Wednesday, April 30

Dear Students

I am writing this posting as a general response to the e-mails that I receive from you, e-mails in which you request information about my work and practice.

The sheer numbers of these e-mails, two yesterday for example, makes it impossible for me to answer them personally. I hope that you appreciate this. I am, contrary to what you might imagine, most of the time very busy. It takes a lot of effort to run a career and and to keep up with the production of new images let alone leave time for rest and recreation. There is certainly no time for helping you with your homework as well.

My contribution is my work. That is what I offer you. As a bonus, I keep a blog, in which I describe much of the thinking behind the images that I produce. Thank you for your understanding.

The Kelliher Art Prize

When I was young The Kelliher Art Prize was the big one in the art world of New Zealand.
It dominated and in some ways shaped the art scene, the work that was accepted always had a particular look to it.

I became familiar with many of the paintings (it was always paintings) that won prizes because Sir Henry Kelliher was a beer baron and the winners works were alway reproduced in calendars etc to be distributed in the hotels that he controlled. At that time my parents ran some of these hotels.

Now that I am living in Central Otago I am once again reminded of these works because many of them, in their pictorial approach, dealt with the same landscapes that I now see every day. I even find my camera being drawn to exactly the same sights. This is slightly difficult for me as this work has become so unfashionable.

I have lately been having another look at some of these paintings, here are a couple by Douglas Badcock b.1922. I can't help feeling that there is something going on in these even though I don't think that I would want one on my wall. Perhaps I am wrong in this. These two were recently for sale in a recent auction for less than I imagine they originally sold for.

Tuesday, April 29

'It's never too late to have a happy childhood.'

This was on a bumper sticker that I saw a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps it explains why
in recent years I have been so attracted to photographing toys. The Lion is a money box that I saw a couple of days ago in Queenstown, and the cat is a toy that I bought at a $2 shop in New Plymouth. This cat is going to be on the cover of a book about my work coming out in September.

Saturday, April 26

Four Photos From the Past

Here are four photos from my early childhood. My parents ran the Taheke Hotel
in the Hokianga, in the far north of New Zealand. Milton, my father was interested
in training horses most of which had been wild ones that roamed some of the old gumfields nearby.

The Maori in the canoe were going home with a barrel of beer bought at the hotel.
Some communities were not accessible by road, and this canoe was a kind of taxi. This particular canoe has been saved. It is now on display at Rawene.

The cattle were being driven to the freezing works, it was a time before trucks were used for large herds. Stockwhips and dogs were used to keep them moving. One of the highlights of my life at that time was being given a stockwhip by one of the drovers. I became quite adept at using it and still am.

Monday, April 21


I have not taken many photos of the female body in my photographic career. I have photographed the male body, in fact one of those male photos was recently on TV. The first that I knew about it was when I received a text saying 'I just saw you naked on tv'. I'm afraid that it was true, it was me.

Here is a 2000 photo. This is definitely female.

This image appeared recently in an Art + Object catalogue. It came up for auction. I'm pleased to hear that it sold and went to a good home.

Saturday, April 19


I'm going through old photos at present. Here are a couple of me taken by my father
when we lived in Takanini in South Auckland. I lived here for the first 5 years of my life.

This sheep was one on my pets. It started off as a lamb but inevitably grew bigger and eventually my parents took it to a neighbour across the road to be slaughtered. My mother didn't tell me this until about 40 years later. Whether or not it was offered it to me as food I don't know, and now alas, never will.

Tailings in Autumn

This is an industrial site on a large scale. Gold dredges worked through here and in great numbers. Some of the tailings left in these patterns are now part of a reserve. Recently I flew over this area in a light plane and took this photo through a window.

I've been working on autumn leaves quite a lot, especially as I only have another couple of weeks before these leaves completely change, they are changing now on a daily basis. A decent wind and the leaves could well disappear.

Today I walked into the tailings and took this Autumn leaves photo. I felt that it was good to combine two themes.

Apricot Gold

A scene from an apricot orchard yesterday in Graveyard Gully, one of my favourite spots around here.

It takes its name from a sad little cemetery in which there are about 30 unmarked graves, with a single monument in the middle. The graves are all those of men, most of whom would have been drawn here from far away, by the lure of gold.

Friday, April 18

Clyde Dam

This dam is about 10 minutes drive from where I live. I decided to make a posting
about it because you must need a break from Autumn leaves and I thought that a million tons of concrete might help.

