Waitakere Central Library: From Guangdong to Aotearoa – Sue Gee

Sue Gee - From Guangdong to Aotearoa exhibition

From Guangdong to Aotearoa – Sue Gee

5 Feb 2016 to 1 May 2016
J.T. Diamond Reading Room  & Gallery, Level 2, Waitakere Central Library,
3 Ratanui St, Henderson, Auckland

: Mon to Fri: 9am – 5.30pm (Thurs open til 7pm), Sat and Sun: 10am – 4pm
Parking:  Alderman Drive car park – 2hrs free.
Walk across the bridge into Trading Place and the steps going up to the library are straight ahead.

This exhibition uses images, sound-bites and text to trace the journey of six New Zealand born Chinese as they trace their ancestral roots back to Guangdong, South China.

Six remarkable NZBC (New Zealand Born Chinese) talk about their lives.

Born in Eketahuna, Rotorua, Tamaki Makauru & Manaia, Taranki, they trace their ancestral roots to Guangdong, South China, previously known as Canton Province. Sound bites, written excerpts & photographs reveal fascinating insights into a cultural group once described as “The fearful race“.

‘The oral history project From Guandgong to Aotearoa came about through my wish to know more of my ancestral heritage. My mother and father, Lily and Jack, were born in Opunake and Manaia, in Taranaki. As young people, they left Aotearoa NZ to spend several years in their Cantonese villages, learning to speak Chinese, and something of our Chinese customs. I never asked them questions about their time in Guangdong and after they died, deeply regretted it.

The exhibition was initiated by and created with tautoko – support – of the people at the West Auckland Research Centre, WARC.

The interviewees are Connie Kum, Suzanne Chan On, Gillian Young, Watson Kitt, Lily Lee and Elsie Wong.

I’ll be in the gallery from 2-4pm on Saturday 30th April, also from 2-4pm on the 1st of May.  Do come. See / hear the work, and join us for a cup of Chinese tea.’

Sue Gee

05022016 news photo. Simon Smith/Fairfax NZ. The launch of the oral history exhibition From Guangdong to Aotearoa on display at Henderson Central Library in Henderson, Auckland. Back row from left: Gillian Yang, Lily Lee, project manager Liz Bradley and Suzanne Chan On. Front row, from left: Elsie Wong, project interviewer Sue Gee, and Connie Kum. All the women except Liz and Sue were interviewed by Sue to share their stories in the exhibition.

05/02/16 news photo. Simon Smith/Fairfax NZ.
The launch of the oral history exhibition From Guangdong to Aotearoa by Sue Geeon display at Waitakere Central Library, Henderson, Auckland.
From left: (back row) Gillian Yang, Lily Lee, project manager Liz Bradley and Suzanne Chan On,  (front row) Elsie Wong, project interviewer Sue Gee, and Connie Kum.


PhotoForum Website Survey & Update

Survey Update: 15 February 2015

The PhotoForum website survey  is now closed and a huge thank-you to everyone who completed it. We got a great response rate, including 37% from the PhotoForum mailing list, plus a significant number from the wider arts community. This solid response and the many useful comments and suggestions mean that we can be confident of where to put our efforts in the website renewal.
A quick results headline shows that:

  • The majority who completed the survey were PhotoForum current or past members, but pleasingly there were also a good number of people from the wider arts community.
  • The large majority of you get news about PhotoForum from our newsletter, with the website and Facebook in second equal place. People get their news about photography generally from a huge array of mostly online sources, mixed with friends, groups and magazines.
  • In terms of suggested improvements for the site, calls for better design ranked high, better integration between the web and social media, better display of images and use/curation of portfolios. There were also many suggestions for improved content.
  • The top new features that people most wanted were:
  1. News about the latest photography exhibitions, events and opportunities
  2. Reviews and critical commentary of NZ photography books/shows/art fairs
  3. Interviews with significant NZ photographers
  4. Reviews of international photography books/shows/art fairs
  • Over 70 people offered to provide content for the new site
  • Over 85% of people want MoMento to remain as a paper-based magazine, but there was acknowledgement of the greater reach of an online resource. There are also many useful comments about MoMento for us to study
  • Nearly 90% of respondents thought the new PhotoForum site should be ‘A leading resource about New Zealand art photography.’
    There is much for us to analyse in the survey results and our volunteer committee will be working steadily on the project in the coming months and will give you more updates as progress is made.

Thank you all again for this fantastic response – we are really looking forward to building the new, updated and upgraded PhotoForum website.

Geoffrey H. Short
Director, PhotoForum Inc.

Our congratulations to Mark Berger (Wellington)
Survey prize draw winner of a year’s free membership of PhotoForum

Initial Survey communication: 27 January 2015:

PhotoForum’s website began in 1996 has been going in its current form for about seven years – it’s now time for a major upgrade.

We want to revitalise the PhotoForum website and make it a dynamic engaging site that photographers and the wider arts community visit regularly.

We’ve got some ideas for exciting new content and features, but we’d love your help to identify what would be most relevant to you as a photographer or an arts practitioner. We’re also looking for people to contribute interesting new content to the site.

