Remembering Anzac: Laurence Aberhart

106 - Aberhart - Dunrobin - Edievale, Otago, 25 June 2012 (Custom)

Laurence Aberhart, Dunrobin — Edievale, Otago, June 25, 2012, 2012, platinum (courtesy of the artist)

For longer than 30 years, Laurence Aberhart has been providing an insight into memorializing war with his images of single Anzac figures and monuments. He's travelled throughout New Zealand and Australia capturing the striking images, and now you can see 60 of these prints in the exhibition ANZAC: Photographs by Laurence Aberhart at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, as part of the Auckland Festival of Photography, from May 30 to December 6, 2015. We talked to Aberhart about the process behind his work and what initiated this three-decade project.

D-Photo: More than 30 years of work has gone into this exhibition; what is it like to now see it exhibited as a whole?

Laurence Aberhart: I do not see this as a whole. It is part of the greater range of ‘work’ that I do. I collect things in photographs. This could be seen as a subset of a subset. It is not complete as I am not a complete-ist. But it is good to see a collected group, together, on the wall and in print, to be able to read the greater picture rather than the singular. Then, one is able to see the ebb and flow of it. It is the justification for all that effort.

How did taking photographs for this project begin? What triggered it?

I use a big camera on a tripod. The larger format, to a degree, determines certain work practices — long exposures being one. I self-taught myself photography and the history of photography. I developed an attraction to nineteenth century images — the older the better in my book. The first photographers, because of the low sensitivity of their materials, made very long exposures, so many of the first photographic images are of statuary, immobile representations of the human likeness. I would like to think that in following on with the same, that I am not copying but participating in the ongoing history of the documentation of ‘memorials’, and participating in the unbroken practice of what I can only call, ‘the ritual of photography’.

133 - Aberhart - Maori War Memorial, Moutua Gardens, Whanganui, 3 November 2011 (Custom)

Laurence Aberhart, Maori War Memorial, Moutua Gardens, Whanganui, November 3, 2011, 2011, silver gelatin, gold and selenium toned (courtesy of the artist)

What was the process behind deciding which camera to use? 

I have used the same camera since 1974/5 and nothing but that camera since 1979.

Were there many difficulties in shooting with available light? If so, how did you overcome them?

Wind. Other than that, set camera up on tripod, determine and set the aperture, trip the shutter and let it go.

149 - Aberhart - Kendall, NSW, 11 March 2013 (Custom)

Laurence Aberhart, Kendall, NSW, March 11, 2013, 2013, platinum (courtesy of the artist)

You travelled across Australia and New Zealand to capture these images — how did you know where to go, did you have a path in mind?

Much of the earlier work was serendipity. It was what I came across in my travels up and down New Zealand and, more lately, in Australia. As the centenary of WWI came closer  I realized that I had better focus more intently on the WWI soldier memorials, I had to plan circuits. Some  memorials I already knew of, and would have noted before, and some was research on various websites. As the work has been essentially self-funded, with some assistance from Creative NZ towards the end, it has been made under a degree of economic restraint. You could go on, not forever, but for a very long time, to finish this. And as I have said, I am not a complete-ist.

144 - Aberhart - Berriwillock, Victoria, 4 May 2005 (Custom)

Laurence Aberhart, Berriwillock, Victoria, May 2, 2005, 2005, platinum (courtesy of the artist)

What sort of messages are you hoping people take away from the exhibition?

I don’t think it is for myself to have any sort of message. I would hope that the work, as images, is open enough for it to trigger whatever the viewer wants to get from it.

This is a travelling exhibition and was launched in Dunedin. What do you think about it travelling the country? Do you want to see it shown in Australia as well?

I think that it is a good thing that it is travelling to both large and small museums and art galleries, as there is something in it for every province and some states, and much of subject material local people would not be aware of.  It was very important to me the honour the ‘A' of Anzac; not to make it solely of New Zealand images, so, yes it would be nice to see it go to Australia. A portion of it will be exhibited in Istanbul later this year [in an Australian exhibition].

Beatnik style: Mara Sommer

In the latest issue of The Photographer's Mail we talked to Mara Sommer, the photographer who shoots for D&M Hair, about the latest Beatnik campaign for the salon. The shots were entered into the Australasian hairdressing competition Hair Expo, where D&M Hair became a finalist in the Australasian Salon Team of the Year category. Find out more about Sommer in our quick-fire interview below:

Mara Sommer

Mara Sommer

D-Photo: What's your favourite part about working with D&M Hair? 
Mara Sommer: I love the creative process with Danny Pato [Art and Hair Director] and the rest of the crew. We have lots of meeting before the shoot, and on the actual shoot day everyone knows exactly what to do and has a clear idea. I think that makes it so much easier — the images are in my mind already and I can totally concentrate on my shooting and bringing those ideas to life.

