City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Rear Vision: A History of PhotoForum Wellington to 1988

17 August–24 October 1988

ARTISTS  Laurence Aberhart, Leslie Adkin, Terry Austin, Janet Bayly, Peter Black, Sharyn Black, Gary Blackman, Caleb Carter, Gillian Chaplin, Wellington Thomas Gordon Cody, Michael Cubey, Grant Douglas, Bruce Foster, Tom Fraser, Leslie Haines, Peter Hannken, Murray Hedwig, Paul Hewson, Reinold Hilgering, Gary Ireland, Paul Johns, Glenn Jowitt, Tony Kellaway, Des Kelly, Elizabeth Leyland, Christine Lloyd-Fitt, Mary Macpherson, Geoff Mason, Marius McCallum, Athol McCredie, Robin McKinlay, Alan McOnie, Anne Noble, Jeremy Opie, Stuart Page, Lucian Rizos, Ivan Rogers, Geoffrey H. Short, Jean Stanton, Martin Taylor, Frederick or William Tyree, Christine Webster, Ans Westra, Jane Wilcox, Richard Wotton, Jane Zusters CURATOR Athol McCredie PUBLICATION essay Athol McCredie  

The question of whether or not photography is art has been debated since the 1850s. Sir William Newton argued that photography should transform the ordinary and make it art, while Lady Eastlake maintained that its ‘business is to give evidence to facts’.  The debate continues into to the 1970s, where PhotoForum is founded to promote photography as art.

Founded in Auckland in 1973, PhotoForum provides a hub for a growing number of largely self-taught art photographers as well as students at art schools, where photography is beginning to be taught. In 1976, a sister organisation, PhotoForum/Wellington, is created, to cater to the needs of photographers south of Taupō. It plays a pivotal role in promoting art photography in the region. 

Rear Vision surveys the activity of PhotoForum Wellington. Sixty-six photos are selected from the many shows staged at Wellington’s PhotoForum Gallery between 1976 and 1982. Photographers include  Laurence Aberhart, Peter Black, Gillian Chaplin, Glenn Jowitt, Anne Noble, Ans Westra, and Richard Wotton. As well as running operating exhibition spaces, PhotoForum Wellington is a publisher. The show includes examples of its publications: a journal, books, catalogues, and posters. Rear Vision is supported by public programmes, including lectures, workshops, tours, and a three-day seminar. Speakers include Gordon Maitland, Adrienne Martyn and Fiona Clark.

Sharyn Black’s Moonshine Road, Upper Hutt, October 1976 (1976) is the marketing hero image. Shot from within a car, it shows the view out its rear window: a gravel road, fencepost-lined fields dotted with small homes. The image resonates with the show’s title.

In the catalogue, curator Athol McCredie writes, ‘Without the existence of PhotoForum the development of expressive photography in this region wouldn’t have been anywhere near as exciting. By acting as a catalyst, PhotoForum helped create an invigorating climate for emerging photographers.’ However, PhotoForum may have begun to lose its relevance. Media coverage is slight. In National Business Review, Lita Barrie calls the show an 'indulgent walk down memory lane’ that 'provides no vision of PhotoForum’s purpose’. She concludes that 'The question remains of what PhotoForum's agenda was—or is—apart from bolstering the confidence of its members.'