Built between 1977 and 1989 this is New Zealand's third largest hydro power station. Controversial, it eventually cost three times the original estimate.

This power station emits a low hum, It seems alive.

Those of you who live in Auckland need to be grateful for the existence of this dam. When winter comes and you turn on your heater, it could be this cold water that is keeping you warm.

Thursday, April 17

Thursday 17th April

Today I drove to Queenstown airport to pick up two Auckland friends. They are both coming to stay with me until Monday.

On the way to the airport I made a detour near Cromwell, into Bannockburn, a famous wine growing area. There were some sluicings there to see. By sluicings I mean an area of land that had a large hose turned on to it in order to seek out the gold. The result is that the landscape looks like the end of civilisation. There is even a vineyard nearby called Mt Difficulty. The sluicings are now a reserve, I recommend a visit.

The top photo is one that I took today near Bannockburn.
I think that it is an improvement on what I have taken over the last few days. Certainly a contender for the calendar that I putting together.

The bottom photograph was taken by Vanessa,
one of the Devonport friends I picked up from Queenstown today. This photo was taken from the front of Henderson House, where I live while we looked over the Clutha River, the largest river in New Zealand. Largest I think means volume not length. I like her photo. The colour is exactly right. It really did look like that. At present the landscape can at times in this Autumn light, look almost on fire.

Wednesday, April 16

Autumn Leaves

Just as this area is famous for its rocks, it's also well known for
the intensity, by New Zealand standards,
of its autumn colours.

As a photographer, it seems impossible to resist trying to take the
quintessential autumn leaf photo.
Here are a couple of recent endeavours. They are far from being top shelf, but at least
I am enjoying the pursuit.

An Historic House.

Today I was taken on a tour of this historic house, one which, although I live nearby and have admired
it from a distance, have not previously been given access to. It was built in 1914.

Tuesday, April 15

Barbara Henderson

Here I am wheeling Barbara Henderson into the welcome party that was held for me a week or so ago. Barbara is the person who was responsible for architect Ernst Plischke coming to Alexandra, from Wellington by bus in 1950 to design and build this house, the house in which I am now living for a year. Barbara now lives in a rest home near here although she maintains a studio on this 3 and a half acres, to which she comes, with a nurse, every Tuesday afternoon.

Monday, April 14


Here is a television at a friend's house in Devonport, Auckland.
When the TV is not on they cover it with a cloth.

The Portrait

During my career I have, intermittently, taken portraits, sometimes of my friends, sometimes of those who I have only recently met.

Above is a photo that I took last week of Michiko, my daughter-in-law. Michiko is a chef and was at this time cooking a magnificent meal, one of the most memorable that I have ever seen let alone let pass through my lips. It was art.

The Twelfth Station

I was brought up in a Catholic family. I believed in its dogma totally. I was an altar boy who wanted to become a priest.

Recently, I was asked if I would take part in a Stations of the Cross exhibition at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland. The Gus Fisher is a satellite of Auckland University's extravagantly named 'National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries...a centre of excellence and innovation in contemporary creative arts and industries, research, education and practice.'

Even though I am now an atheist I decided to take part in this exhibition. I had done the rounds of the Stations of the Cross so often in my upbringing that I felt that I could make it.

The allocated Stations were drawn out of a hat so I didn't know which one I was going to receive. I wanted
one of the flagellation ones. I think that they would have been easier. still I'm happy with this image.

Remember, that if you click on the image it will come up bigger and more readable.

The Obelisk

Yesterday I went up to the top of the Old Man Range, just to the west of Alexandra. Access is via a rough and in places steep road, really only accessible with a 4 wheel drive, not the family Toyota. There are about 5 gates to open.

This is a well known tor called The Obelisk, visible from a very long way away. I've been photographing rocks steadily since I arrived in Central Otago two months ago and this one was on my must see list. Impressive as it is as an object I'm still not sure whether the photo really passes or not. I'll think about it.

Similarly with the one below. There is a clarity to it as well that attracts me, but I'm not sure. It may work, certainly it is a contender for the calendar that I am working on.
Again, I'll live with it for a while and let you know later.

Sunday, April 13

Auction Time

These two photographs of mine are in an auction catalogue, published by Art + Object in Auckland. The auction takes place on April 17th.