Please help us by completing this brief online survey. [ https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PhotoForum-NZ ]

Everyone who completes the survey will have the opportunity to go into a draw to win a year’s free membership of PhotoForum (for an existing member this would apply to next year’s membership).

We value your response and will keep you updated on progress with the site upgrade. Please forward the survey to anyone else you think would be interested.

The deadline for responses is Thursday 5 February 2015.

Many thanks,

Geoffrey H. Short
Director, PhotoForum Inc.

Photographers’ Archives and Legacy Project

The vital issue, of what will to happen to a photographer’s archive when they die or are no longer able to care for it, has been taken up as a research project by British academic, Jem Southam, of Plymouth University. Challenged to think about the issue of photographers’ archives and their legacy following the death of his friend and fellow photographer, James Ravilious in 1999, Southam gained the support of Plymouth University, the Library of Birmingham, and the Arts Council England, to study the issues. See http://www.photolegacyproject.co.uk/.

‘The research explores how contemporary photographic practices can have a sustained legacy and provide public benefit. It looks at how UK-based independent photographers, now and for the long-term, can make their work and related contextual material publicly accessible, and increase opportunities for the general public, researchers and students to learn about and enjoy their work.’

Dr Michael Pritchard, Director of the British Photographic History Group (http://britishphotohistory.ning.com/ ) announced that the first case studies have now been published. They concern on the current state of thinking and action in regard to the work of Liz Hingley, Daniel Meadows, and Mark Power (Magnum), and are a timely reminder of these same issues raised by New Zealand photographers, Glenn Busch, John Miller, Reg Feuz, Gil Hanly and others seeking answers, help or guidance.

Among the key points from the three case studies so far are the following:

· The planning and organisation of a photographic practice is not consistently taught, but largely learned from others and through experience. A module in photography courses about how to plan and organise work would be very useful
· Working digitally does not create a solution to the archiving of work
· Storage is difficult for peripatetic photographers
· The photographer has not made a Will to indicate what should happen to their archive
· Desire for family to benefit financially
· Uncertain of potential value of legacy (work + historical, social, cultural value)
· Concerned about what will happen to the work
· Value of establishing a relationship with a collecting institution with specialist expertise and resources
· Value of creating a catalogue listing all the work, negatives, contact sheets and contextual material and using a simple reference system for locating everything

It should go without saying that the legacy of independent photographers in New Zealand is huge, not least because the tradition of government or local body support of documentary photographic projects has been meagre and patchy, to say the least. Our history is not one of support, but rather of non-support, by most public institutions, expecting (maybe) photographers to bequeath their hard-won work free when they die. The issues explored by Jem Southam’s UK research are hugely important to anybody who values photographs as an alternative to the written histories of the world we live in. That’s one vast public benefit worth keeping for future generations.

John B Turner, Beijing, China
Celebrate 40 years of Photoforum with us in 2014

John B. Turner reflects on ‘The State of New Zealand Photography’

John B Turner reflects on a groundbreaking 1976 survey of institutional attitudes toward the collection and exhibition of photography in New Zealand and asks how much has changed.


The State of New Zealand Photography

In 1976, two years after PhotoForum was founded, and following The Active Eye survey of contemporary photography, Ted Quinn set out to document the state of photography as an art in New Zealand.

What he found was ignorance, outright dismissal, and confusion. But there was also enthusiasm in the air and positive signs of a growing interest in the medium, among the quiet cries for help from organisations keen to do something but unsure about what to do or how to do it.

Private collectors were virtually nonexistent and almost nobody thought of buying a photograph.

One arts centre didn’t know if there was enough interest in photography to make it worthwhile holding shows, and more than one dealer claimed that photography was not an art and would not be shown by them.

The Auckland Art Gallery had only recently started its photography collection and our National Art Gallery said they had neither a photographic collection, nor intentions regarding photography.

The Govett-Brewster Gallery, now the foremost promoter of contemporary art, was thinking of collecting historical work, and the John Leech Gallery, now a leader in selling historical photography, said they only dealt with original works of art.

Almost hidden in PhotoForum’s web archive, Ted Quinn’s snapshot of the time is well worth revisiting as a reminder of how much has changed in the New Zealand art scene in regard to the acceptance of photography as art and social document. New Zealand’s universities and polytechnics, starting in the mid-1960s have nurtured influential teachers, who in turn spread their knowledge and enthusiasm throughout secondary and tertiary education.

PhotoForum, nearing its 40th birthday, had a role to play as an independent observer and catalyst for change relating to issues documented and discussed by Ted Quinn. Ted, like many PhotoForum activists was then a photography student at the Elam School of Fine Arts. His enthusiasm and prolific output as assistant editor of PhotoForum magazine and our tabloid PhotoForum Supplement’s warranted him the title of Research Secretary. And he carried out his job with imagination and prodigious energy. A peer of John Reynolds and George Baloghy, with whom he exhibited outside of Elam, he later became a photo therapist in England and editor of a magazine for the profession. Trying to contact him to contribute to our documentation of PhotoForum at 40, however, has so far been what Eric Lee-Johnson would call “a great unsuccess”. (Please tell us if you know how we can get in touch with Ted.)

