Photo hiStories

Photo hiStories: Mark Adams, Bruce Connew and John Miller
13 June – 30 August 2009
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

John Miller


Opening 13 June 2009, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibition Photo hiStories traces the documentary approaches of New Zealand photographers Mark Adams, Bruce Connew and John Miller.

In recent years documentary practices have undergone critical revision. With the make-up of a globalised mainstream media and the limitations in its ability to deal with social and political subjects, artists have embarked upon alternative ways of engaging with social reality and its documentary mediation.

The photographers in this exhibition narrate their own stories with distinctive methods of representation and through the conscious investigation of overlooked and precarious histories.

Each offers a different approach: the research-based photo essays engaging with our postcolonial history by Mark Adams; the investigation of behaviour and control in everyday life in a globalised world by Bruce Connew; and the street protests scenes tracing four decades of Māori political history by John Miller.

Govett-Brewster Director Rhana Devenport says, “Photo hiStories furthers the Govett-Brewster’s ongoing support for artists working across documentary practices in Aotearoa New Zealand today”.

Exhibition curator Mercedes Vicente says, “all three artists are of the same generation (born in 1949 and 1950), and saw their photographic careers flourish in the 1970s, a time of great political awareness in New Zealand. All engaged to some degree with photojournalist practices before their work took very different paths”.

Recognised as one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most distinguished documentary photographers, Mark Adams presents selected works from his Rauru series, in which he continues his investigations into New Zealand’s post colonial history. Spanning three decades, this photo essay follows the work of Tene Waitere (Ngati Tarawhai; 1854-1931), one of the greatest Māori carvers of the colonial period. Photo hiStories features in particular Rauru, a whare whakairo (meeting house) produced by Waitere for a Rotorua hotel owner from 1897 to1900. Considered one of his greatest works, Rauru was sold to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg in 1904, where it remains to this day.

Presented for the first time in its entirety is Bruce Connew’s photographic series I Must Behave. Shot in eight countries over three years, these works examine issues of behaviour and control in everyday life. This series represents a radical departure from the more traditional, socio-political documentary practice that characterises Connew’ previous work.

Connew describes this series as ‘a sideways glance at behaviour’. Taken without looking through the viewfinder, his images challenge the formal compositions of traditional documentary photography. Purposely effacing the geographical and social contexts of his subjects, Connew’s images mirror our globalised world where social codes of behaviour are increasingly homogenised.

Renowned for his protest photography, for the past four decades John Miller (Ngaitewake-ki-uta, Uritaniwha, Ngati Rehia hapu of Ngapuhi) has been a self-described ‘sympathetic observer’ of anti-war, civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-nuclear and Māori political protests. In 2003 Miller received a Media Peace Prize Lifetime Award in recognition of his photography and its role in helping to promote peace.

Photo hiStories features a selection of photographs tracing some of the most significant moments in recent Māori political history. From the first Waitangi protests in 1971 led by Māori collective Nga Tamatoa, the 1975 Land March and the 1977-78 Bastion Point occupation, to the 2004 Land March and last year’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bastion Point.

Photo hiStories is presented with generous support from Two Rooms, Radio Network Taranaki, and Te Kairanga Wines.

Also showing is China in Four Seasons: Jin Jiangbo and Beautiful World: Mieke Gerritzen from 4 July to 6 September 2009

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery