Friday 23 April 2010

Look how far we have come

Since the webcam went live in 2008 it has been capturing the Gallery Development project everyday, rain or shine. To celebrate how far we have come with the building I have put together a little time-lapse video to illustrate how much has happened. We still have a long way to go but I hope you enjoy this glimpse at the current progress to the building.
You can keep an eye on daily activities through the webcam at

Thursday 22 April 2010

Horologist returns

A few months ago I did this post on Michael Cryns who looks after our Gallery clock. At the time, when I looked through his collection of photos, showing the inside of the clock from the past to present, there was only one photo of him and the clock together. Michael took this photo (below) himself and as you can see, it doesn't quite do him justice, as it only shows the top of his head.

He recently came in to do an interview with TVNZ for One News (which you can still see here) and I took the opportunity to take some more recent and fitting photos of Michael with the clock he has cared for over the years.
Michael with the beautiful bells in the clock-tower.

Michael with the TVNZ crew and Lee from Hawkins who showed us round.

Here Michael answered my request to show me how the bells chimed.

Climbing down the new ladder from the bell tower past the back of the clock face.

Friday 9 April 2010

Les Cleveland and New Zealand photography (1)

It is always easy to identify nationalist intentions within New Zealand's photography if you are looking back at an historical image.With some camera artists such a revisionist approach is not only needed, it is actually appropriate. With the subtle photographs of Les Cleveland, I have always recognised a nationalist perspective.

Some years ago, I acquired for Auckland Art Gallery’s collection, Les Cleveland’s intriguing photograph John O’Shea and Colin Broadley at the Franz Josef Glacier during the production of “Runaway”, May 1964. (pictured above)

One of my colleagues asked me what the photograph ‘was’. It seemed an odd but pertinent question because it appears at first to be a double portrait of Runaway’s director and the film's lead character. This image is certainly a production document and while not intended to be a film still, it cannot be separated from the film’s making.

Colin Broadley is standing 'in costume' and is obviously still in character. I could have replied, “This 10 by 8-inch gelatin silver print is a behind-the-scenes image of the production of one of O’Shea’s finest movies Runaway.” Such a stuffy, yet correct, response would have really missed the point.

When looking at this photograph it is useful to know that it was taken immediately prior to the movie’s shooting of the scene when Colin’s character - David Manning - was about to ascend the Franz Josef Glacier. The local metaphor is clear – this character finds himself by going off and becoming lost himself in the mountains. This is an intentional loss, not a act of misadventure.

O’Shea positions the character as a New Zealand city bloke who has become a Man Alone figure inhabiting the wilderness. Is is interesting to recall that Bill Pearson’s brilliant book Man Alone was issued in 1960.

What is compelling about this photograph is that it shows a private moment of creative collaboration when issues of how to achieve the scene are being discussed on location. It is obvious how much John O’Shea has created an outsider character from a city guy. While dressed in a Swan-Dri woollen shirt, Colin Broadley remains totally in character – a sophisticated city swinger who has gone bush.

Local reviewers in 1965 did not realise how much Runaway was a radical film for New Zealand. One review said, “The picture has a brooding, dream like quality, but it lacks any real sense of urgency in the young man’s flight from himself, too many motives are started but never fulfilled, and the direction is deliberate. Unusual camera shots occasionally succeed in creating atmosphere and the photography of the New Zealand countryside is fine. Colin Broadley displays quite a personality as David, but Deidre McCarron is wishy- washy as Diana, and Nadja Regin is an utterly conventional vamp.” ("Runaway Killer” in Kinematograph Weekly, 1965)

If you look at the trailer that John O’Shea prepared for his film you will see how international in cinematic style Runaway appears. In its visual look, it is not dissimilar to Michelangelo Antonioni’s astonishing L’Aventura.

Outside of New Zealand, the film was seen more clearly, “This is an absolutely brilliant film, all but unavailable on video, which is well worth seeking out. I viewed a print at the New Zealand Film Archive, and felt as if I was watching an undiscovered Losey or Antonioni film from the apex of the 1960s, with superb black and white cinematography, excellent acting, and a script which is suitably brutal and yet ultimately intangible, as in the best of both Losey and Antonioni. Do what you need to, but see this film; it is a remarkable testament to one person's determination to make a film without any studio to back him up. Shot for less than $50,000, without sync sound (but so skilfully "looped" that you'll never know it), and with a great "cool" jazz track, this is one of the undiscovered treasures of the cinema.”


For further background about the film’s significance refer to John Stuart Reynolds’ superb thesis Going far? - John O’Shea’s Runaway in the context of his attempt to establish a feature film industry in New Zealand

I invited Les Cleveland to comment on his photograph John O’Shea and Colin Broadley at the Franz Josef Glacier during the production of “Runaway”, May 1964.

Les kindly sent me this fascinating response:
“I was touring South Westland in May 1964 and photographing a few buildings and landscapes when I encountered the cast and film crew of “Runaway” at the Franz Joseph Glacier terminal moraine. It was about 5 pm and they were all waiting in the last of the sunlight as they looked anxiously toward the jumbled mass of ice and rock at the terminal face. Two of their number was missing. I made several exposures of this group of people. There was good cause for concern as it would soon be dark, the temperature would drop and the ice was no place to be blundering about on in darkness. I had climbed most of the peaks at the head of the glacier and I was aware of the dangers that could be encountered on the terminal moraines so I stayed with the group in case a search had to be organised in the gathering darkness. However, the missing persons finally turned up and we all drove back to the hotel in Harihari where Pacific Films had set up their headquarters for shooting the final sequences of the film.”

I am very grateful to Les Cleveland for his comments. I thank the New Zealand Film Archive for permission to provide a link to the Runaway trailer held in their collection of Pacific Films material.

Les Cleveland
John O’Shea and Colin Broadley at the Franz Josef Glacier during the production of “Runaway”, May 1964 1964
gelatin silver print
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 2003