Some of the public art galleries, museums, libraries and private galleries would have changed their name, been subsumed into another branch or organisation, or disappeared altogether. That is particularly so for the small, enthusiastic, underfunded photo galleries that flourished and for a brief time, helped to change the climate for taking photography more seriously than hitherto. We can’t say much for the 50% of canvassed organisations that did not respond to Ted’s survey, but we did know that raised some embarrassing questions about why photography was being neglected by those who should have known better.

What we can say, however, is that along with the advances that came when the National Art Gallery started collecting contemporary photography under Andrew Drummond, and it’s new Director, Luit Bieringa (who was instrumental in creating The Active Eye survey of contemporary NZ photography in 1975), there has been some backsliding from some prominent public institutions as well as great advances by others.

The Auckland Art Gallery, in particular, has seldom fulfilled its promise. And no New Zealand public gallery has established a permanent display space to highlight photography and provide students and teachers with a living resource of exemplary works from the histories of photography.

The absence of such an obvious educational service was pointed out in by the late Van Deren Coke, visiting Fulbright scholar in 1989, and later Director of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but Auckland’s showcase gallery, now expanded and refurbished, still tends to sit on its hands in regard to properly showcasing New Zealand’s best photographers.

Ted Quinn’s survey is also a reminder of how much more can and should be done by those responsible for preserving and promoting New Zealand’s history, culture and heritage. And that should concern all New Zealanders.

Crucial decisions have to be made to properly resource our public institutions so they can carry out their duty of care. As John Miller and Reg Feuz have highlighted for PhotoForum, and I know from my own experience of trying to place major collections of photographs in safe hands, there is a huge log-jam of priceless private collections that now need the attention of curators, librarians and conservation specialists, if they are not to be lost. We need the people responsible for deciding which collections and how much of them must be preserved for the future to stand up and explain what they are doing, or need support to do?

Merely paying big money – the penalty for neglect – for a few star works that should have been collected before “the market” paid attention and upped the ante, is not enough.

They might not be perfect, but the curators we now have – and we could do with more of them – need to be given more freedom to roam and cogitate. Our dedicated private art dealers often provide exceptional service, but they can only do so much, and our public collectors need to rely less on them to seek significant work at its source, as early as possible.

That would be risky, of course, but freed from the dealer’s ring fencing, and institutional committees who too often don’t understand much about photography, the odds are very much in favour of a conscientious curator being able to acquire significant cultural artifacts wholesale from the many practitioners without a dealer, or discounted through collaboration with dealers.

What most serious photographers need when they are getting into their stride, or approaching completion of a body of work, is sufficient funds to pay for their art and living expenses so they can get on with doing what they do best, or branch out into new territory if that’s what they need to do.

What wealthy art collectors do with their disposable income is their own business. But our public art servants could save money as well as spread support if they were freed to get ahead of the game and buy significant work when it is relatively fresh and unknown. That’s what the best collectors have always done.

Knowing they have representative highlights in the bag, as it were, would do much to remove the belated pressure that builds up after years of institutional neglect, or undervaluation of an artist’s work, and forces competition with private buyers and competing institutions also trying to catch up. Having already acquired significant works, our public institutions could free themselves from the guilt-laden pressure of seriously overdue purchases at indecently inflated prices.

The high prices paid at auction for some works are simply ridiculous, and the really big retrospective purchases do more to inflate ego or depression than swell the artist’s bank account. Exorbitant fees and increased insurance cover should be seen for what they usually are: a premium on neglect. The purchase of overpriced works by art stars like Andreas Gursky, is indicative of the cultural blue-chip cringe favoured by PR-focussed galleries, and further highlights the neglect of New Zealand photography by them.

It’s an old grizzle, but I still hear from some of New Zealand’s best artists that none of the people responsible for public acquisitions have ever visited them to see work before (and if) it is exhibited.
If our public art servants were empowered to do the rounds, and had discretionary funds to follow their intuitions, many a bargain of mutual benefit to practitioners and institutions could be struck and a better, more relevant public representation of our cultural and social history could be preserved.

John B Turner,
Beijing, China, July 2013.

Ted Quinn: ‘Results of a survey on the State of New Zealand Photography as regards Public and Private Art Galleries, Libraries and Museums’. Photo-Forum Research Supplement, April 1977.

This survey was begun in October 1976 with the stated aim of preparing “a brief analysis of the position of photography in New Zealand, and the local gallery interest.”

A list of questions relating to photographic collections, exhibitions, and intentions regarding photography, were sent to 150 public and private museums and galleries, as well as some libraries.  View the survey (pdf) here.

In its June 1981 issue, PhotoForum published an update on Ted Quinn’s survey carried out by Diane Quin and Janneke Vandenberg: ‘On Collectors’, pp 20-23. It included responses from 19 art galleries, museums or libraries and three private collections, those of Hardwicke Knight, William Main and Ron Brownson.