City Gallery

Past exhibition

Witness to Change: Life in New Zealand

11 November–8 December 1985

CURATOR Janet Bayly, Athol McCredie OTHER VENUES Sarjeant Art Gallery, Wanganui; Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth; Rotorua Art Gallery; Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North; Hawkes Bay Art Gallery; Forrester Gallery, Oamaru; Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch; Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Dowse Art Gallery, Lower Hutt; Gisborne Arts Centre SPONSOR Government Life

Between 1940 and 1965, New Zealander’s economy and population grows rapidly, migration to the cities increases, and a distinctive, post-colonial nationality develops. Curators Janet Bayly and Athol McCredie choose three photographers to represent the period. John Pascoe, Les Cleveland, and Ans Westra depict everyday New Zealand in stark contrast to stereotypical media representations.

In the early 1940s, Pascoe photographs for the Department of Internal Affairs, documenting the war effort and Labour government social programmes. Much of his work is made to publicise Government reforms. His Apple-Munching Sisters promotes apple consumption. Working on the South Island’s west coast and around Wellington in the 1950s and early 1960s, Cleveland records New Zealand’s disappearing frontier heritage. He’s concerned that many good old buildings are being replaced with new ones. After arriving in New Zealand in 1957, Westra documents Māori almost exclusively, believing there needs to be a corrective to typical touristy images.

Witness to Change sees attendances double. Ian Wedde likes it, writing in the Dominion Post: ‘Despite the important photography shows mounted this year at the National Art Gallery, this is the year’s favourite for me.’