Thursday 7 August 2008

Ron Brownson – On Photography

My fortnightly posts will address photography, from both the past and the present. I’ll include photographs held in Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki collections as well as other collections, both public and private. My aim is to open up some discussion about various practices of photography – here in New Zealand and elsewhere.

My posts will include images by well-known artists as well as unknown practioners. Images may be famous or may be currently outside public awareness. All will be interesting to look at and to read about.

Photograph 1:

John Kinder (1819 – 1903) , Pikiareo (clematis paniculata), circa 1865
albumen on paper
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki purchased 1983

The Reverend Dr John Kinder began making photographs about seven years after he immigrated to New Zealand in 1855. His employment as the Master of the Church of England Grammar School at Auckland allowed him sufficient leisure for a photographic hobby, which required lots of time and effort. Simply making one photograph a day would entail mainy hours of his time.

Kinder’s fascination with local flora also characterises his watercolour painting, and is evident in his early photographs of New Zealand’s landscape (1863-68). This close-up is one of the very first still-life photographs made in New Zealand. Taken in full sunlight outside the Master’s home, Kinder subsequently inscribed the album’s page with his photograph’s title - Pikiareo (clematis paniculata). He omitted to name the other flower he had arranged in the Parian ware vase – a sprig of kōwhai ngutu-kākā or red kākā beak.

Kinder took photographs for nearly two decades using the hugely difficult wet-plate process. This entailed the advance preparation of large plate-glass negatives followed by a considerable time for exposure and the immediate development of the negative, usually in a makeshift portable darkroom.

John Kinder is one of New Zealand’s finest photographers. His images of landscape, architecture, and flora are amongst the best image made locally. Always concentrated by an artist’s pre-vision and always with tons of emotion-filled response to his subjects. Kinder’s are some of our rarest photographs and some of the best.

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