Wednesday, 29 November 2006

The Birds

In June I started yet another bloody body of work humorously titled "The Birds And The Trees". (Get it?!)

I think the inspiration was two fold. Firstly the fact that I had a suitable location nearby (ie in the back yard), and secondly Lee Friedlander and in particular this book, and maybe a hint of this one (note: click on booktease).

Naturally I let the film sit around until a couple of weeks ago before developing it - just to add to the whole affect.

So here are a selction of shots (in no particular order).
I reckon I might do more of this shit, eh. Especially now the trees have leaves and fruit.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

The Industrial

That Sunday David and I went out, I also came up with this idea (please refer to last paragraph here). Currently the series consists of two shots - taken on the same day, within 50metres and 15 minutes of each other.

Some may argue that much of my work, exhibition work anyway, asks questions of our use of land/the environment. I've played around ideas of the natural versus the unnatural in a few bodies of work, though in a quiet, non-confrontational kind of way. I'm not interested in the big blunt message, which only really allows for one interpretation.

The idea behind these works was to explore the way we add 'nature' to our very unnatural settings. In an effort to beautify? To hide the development? To pretend we care about the environment? I don't know.

What I like about these is how the trees are so very obviously cared for; the pride of the factories on whose land they sit.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

The Lewis

That man with a camera is coming back to Wellington shortly to open his show at Photospace.

Here are some shots I took early last year when David and I decided we needed to waste a few hours one Sunday cruising a nearby industrial 'estate'.

Independently, both of us had come up with the idea of ripping off American photographer Lewis Baltz, though naturally doing it in our own way and with local locations. (Buggered if I'm going to fly to San Francisco to rip off someone else's idea).

Although aware of his work, wasn't didin't realise I'd done such a good job of ripping it off.

But Your Honour, we were just using Baltz's work as a springboard to our own work, how dare you suggest we were plagiarising him?

By a nice coincidence in timing, Lewis Baltz is coming to Auckland to take a masterclass a couple of days after David's opening. So he and I, and a few other local boys, are heading up to meet the master himself. I think I may have to take these along, just for humour's sake.

As I've no doubt lamented elsewhere, I find it all too easy to take shots which have the potential to be the start of a bigger better body of work, and then forget about them. This is one of those - along with this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and even this potentially (and that's just from the shit I've blogged!!!).

Friday, 24 November 2006

The Stadium

On a nice near stormy day four years ago.

Sadly some bugger has now repainted this a horrible purple - Speights colours even (from memory).

Thursday, 23 November 2006

The Microphen

You know the other day I developed some film in microphen, well here's the results.

You may recognise the above building from here - or not.

I was trying a new film too - some cheap Forte stuff I picked up in Auckland a while back.

I've long had a thing for lonely empty seats - surprised more haven't turned up in this blog actually.

And the obligatory self portrait - just to test for skin tones and so on (he says somewhat defensively).

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

The New

"So do you like my new ...?"

"Um ... tshirt."

"Oh come on, it's already starred in a shot here!"

"Um ... haircut."

"Does this look new?!"

"Um ... glasses."


"Um ... shower curtain."

"Yeah right, like that's gonna happen in this lifetime."

"Um ... mirror??."

"You what?!"


"Oh ha ha."

"Well fuck, I dunno."

"Camera, dimwit. It's a new camera!"

"Yeah; like you don't have enough of them in your life already ..."

Yes folks, I am the proud owner of a new (secondhand) Polaroid 350. It cost me $30, though the guy who sold it to me said he should be selling it for much more, but who am I to argue. And I got a bunch of other crap that goes with it. Like a flash, with a lovely blue filter (anti-tungsten I assume), but no bulb. The original case and manuals. A cool little mechanical self-timer. A portrait set, with a special portrait lens (possibly just a closer-up filter) and a diffusion screen for the flash. And the receipt for the poor guy who paid $50 for it back in 1998. Talk about classy. And what's more you can still buy film for it. Talk about neato.

Postscript: A man with a camera sent me this link which has some rather nice polaroid work by various (American) photographers.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

The Mistake

This is what happens when you see a shot, realise that you don't have time to set up the tripod, so guess the focussing and framing, forget to push the bellows out of the way, forget how to take a decent exposure, and then handhold the camera for six seconds. It's quite cool really, eh?

