Jan 12, 2010

More from the motherland: Laurence Aberhart

So, 2009 was supposed to be my 'Year of the Photo.' Over it may be, but that certainly doesn't mean the obsession with photography has come to an end. If anything, it's only growing. These works from Kiwi photographer Laurence Aberhardt make me
a) itch with the desire to learn darkroom developing
b) homesick for the quiet, sunbaked spaces of Northland (the buildings depicted are all Maori churches)
c) appreciate yet again, the skill with which photographers wield inherent geometry to create pleasing compositions.


Another key to why I like Aberhart so much can be found in his subject matter: Maori churches. Despite their quiet stillness, the churches also occupy a difficult (even fraught?) territory in that they are a strange fusion of Maori and Western culture. He who says 'look at the awful missionaries, forcing their faith on the maori' forgets that the Maori were active participants in cultural exchange at the time of settlement, and that the Ratana church arose from Maori taking elements of Western religion which they approved of and melding them with pre-existing tribal religion. To stand in a Maori church is to stand at the borderline of multiculturalism, Aberhart treads this borderline with delicay, and the result is the poignant beauty seen above. In an article by Dutch curator Marja Bloem, Aberhart is quoted as saying that he is "an eclectic collector of cultural debris, as it washes up, and before it disappears." I think the debris he collects is very breathtaking indeed.

3 comments:

Michelle said...

These are such beautiful photos. I love the stillness and quiet.

Amelia said...

Yeah, they're pretty special, aren't they? Silent-but-with-a-lot-to-say. I can imagine sitting on those pews and not needing to move for a very long time.

zxw said...

There's something beautiful about churches. I like the way they make us behave in a much more humble and civilised manner. Just nice spaces to be in I reckon.

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