An exhibition of Mark Adams’ panoramic landscape photographs launches Auckland’s newest gallery. This exhibition brings together works from the ‘Cook’s Sites’ and ‘Land of Memories’ series. It celebrates the collaboration between Mark Adams and Anthropologist Nicholas Thomas, their journey to the sites from Cook’s journeys and to the archives and relics collected by museums in Germany and UK.
Adams multi panelled panoramic views, uninhibited by traditional framing techniques, offer the viewer the experience of a complex landscape. He is interested in the character of the place rather than “the truth”. In his work of ‘Greenwich 2000’, shown in New Zealand for the first time, the camera is placed at the heart of the scientific world centre and takes a 360° sweep around Greenwich Park with exposures of 4.5 secs to 5 minutes. As Thomas remarked in the recently published ‘Contemporary New Zealand Photographers’ “ Adams photography has to take place slowly. It has to come out of this sort of sustained attention, out of dwelling in places, or camping by them, out of revisits rather than mere visits.”
Other panoramas document key historic locations, specifically; sites illustrated by painters William Hodges and John Webber who accompanied Cook on his voyages. ‘Tahiti Revisited’ and ‘Dusky Sound’ return to these locations. Adams using an 8 by 10 camera explores within the artists’ frame and beyond, creating panoramas that look both upstream and downstream. His portrayals allows us to look out from these paintings and reassess the history of these culturally loaded locations. As Adams has often said, he likes to invert the colonial gaze, highlighting the complications of representation.
‘Land of Memories’ is a series of triptychs and diptychs also looking at the layers of meaning inscribed into the landscape by our culture. Also taken with long exposures, they appear painterly and ghostly, emphasising the temporal nature of the images and the fluidity of meaning associated with these places.
Mark Adams is one of New Zealand’s foremost documentary photographers. His works have been shown at in the Auckland City gallery, Te Papa, The Adam Gallery, Wellington, Sydney Museum, MCA Sydney, The National Library in Canberra, the Sao Paolo Biennale 1998 and many other major museums.
His subjects may appear diverse; as well as landscape, they have included portrayals of Samoan tattooing rituals. However, as Thomas also remarks “his work is an engagement with the deep artful, bloody and inextricably complicated histories of colonialism in the Pacific”. 1
1 Nicholas Thomas “Mark Adams” Contemporary New Zealand Photographs, Mountain view Publishing 2005