Uptown Art Scene

The Auckland Festival of Photography last month offered nearly 100 exhibitions ranging across the city. From Anne Noble’s dead bee portraits at Two Rooms taken with an electron microscope to reveal them in ghostly brilliance, to Lisa Reihana’s moving tableaux In Pursuit of Venus at Auckland Art Gallery, redirecting our historical gaze from colonial to native, this festival belied the assumption that photography provides a single way of seeing things ‘as they are’.

The ease of digital development and printing enables photography to be much more than documentation, freeing its analogue constraints. At Orexart, Ellen Smith shoots places of personal significance, then cuts and collages, re-photographs and re-collages the images into kaleidoscopic mirrors of the past.

How times have changed. In the early 1970s, galleries were beginning to recognise photography as an art form, but according to the Photo-Forum archives “photography is not yet a popular medium. There is still a real need to educate even some of the more responsive galleries in the good and the bad of it”. Surprisingly, two galleries specialising in the medium opened in Auckland in 1975 and 1976.

My first memory of photography as art was at one of them, the Photographers’ Gallery in Durham Lane in 1976: a long row of 8x10 B&W penises by Peter Peryer. Peter was our neighbour, so our family went to support him, and rather than my 10-year-old self being shocked, I was intrigued that his way of looking had made the object quite different to expectation. I wondered that a photograph did not supply a universal depiction of reality, but a highly individual one. I believe this is the attraction of fine photography: it insists on its reality yet it is not our own.

I was very pleased to see the FhE Galleries’ pop-up art up open on the corner of Ponsonby and Franklin roads. FhE have a strong affinity with photography, showing work by long-established artists like Marti Friedlander and Gordon Brown. We welcome them to the area, knowing they expand the cultural dynamic of our Uptown Art Scene!

I finally made it to the new Tim Melville space in Winchester Street, just off the bottom of Newton Road, for the exhibition of paintings by the Warmun community of Western Australia. Good to have you in walking distance, Tim, and for those of you with a car - there’s plenty of parking out front.