Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wayne Barrer

A friend reading in this blog of my curiosity for photography of the Urban Fringe, tipped me off about contemporary New Zealand photographer Wayne Barrer. I have never been interested in photography in this sense before so it is quite a journey of discovery ahead of me looking at our country anew through the lens of an artist.

The book she suggested and that I have found down at the Kilbirnie Library is "Shifting Nature". The photograhs of Wayne Barrer with an introductory essay by the late Geoff Park. The photos are landscapes but not as most of us know them. The picturesque New Zealand is there, tinged by a suggestion of the sublime, behind the camera. The subjects are the edge of our wild spaces, where the tentacles of our culture reach into nature.

Park sums it up well "by looking at the landscape as he does, Barrar lets us slip inside it a little. Integral to that craft is his pulling at our legs, imploring us to come down from The Picturesque Viewing Tower. He doesn't shout because he knows that won't get the message across and considered. But he doesn't want us to stay up there in the bitter colonial wind.

And it is Barrer himself who describes that space which I have crudely refered to as the urban fringe.There is a margin around most of our towns, and along most of our rivers and coasts - a border zone where until recently, few regulations were enforced and little responsibility was taken. At worst a dumping ground for waste or toxic leakage from industrial use, this margin can also be represented by the ordinary landscape of a summer beach community sprawling over the surrounding dunes. This "vernacular landscape" is true marginal land, and as such, carries the responsibility of providing a huge array of uses. It is also where I go to experience the greatest intensity of collision between natural processes and people. Great photos, great book.

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