For quite some time I have been percolating an idea, about photographically documenting a collection of people who are driven to make beautiful and interesting things, with the skills of their trade honed over time. Initially, I thought I wanted to exclusively shoot craftspeople who use their hands to create.
I began with Katherine Smyth, who became something of a muse for me at the end of last year. Katherine is one of Wellington’s most beloved ceramic artists, and both her commercial work - the things she makes for domestic use, and her fine art works (some of which exist in Te Papa’s collection) are beautiful for their delicate, organic feeling. I spent a series of days with Katherine, learning about and photographing the process she goes through to make pieces for sale and for exhibition. She is an incredibly hard worker, and her deftness with the clay is a wonderful thing to watch. In this time, we shared so much of our lives with each other, and I came away feeling such inspiration, and passion for the creative process. She began this personal journey for me, and I will be eternally grateful for her willingness to be a part of it.
Following my time with Katherine, I joined Matthew McIntyre Wilson in his studio. He’s a talented artist, creating decorative pieces - often for wearing, such as brooches and cuffs, but also often for display. Matthew’s woven metal works are well known, also represented in the Te Papa collection, and he is regularly exhibited around the country in galleries and through other installation projects. I first shot Matthew in his studio space at Toi Poneke, as he cut coins to reassemble for his ‘The Price of Change’ series, and his Matariki works ‘Whetu Whitu’ which we later photographed and printed for the enormous lightbox installation in Courtenay Place. Matthew works quietly and diligently preparing his materials, and his process is interesting in its’ own right. He uses a wire saw to cut the tiniest stars and ferns from coins, laboriously and meticulously harvesting the details he needs for his pieces. I’m not finished with photographing him - he weaves metal, flax, and uses all manner of other materials to create his artworks. There is more for me to see from him.
I’ve also had the enormous pleasure of photographing Stephen Gallagher, who both composes music, for film and stage, and works as a music editor on large and small film and tv projects. He is based in Miramar, at Park Road Post Production, and shooting him took my project in a slightly different direction. Not all of the artists I photograph are creating something physical, with hands and tools of the type I had anticipated. Steve creates music, alters and trims it to fit its’ destination, using digital and analogue technologies. But his work is as skilled and crafted as any other I have encountered. And his creative process just as enticing. He has just been nominated for a Silver Scroll award, which points to the massive talent that he possesses. He’s also one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
Galit Maxwell is a potter, and I first met her when I joined a local pottery class (fueled by my recent time with Katherine Smyth). I’d always wanted to learn to make little bowls, but Galit is an excellent teacher, and a wonderful ceramicist, so our relationship blossomed beyond that of student and teacher. I was fortunate to be invited to spend time photographing her work in her home studio in Karori.
And Emmett Sutherland, who is an accomplished and talented classical musician, shared with me his private pastime - linocut printing, which he has found a passion for in recent years. Emmett invited me to his home, to shoot his process, from concept, through creating the design with tools and linoleum, to making the print and now embellishing it with hand colouring. He hasn’t shown the world what he creates, until now, and I am so privileged to have seen this part of who he is. We both enjoyed our quiet time creating - and I know that I’m not finished with him yet.
Shooting Emmett took me once again in a slightly different direction. All of the other makers I’ve been photographing are doing it as a profession - where the success of their work has direct financial implications for them and their families. Emmett creates simply because he wants to, because he has something to say. However, his techniques and skills are learned and polished in the same way, and for many of the same reasons of the others… Many of the same reasons that I do what I do.
This project is still in its’ infancy. It is growing, changing and enlightening in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted. I am fascinated by these people, and I have more clever subjects to shoot.