Saturday, 18 November 2006

The Head

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to start being a bit more actively 'political' with my photography. There have been moments of 'politics' in my work (like shooting the opening of Parliament last year!!), but I felt I needed to push the idea somewhat. I will always argue that there is an underlying 'political' message to most of my exhibited work. Whether people pick up on it or not is another matter, and not the (whole) point.

I am involved in an ongoing project, which I kind of hope is objective and 'apolitical', although the reality is that it is the sort of project that would only be undertaken by someone with my viewpoint - or by someone getting paid to do so. I have been trying to create a web archive of these works but am struggling with the format.

Anyway, this new project I decided to get started on (before it was too late), actually proved harder than I thought. But maybe that was just because I decided to do it on 4x5, rather than Hasselblad/Holga/Canon/Agfa/Agfa/Agfa/Agfa (honestly I don't have a 'thing' about Agfa cameras, it just turned out that way).

So, there I was, on a beautifully sunny Sunday (not really great light for taking photos), wandering around the head (ok so it's really a point, but head is such a romantic word), wondering how I was actually going to photograph the bloody place.

Then I saw this little rise and went "Ooh, I wonder". So I trotted up, framed it up and went "Nah, it's shit".

Then I thought "Hey, how about a panorama?".

So I did. That's it up there.

Then I wandered around and took a few more shots. These ones. To be precise.

I don't know if it's obvious to you, but a ladder would have been really handy.

Okay. Enough already! I hear you. Here's the explanation.

Te Raekaihau Point is the proposed site of the Aquarium of New Zealand. For some reason it isn't as newsworthy as the Stadium of New Zealand, but it is the cause of some aggravation here in Wellington - well on the South Coast anyway. Read the arguments here (for) and here (against).

Do you need to know where I stand on the issue? Really it should come as no surprise to most of you. You should have realised by now that I am against change in any form. And being a luddite I greatly disapprove of the so-called 'progress' capitalist culture is dependent upon in an ever worsening vicious circle of destruction and environmental catastrophy borne out of arrogance and ignorance.

Friday, 17 November 2006

The Story

There I was stuck in traffic, trying to get to a couple of openings, listening to M. Ward on the Ipod, and this song pops up.

It seemed rather apt ... the story of my life even.

Story of An Artist

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold

Everyone, and friends and family
Saying, "Hey! Get a job!"
"Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?
We don't really like what you do.
We don't think anyone ever will.
It's a problem that you have,
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold

The artist walks alone
Someone says behind his back,
"He's got his gall to call himself that!
He doesn't even know where he's at!"
The artist walks among the flowers
Appreciating the sun
He does this all his waking hours
But is it really so wrong?

They sit in front of their TV
Saying, "Hey! This is fun!"
And they laugh at the artist
Saying, "He doesn't know how to have fun."
The best things in life are truly free
Singing birds and laughing bees
"You've got me wrong", says he.
"The sun don't shine in your TV"

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold

Everyone, and friends and family
Saying, "Hey! Get a job!"
"Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?
We don't really like what you do.
We don't think anyone ever will.
It's a problem that you have,
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old.
Some would try for fame and glory
Others just like to watch the world.

Those of you with impecable musical taste will have immediately realised that I was not listening to the original version, but to a cover - as equally gorgeous as the original it has to be said.

Those of you with impecable musical taste obviously won't need to be told this, but the songwriter is the great (some use the word genius, though I recently read an article denying him that status - this one I think but, don't take my word for it) Daniel Johnston who is now quite a hip person to namedrop thanks in large part to this film, which comes out on DVD soon and I can highly recommend. Here's a brief bio of the man. And if you're really interested this is the album to get - the original tracks on one disc, and cover versions of the same songs on the other disc (just in case you can't handle the originals).

Thursday, 16 November 2006

The Darkroom

Who'd've thought it eh? Me setting up a darkroom in my home. With a few pieces of builders plastic (thanks to last week's shoot), a $3 tarp from Mitre 10, and the wife's ironing board, I managed to turn my bathroom into a suitable substitute for the real thing. Sure I had to wait until after 10pm to get going but when needs must ...

