This exhibition is a lot to do with human aspirations. Not everybody can be rich or wants to be. But wherever we fit on the socio-economic scale, our character is shaped by our life experience and our imagination. Tony Carter and Kirk Crippens know this and it is reflected in their approach to environmental portraiture. These portraits represent a collaboration between strangers, and in this case, the people, like the photographers are from very different places, far from one another, sharing a new-found connection.
Kirk Crippens’ people live in the wealthy US city of Portland, Oregon, which prides itself on promoting individualism. Tony Carter’s people live in Ohura, a run down New Zealand mining town of 130 inhabitants west of Lake Taupo. Crippens’ investigation, ‘Portraitlandia,’ was made in response to a popular television comedy series, ‘Portlandia’, which satirises the city of 600,000 as a hub of liberal politics and alternative lifestyles. His mix of imaginative characters suggests a high level of personal reinvention and tends to confirm Portland as a consumerist paradise. Carter’s concern is to capture an overlooked aspect of New Zealand life that is more akin to its raw pioneering days.
Both photographers, like the US philosopher Henry David Thoreau, perceive difference and nonconformity as an expression of people being true to themselves. No matter what adversity they may have encountered in their lifetime, the people in these photographs are confident enough to let the photographer enter their homes or personal spaces to reveal as much as the eye can see.
John B. Turner
Te Atatu Me: photographs of an urban New Zealand village
John B Turner
Historical essay by Grant Cole
Published by Turner PhotoBooks and PhotoForum with the assistance of Creative New Zealand.
176 pp hardbound
$NZ 60.00. Order from: www.rimbooks.com.