I was lucky enough to catch the first days of Te Papa’s impressive exhibition Brian Brake – Lens on the World. On opening day, it was very crowded with an audience fascinated to encounter so many unfamiliar photographs. There was an impressive selection of Brian’s magazine sequences, including the famous Monsoon project published in Life magazine.
It was actually a weekend of art talks and art events at Wellington and I chose to attend the floor talks given by Athol McCredie and John Turner. They could not have had a larger or more interested audience. Athol introduced Brian’s career, beginning with his black and white portraits taken in Spencer Digby’s studio. He then outlined his work with Magnum photo agency and the important images that he made for the very popular book New Zealand - Gift of the Sea (1963), which has a fine text written by Maurice Shadbolt.
John Turner further provided a parallel overview of Brian Brake’s work. He noted, in relation to the Pablo Picasso material, that this work might not be a photo-essay as such; rather it is a record of one day where he followed Picasso having lunch with family and friends and then attending a bullfight with them. Both Athol and John’s talks were complimentary and brought out the significance of this exhibition project for Te Papa, who care for Brian Brake’s photographic archive.
Large monographic exhibitions of New Zealand photographers are not common, so it was a real pleasure to be able to spend a couple of afternoons studying this carefully conceived project. The associated publication is outstanding with fine essays by Athol McCredie, Lissa Mitchell, John B Turner, Gael Newton, Peter Ireland and Damian Skinner. All the photographs have been reproduced with much care. I am certain that Brian Brake would have been impressed with this excellent book.
Attending the Te Papa talks prevented me from going along to the Hamish McKay Gallery to hear Peter Peryer talk in his current exhibition. I was pleased to see that Hamish and his staff took the initiative of video recording Peter’s talk and placing it on line. Surely, this must a first for a New Zealand dealer gallery. A great way of ensuring that an artist’s talk can be accessed after the event!
You can access Peter’s talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g06ycCiqIM