Can you pinpoint a few of your favourite images and tell us why? 
From the Beatnik shoot I really like those shots where the person completely transforms once their hairstyle changes. Often you could tell the models were feeling the different characters. The body language changed. Androgyny is always a theme in the D&M shoots, but this shoot pushed it the most, and sometimes it's hard to see who is really a boy, or a girl who looks like a boy. I like that this might make the viewer look twice.
Mara Sommer
Mara Sommer
If you had all the time in the world what would you love to shoot?
I possibly would do what I do now, but spend much more time with each shoot. I saw a documentary about an old Vogue shoot — they had a month to do one shoot. They were travelling to the location, looking for the right characters, and then they had a couple of days to do the shoot. I would love to do this! Because of the limited time everyone seems to have nowadays, including me, unfortunately, I often feel very rushed on a shoot.  I dont even have time to wait for the right light most of the time, I just have to deal with what is possible. I feel those circumstances have a huge effect on how the shoot looks in the end. I would love to have the time to wait for the right light or weather, to find the perfect model for the job, and to shoot at the best location.
What's your photographic weapon of choice (favourite piece of equipment)?
I am shooting with a Broncolor Scoro, which has a very fast recycling speed. I find it very annoying if I miss a shot just because my flash wasn't ready, and I shoot quite fast.
Do you have a preference? Studio shoots or on location, and why?
I like shooting on location because I think it is easier to create interesting images. The locations give you something that is already existing. In the studio you have to create everything yourself. I like shooting in studio too, but only if there is a clear concept, and then I think you can create amazing images in a studio too.
Mara Sommer
Mara Sommer

Live the streets: Chris Leskovsek

Live the streets: Chris Leskovsek

For two years photographer Chris Leskovsek has been roaming the streets of Auckland, capturing intriguing black-and-white images as a way of acquainting himself with the town he now calls home. The Chilean-born artist moved to New Zealand to continue his graphic design and illustration career but found himself gravitating to the camera as a means of expression and discovery in a new land, giving rise to a series of self-published photo zines called Øbservations.

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Eden Young Artists Awards: Rainer Weston

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It was a humble Facebook status that caught our eye, when Rainer Weston simply stated, “Forgot to make a post about this ... Recently I won Best Photograph/Digital Work and the Best Overall at Eden Young Artists Awards.” We managed to track Rainer down and asked him a few questions about what inspired him to get into photography and where he's headed in the future. As far as we can see, he'll be one to keep an eye on.

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D-Photo: What inspired your interest in photography and how have you pursued that interest?

Rainer Weston: I was drawn to photography after a compulsory photo studies class in my first year at art school. I had never picked up a camera with manual controls before then, but I was instantly hooked. Photography was always something I had wanted to try out, being familiar with the work of photographers such as Robert Frank, Duane Michals, and Vincent Serbin, among others. However I could never justify spending (what was at the time) a lot of money on something I thought was just going to be a hobby. At first it was the immediacy of photography that attracted me, seeing it as a very efficient means to acquiring an image. Being a technically minded person though, I quickly became obsessed with the craft of photographic image production. I would pore over books, magazines, and web tutorials learning about different cameras, sensor types, flashes, lenses, as well as lighting and retouching techniques. Eventually it just made sense to go with it and I'm now in my third year of study at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design majoring in Photography.

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How long have you been working behind the camera?

I picked up a DSLR for the first time in late 2012, just before my 21st birthday. So it's been about two years now. I come from a creative background of both music and art, but I'm also a very technical person, a tinkerer at heart. Photography is the perfect outlet for me in this respect.

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How would you describe your style of photography?

I dabble in many different styles including traditional street and portraiture styles. The work that I am producing right now occupies a territory that I like to think is akin to a kind of neo-surrealism with a sprinkle of pictorialism. Photography has changed a lot in the last twenty years and it's a strange and exciting time to be a producer of images. The democratization and miniaturization of digital camera technology has significantly lowered previous barriers to entry. Now nearly everyone holds a highly capable camera in their pockets, which means people are creating all kinds of images now that were previously impossible. The amount of images in circulation has also gone up drastically, but the quality of the pictures hasn't necessarily followed suit. In my opinion we are in a renaissance era of photographic craft, which has added value amidst the endless seas of mediocre vernacular photography. Photographic images have also become highly untrustworthy, with intuitive photo-manipulation software available that anyone can use. Yet the internet and social media oriented structures we live by encourage them to disseminate around the world like never before. This circulation gives them a new kind of power, one where truth is intrinsically tied to virility. With my work I try to keep all these things in mind, embracing the falsehood of photographic truth as a stylistic trope through the use of introduced lighting and costume.

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What does winning the Best Photograph/Digital Work and Best Overall at Eden Young Artists Awards mean to you?

Mainly it means having the financial freedom to finish off my current project. As a student, it's hard to juggle real-world expenses with art making, so the cash injection means I can focus on being creative and not worry about whether spending too much money on projects means I can't eat next week.

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Do you have any projects on the go at the moment? Can you describe them?

We live in strange times; a world of drones, complicit mass surveillance, climate change, and increasing disparity between the rich and the poor. Technology has brought the world to our fingertips but I've never felt so profoundly disillusioned, disoriented, and in the dark. This is the starting point for a series that I am developing, working on from the image that I produced for Eden Young Artists Awards. This was always the plan, winning has just fast-tracked the whole process. I can't say much about the specifics of each photograph but I can say that they will follow a loose narrative about contemporary identity and image in this age of hyper connectivity. I'm planning to make three more images at this point but we'll see what happens.

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How difficult are you finding keeping up with trying to post at least one photo a day to your website/tumblr?

Not hard at all actually! The one image a day deal is about letting go of the past, moving forward, as well as loosening up my quality standards. I have a tremendously large library of images that have been gathering digital dust for quite some time. In the past I only ever put up my best stuff, but I found that I became increasingly hesitant to put up work over time, especially as my technical skills improved and I could only justify putting up images that adhered to a certain technical aptitude. As a result I have many images that I love but have never seen the light of day. So it's about cleaning out my closet so that I can embrace the medium more honestly and move onto better things.

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Do you have a goal in mind of where you’d like photography to take you, and in what sort of time frame?

I'd love to be exhibiting work on a larger scale. Being successful with art photography is hard and often feels like a battle of attrition. You put a lot of work in and not a lot comes back your way most of the time. I'm optimistic though and I'm open to expanding my territory into other avenues such as advertising or fashion. I'm particularly interested in film right now and the exciting stuff that's happening on that front, especially with new cameras, like the GH4 and the Sony A7s. I've been discussing potential projects with friends but we'll see what happens.

To see more of Rainer's work, or to follow his photo a day project, head to rainerweston.com

Writers by night: Brendan Kitto  

In his new exhibition at the Auckland Festival of Photography, Brendan Kitto combines his passion for photography and graffiti art. Night Visions gives viewers a look at the nocturnal world of graffiti artists as they go about their sometimes unappreciated craft. Brendan talks to D-Photo's Point-Shoot blog about putting the series together and some of the escapades it led him on.

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D-Photo:  Can you give us a brief outline of what the Night Vision exhibition is all about?

Brendon Kitto: It's about what graffiti writers get up to while the rest of us are sleeping.

Are you a graffiti artist yourself?

Yes I am, I have been involved in the scene for the past 14 years. I am part of the TMD (The Most Dedicated) graffiti crew.

What is it about graffiti writing that makes for a good photographic subject?

It tends to be hidden from the public eye and the works that result are often very temporary, so if it's not captured , it's gone for ever.

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Are the images in the exhibition all recent, or do they go back a way?

The work is all recent. I started shooting around February.

Where were the images taken?

The images were shot around the inner city of Auckland and the southern rail corridor.

Since you've been involved in the graffitti scene, how have you seen it change?

The scene in Auckland has changed a lot. But the biggest change was when the Rugby World Cup came to town, the council thought it was important to remove every aspect of graffiti, to me this has removed a lot of vibrance from the city.  But in saying that, the scene has moved to finding more obscure places to paint, which is great photo-wise.

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Being the 'underground world of street art', do you ever run into graffiti writers resistant to having their picture taken?

No. As I have been a part of the scene for a considerable amount of time, and other writers know me.  I guess I have a trust within the writing community that I'm not going to post images revealing their identity.

There's often a lot of antagonism from the general public towards graffiti art – are you hoping to change hearts and minds with these images, or simply document?

Purely to document, to show a side people don't often get to see; writers in action

What sort of gear do you shoot with?

A mixture of digital and film:

Fuji X-Pro1 with a 27mm pancake lens

Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm lens & OM-2 with a 28mm

Canon AE-1 with a 50mm

Bronica ETRSi with a 50mm

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What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting the project together?

Security Guards.

Do you have a favourite image from the exhibition, and why?