The top photo, on the catalogue cover, was taken in 1977. Christine Mathieson was a stylish and striking red-haired young woman who I had the good fortune to meet at the time. I think that she may have been at Elam Art School, but can't check because unfortunately we have lost touch. She readily agreed to sit for some portraits and this was the one that I chose.

I didn't print up many at the time, perhaps half a dozen. I may own one or two still, somewhere in my archives, but this one doesn't belong to me. I don't know where it has come from because, rightly so, auctioneers do not disclose that information.

The suggested price on it is $7000-$10000.

Sacred Heart is another photo that has appeared in this auction. This chasuble, worn by Catholic priests during mass, and inspired by ancient Roman dress, had been saved by master bookbinder Michael O'Brien. He discovered that this garment had been sold to a fancy dress firm and incensed by the sacrilege, managed to rescue it. I have for a long time had great admiration for Michael, and his craftmanship. He is one of the most respected bookbinders in New Zealand and at the time I was having some work done by him. I particularly admired the policy that he had of being bribable. If you brought along a bottle of Single Malt Whiskey, you would move up the queue. It was quite simple really, the better the bottle, the higher you rose.

The chasuble has great significance for me. I was brought up a strict Catholic and to see celibate, educated men dressing in these soft, silken, embroidered garments made a lasting impression on me. Equally important was that they dedicated their life to a non-material ideal. For me they were like the archetypal artists, much changed now of course, where art is increasingly seen as a career, not as when I was young and inspired by these priests, a calling or a vocation.

I never printed many of these photos which is one of the reasons why the estimate on the sale price of this print being, $9000-$14000.

Monday, April 7

Monday to Friday

Today I have to fly to Auckland to supervise the printing of some large
photographs, there is so much at stake that I really need to be there. They are in preparation for a forthcoming exhibition opening on May 9th. As well as the printing, I need to talk to the framer.

I'll be back on Friday afternoon, and may not be able to put up any postings before then, in which case I apologise in advance.

Meanwhile, the photo above is of some badges that I had made some time ago. I wore one to a welcome that was put on for me here on Friday and luckily had the foresight to fill my pockets with some spares. I was asked about it so many times that I ended up giving away 20 or 30. I enjoy sprinkling them around this community like fairy dust.

Saturday, April 5


In this area there are our endangered native falcons,
elegant creatures that perch on
cliff faces. I love seeing them. Sometimes they glide over this house.

This specimen is in Central Stories, our local museum. It is of course, dead.

Okinawa Butterflies

One of the great delights of coming to live here in Central Otago is that I have met
an entomologist who is an expert on butterflies. At his home he has, as well as a beautiful Japanese wife, a comprehensive collection of butterflies from that country. This photo is of him showing me a book of specimens from Okinawa. These I would like to see for myself some day.

Correction. These are moths not butterflies! Thank you Brian.

Last Night in Alexandra

Last night there was a big welcome for me here in Alexandra, held in the museum called Central Stories. There were about 100 people. Here's a small section of the audience, a snap that I took during the speech that I gave, partly to demonstrate how mostly I use a pocket sized Leica. I am glad to see that they look so happy. We had many laughs.

I'm especially pleased to see that right in the middle is a man who is blind.

The evening was such a success, it was an event to be remembered.

Wednesday, April 2

Notes on the Exhibition Below

This droopy ice cream I found sitting on a seat in a bus shelter.
It's possible that it's a McDonalds ice cream because there was one close by.
It was night time and luckily I had my little pocket Leica on me. I used the built
in flash for this. I'm not an expert on McDonalds because I've only eaten two in my life, one
in New Zealand and one in Germany. The German one tasted a lot better because it was accompanied by a MacBeer.

I found this dog at a Sunday market in Underwood, just out of Invercargill. It is not real I'm sorry to say. It was being used to advertise these knitted jerseys. The owner allowed me to move the dog to a clear space, she was enjoying how much I was enjoying myself. In retrospect
I wish that I had bought the jumper and made an offer on the dog as well.

Sorry cat lovers but this highly realistic cat is fake. It was in a shop window and for sale. I was tempted to buy
it but it was about $150 so I decided to be financially prudent and take the photo in situ, by pressing the camera lens against the glass. Again I used the flash which in this case, really helped the cat to stand out against the background and give it the startled look.

Tuesday, April 1

Online Exhibition

This link will take you to an online exhibition of my work, hosted by McNamara Gallery.