  • 435 x 470mm
  • 2008/023
  • View on google maps

There’s a timelessness to Laurence Aberhart’s photography, a quality that he calls “adriftness”. Though his images are contemporary, they bear a great weight of history – a product both of the century-old 8x10 camera he uses, and his interest in subjects that reveal the persistence of the past in the present: graveyards, outmoded architecture, abandoned shops. He took the photograph of the tomb in Epernay, in the Champagne district of France, through a small grille. “From memory,” he said, “what I liked was the beautiful reverse projection of her face on the wall. And one of the panes of glass had been replaced by red glass, which effectively turned the world outside into a negative.” He saw the tiny room as both a camera and a projector, a dark chamber in which the past could reappear momentarily in the present.

(Now, Then, Next: Time and the Contemporary, 15 June 2019 – 8 March 2020)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Brought to Light: A New View of the Collection, February 2010 – February 2011

    Taken inside a tomb in France, this photograph might seem to support the idea that Laurence Aberhart is a photographer of dark and gloomy subjects. But in fact the reverse is true. Aberhart discovers unexpected signs of life – and light – inside a space of death. The light outside the tomb projects the face of its inhabitant onto the stone wall – echoing the process that took place inside Aberhart's camera while he made this photograph. A further optical event occurs at the bottom of the window, where a single red pane of glass has turned the view of the graveyard outside into its own negative.