My favourite image would be the one I titled Retreat (above).

I headed out with four writers and we had to move as security was coming (we had seen them before they saw us). So we headed back down the train line to a safe point and watched what they were doing . A passenger train was approaching so we took cover inside the bush – the lights from the train carriages produced enough light to for me to get a shot of one of the writers assessing the situation whilst the train passed. The others took a nap in the grass waiting for the “all clear”. The writers were cool, calm and collected throughout the whole time – it brought back a sense of nostalgia.

What's next for you?

I currently have a pop up show at Studio 40 in Onehunga.

I'm also in the development stages of a book with artist Askew1 and have a few projects that I hope to have completed for the photography festival next year.

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What other exhibitions are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Jos Wheeler – Voicing Dissent Great South Road at the Art Station Helen Clegg – The Bridge Gathers

Night Visions is currently showing and runs until June 12 at the Depot Artspace in Devonport

The roads home: Harry Culy

Returning home after years abroad, photographer Harry Culy decided to reacquaint himself with Aotearoa by taking a series of road trips throughout the country, his camera along to document the odyssey. He talks with D-Photo's Point-Shoot blog about the unearthed  darkness and beauty that make up his photo project, By the Wayside. lucypekapekalong 001

D-Photo: Hi Harry, to begin with can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Harry Culy: Hello. I  have just finished my studies up at Massey University. I'm a documentary and freelance photographer based between NZ and Australia.

Can you give us a brief outline of the By the Wayside exhibition?

By the Wayside was a project I started not long after returning to New Zealand after being abroad for five years. I came back with this new perspective on my homeland – so I started taking road trips at any available chance. I actually ended up going all over New Zealand. It was a great excuse to get to know Aotearoa again, meet the people and see the sights. I would just drive around and pull over at a likely looking spot, and just walk around and talk to strangers, which was hard at first because I'm a pretty awkward dude. It was a pretty intuitive or organic process, I was photographing everything, but after a while you start to notice a certain theme or feeling starting to appear. The feeling of something the uncanny or something odd within a familiar setting was a motif that started to crop up – this led me to researching a lot of New Zealand film and literature, especially the Aotearoa Gothic movement, for example Janet Frame's writing or Vincent Ward's movie Vigil. There was also this kind of undercurrent of darkness I was interested in exploring. Basically I wanted take a different angle to the colourful picture postcards we are used to associating New Zealand with, and find out what this country meant to me.

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How do you decide what is going to make a good subject for a shot?

It was more of a feeling than anything else. I would meet someone that looked interesting, or see a scene out the window of the car, something that felt sorta dark or dreamy within the context of everyday life. Another thing I was interested in was this contrast or dichotomy I found – for example this mix of nostalgia and modern life, or fantasy within mundane everyday life, or the problems facing us in New Zealand but also the more beautiful things too.

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Did you spend a lot of time in locations or with subjects before shooting?

Yeah,  sometimes it was like one minute, other times I spent hours. For example, I met this widow in Levin and spent two hours with her, she invited me into her home and told me all about her life. Photography can give you this weird license to get into situations that you wouldn’t any other way.

What gear did you use on the project?

I used a Bronica SQ-ai with a 90mm lens and tripod, available light and black and white tri-x film mostly.

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What was the most challenging thing about putting By the Wayside together?

This was my first proper project, which was a huge learning curve. Everything was a challenge! The sheer volume of images I had gave me a real hard time in the editing process, cutting it down so it had a flow. And also I made a dummy book and it was so hard to get the printing right.

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What are you hoping viewers will take away from the exhibition?

I just want them to get some kind of feeling from the images. We hardly ever notice our surroundings when we live somewhere for a long time – it becomes routine. When I came back I really noticed how interesting it is here, there is all this amazing stuff on our doorstep, which I wasn’t fully aware of before doing this. I just want people to take a new look at this amazing country I guess.

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What's next for you?

I have a few projects in the works, the next one is going to be a like a modern day family album, except turned on its head. I’m moving to Sydney in March and have an Oz project I really want to do also; a similar style road trip project like By the Wayside, looking at Australia as a land of dreams, much like the way people explore the idea of the American dream. So that’ll keep me busy for the next five years or so.

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What's the best piece of photography advice you ever got?

Slow down. Be Patient.

If you could take a road trip anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Australia and New Zealand. I’ve done a fair bit of travel, I want to photograph the lands at the bottom of the world, I have a certain affinity for us antipodeans.

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Harry's exhibition of By the Wayside recently closed at Wellington's Photospace gallery – to see where it might pop up again and follow the artist's new projects check out his website.

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