John B Turner, Library and Laboratory
Until February 22
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
John Turner has been one of New Zealand’s most important contemporary photographer not just for his photographic skills. He is also a critic, teacher, researcher and collector. For many years he was a lecturer at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and was also founder of the photographers’ cooperative, PhotoForum.
His work is in all major public and private collections and he recently donated his substantial archive to the Auckland Art Gallery. It is an unparalleled collection that reflects his 60-year involvement in photography.
The current exhibition of his work, “Library and Laboratory” at Bowerbank Ninow provides an overview of Turner’s work as well as his own collection of photographs His photography is essentially documentary but across a range of themes and interests.
Some capture moments others are more considered. In many works he documented the natural environment and the built environment, with others it is the domestic environment. There are many which are records of his family and personal life.
All of these build a collection which creates a history of our times as well as of the individual, his relationships, journeys and interests as well as being an historic record of place and time. There are also many works which show a quirky observational approach as well as a visual wit and keen sense of narrative.
Turners personal life is seen in works such as images of his parents “Mal and Freda Turner” ($1800), the poignant “My Birth Mother’s file, Porirua Hospital” ($1600) as well as the only self-portrait, an image of him in bed with a lover in “Self Portrait, Thorndon, Wellington” ($1400)
The record of his journey through the physical environment includes “Lucy’s Fish Shop, Mount Eden” ($1200), one of series he took of shops and buildings in the Mount Eden / Kingsland area where he lived for some time.
Then there are images of domestic interiors of places where he lived, visited or worked such as “Ross’s Bedroom, Lower Hutt” ($1800), “Kitchen Cupboards, Lower Hutt” ($1400) and “Photographers Office, Dominion Museum, Wellington” ($1600.)
Then there are the images of Nature ,observations of the textures and light of Nature with the striated rock of “Ngaio Gorge” ($1600),and the tree bark of “Pohutukawa, Dominion Museum” ($1400).
There are also a collection of more whimsical works with “Drain pipe, Tory Street, Wellington” ($1200) and the surrealist toilet seat in “Lavatory, Paparangi” ($1400).
Another section of the photographers work hints at in his personal photographic collection with “My Print of Edward Weston’s Civilian Defence . (1942) in shattered frame”. ($2000).
This famous image of the great American photographer is one of the many photographs in John Turner’s personal collection of local and international photographers.
That image of Weston’s “Civilian Defence” is probably the most valuable in the exhibition along with George Silk’s two works, “Tokyo bath house ($7000) and “Diver at Princeton University’s Dillon Gym Pool ($6000).
There are a couple of other international photographers in the collection including William Garnett’s “Salt #1 Death Valley 1954 ($3000) and Shigeru Takato “Holmes” ($1200).
The collection of other photographers forms a comprehensive overview of New Zealand photography from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
The major nineteenth century New Zealand photographers such as the Burton Brothers and James Valentine are represented and there are several early urban views of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington as well as images of settlements and events from the late nineteenth century including some images of the White Terraces by unknown photographers ($400).
Photographers of the twentieth century are well represented: There are three of Theo Schoon’s mud pool works ($1600 - $2600), Robin Morrison is represented with four works ($800 - $1000), Glenn Busch, four works ($800 - $1300) and four Peter Peryers ($2000 -$3000).
There are a number of brilliant individual works such as Les Cleveland’s dilapidated “The European Hotel, Charleston, Westland” ($1500) Megan Jenkinson’s “Maketu Hot Pools II” ($800) and Gary Baigent’s “Christian Spiritualist, Newton” ($600)