|Thu 2 Feb 2017, 10:00am–4:30pm|
|Fri 3 Feb 2017, 10:00am–4:30pm|
|Sat 4 Feb 2017, 10:00am–4:30pm|
|Sun 5 Feb 2017, 10:00am–4:30pm|
|Mon 6 Feb 2017, 10:00am–4:30pm|
Young Country is a fresh and engaging exhibition that brings together nineteenth-century photography and contemporary poetry to offer a new and often surprising view of New Zealand’s past.
The images are the work of William Williams, a Railways employee who worked and photographed widely through the country. His outstanding photographs reflect the rawness of New Zealand’s changing landscape as well as its beauty, and offer intriguing and unusual portraits of family and friends at work, home and play.
The photographs’ rich detail, striking composition and absorbing content come as a revelation to many viewers. This is work that encourages and rewards getting up close, looking and re-looking.
Kerry Hines has researched Williams’s work and context and written poems to accompany a selection of his photographs. The poems draw on the photographs and their potential meanings as well as incorporating fictional elements, creating a work that is multi-faceted, speculative and immersive.
Uniquely, the exhibition presents the images in the form of contemporary albumen prints made specifically for the show by New Zealand photographer Wayne Barrar.
Williams’s principal archive, held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, consists mainly of negatives, and scans of these would typically be used to make digital prints for public viewing. Here, though, Barrar has used them to create hand-made albumen prints. This nineteenth-century process not only yields beautiful tones and details but gives the photographs a similar material and visual feel to the prints Williams and his peers would have produced.
Albumen prints are rarely made today since the process is complex, painstaking and time-consuming – including careful separation of egg whites for the albumen base, precise hand-coating of the paper to avoid bubbling, long exposures in UV light, and gold toning. On a few occasion, albumen exhibition prints have been made overseas using ‘historic’ negatives, but it appears that Young Country may be the first time this has been done in New Zealand.
The exhibition’s development was supported by Mahara Gallery, and it is toured by Exhibition Services Ltd.
William Williams was active as a photographer in New Zealand from 1881 until the 1940s. An employee of the Railways department, he moved around the country in connection with his employment, as well as travelling widely in association with his interests in tramping and canoeing. He created a substantial body of work ranging from intimate and uncommon portraits of domestic life, to landscape ‘views’ on a par with the work of renowned professional photographers.
Kerry Hines is a New Zealand poet, writer and researcher whose work has been published in books and literary journals here and overseas. She has given readings and presentations on her work in the UK, USA, Australia, Iceland and NZ. Young Country draws on her PhD in creative writing (Victoria University, 2012), as does her essay “William Williams and ‘The Old Shebang’”, in Early New Zealand Photography: Images and Essays, ed. Angela Wanhalla and Erika Wolf, University of Otago Press, 2011.
Wayne Barrar is an internationally recognised photographer with an extensive record of exhibition and publication in photography. He has a long-standing interest in the history of photography and has worked with processes such as albumen printing, including the production of albumen prints from digital negatives, in his own practice. He is Associate Professor (Photography) at the School of Art, Massey University Wellington.
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