But Mr Microphen sir, it's not very dark. And where's that nice red light thing?

Well for the work I do in the darkroom I only require two states - light and dark. None of this namby pamby I'm afraid of the dark whore lighting for me.

Bit of a mess really. I don't think it will become a regular habit really.

And for the record, for all you anal retentive technophile types, the roll of 120 was actually developed in Microphen (ring any bells?!) - admittedly old stuff that'd been sitting around unused for nearly a year. The sheets were developed in Rodinal, which Agfa no longer makes (thanks guys), so if any of you are sitting on any of this I'll gladly take it off your hands.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

The Capa

Yes I am fully aware that it is a bit rich, blasphemous even, for me to compare myself to Robert Capa (read the link then you'll understand why), but having only seen crap contacts prints of this roll of film it was a wee bit of a revelation to scan it and see these results. My first response was to recall Capa's famous D- Day landing images - all grainy, blurry, contrasty and gorgeous. So these shots are my (accidental) vague homage to that man.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

The Porter

As in Eliot Porter.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

The Works

Monday, 6 November 2006

The Bang

Okay so I'm a little late, but I trust you'll forgive me ... just this once.

Every November the Wellington City Council wastes our precious rates on blowing things up over the harbour. I still have yet to work out why. Nor have I worked out why it's only things that explode into colourful balls, and nothing exciting like cars or toilets or bombs.

Anyway in 2001 I walked up the hill behind my then flat (though by nice coincidence it is also the hill behind my current abode) and took this shot by setting up the camera and leaving the shutter open for the duration of the display (a whole fifteen minutes according to my records) - that's why it's a bit of a mess.

Then I turned the camera around, pointed it towards Brooklyn at all the idiots (or mature sensible people, depending on your beliefs, and naturally being a non-judgmental purely objective blogger I refuse to make any public statements regarding my own beliefs and/or political leanings and/or desires) creating their own fun and took this. Also for a whole fifteen minutes according to my records.

Isn't that just the most exciting news you've heard all day?!!

Saturday, 4 November 2006

The Valley

A couple of years back, 2002 actually, while my mate Nic was experiencing one of his then irregular sabbaticals on the mainland I decided to go visit him. He was staying with his Dad in The Valley - where we grew up. I had recently acquired a new camera and finished my studies and had a plan to 'document' the place.

The first location was just around the corner from where I grew up. On 20 December 1976 more than 350 mm of rain fell in 24 hours on our little valley. There was flooding. Our house was hit due to the stream running through our backyard. Just up the road a couple of houses lost their footing. (Look at the photo halfway down on the left.) It was here I wanted to photograph. After trapsing around for a bit we discovered that there really was nothing much worth photographing.

So we drove around The Valley a bit and came across these shops - just around the corner from where Nic grew up, but not that close to where his Dad now lives.

I astounded Nic by taking half an hour to set up the shot, having him wandering around taking meter readings for me and then enjoying the huge anticlimax of shooting for 1/15th of a sec. There is a feeling that when a photo has taken that long to compose, it should take a bit longer to shoot it.

While I took this because I was struck by how run down the shops had become, I also remember one summer, on a couple of occasions my best friend and I would ride around The Valley going to dairies where we were unknown and steal crap - burger rings, twisties, coke etc. This was one of the places we hit.

Good golly we were so naughty. It was Kerry's influence that no doubt set me on my path to drug addiction, murder and white collar crime.

This is my only shot from that day. I have been meaning to go back and shoot more, but just never got around to it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

The Aberhart

When I was down south earlier this year I was cruising around Akaroa looking for places to stay which were listed in my five year old Rough Guide. There was supposed to be a good place well out of town. It turned out to be the most uninviting campground ever - no signage, and a big gate. I decided not to stay there.

But this church was just down the road. And I just had to go in and pretend I was Laurence Aberhart.

So I possibly failed in my hopes, but it is a lovely old church. And small. I had to have the camera back against the door with my widest lens. There was barely room for me to stand.

In case you couldn't guess this is the outside. I had to stand on my camera cases to get the right height - a rare occurence for me. And I had to contend with two young locals and their dog thinking my rickety tripod would be fun to play on. They were wrong.