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Looking at life through the lens

There’s so much more to the photography process than taking a pretty picture, and the latest exhibition at ConArt in Masterton is a testament to that. Emily Ireland stopped in to hear from three of the featured artists as they talked about their journey into photography.

Wendy Brandon

When Wendy Brandon (pictured above) thinks about her early photographic influences, she thinks of her grandfather.

“My grandfather was a keen photographer and had a beautiful camera.

“I was always around my grandfather – I think he was my favourite person in the world.”

Before Brandon was school-aged her grandfather bought her a Box Brownie camera as a birthday present and taught her how to use it.

“The whole process of photography fascinates me.

“Actually taking the photograph is kind of like the end of a much more interesting process.”

Brandon worked as a lawyer for most of her life, but when she fell ill and took time off work, her passion for photography blossomed.

She enrolled in a few photography courses in Italy and while staying in Europe ended up doing a workshop in London and attending an international photography festival.

“I ended up spending eight weeks in Europe on my own, just immersed in photography.

“After I finished the workshops in Tuscany and walked out the gates, I felt as though I had been cast out of paradise.”

Upon returning to New Zealand, a friend of hers suggested that she do a Master of Fine Arts.

She gained entry to the programme on the basis of a portfolio and graduated this year.

She is in the process of going back to do her doctorate.

Brandon said her inspiration came from taking a break from the mundane to appreciate the beauty around us.

“We all have days where we are just consumed by minute details: going to the supermarket, picking up children, all of this.

“But sometimes, you’ll be in the midst of a busy day and you’ll just lift your eyes off what you are doing and you’ll see beautiful light, or a colour, or an object.”

One of her photographs, which captured the reflection of trees and autumn leaves in a pond, was a finalist in the New Zealand Geographic Landscape section of Photographer of the Year.

Brandon is also interested in places that are “about to disappear” due to roading projects or land development.

Dave Wood

Dave Wood, of Featherston has been immersed in the world of photography for about 50 years.

He remembers when, at the age of 21, his parents gave him a camera.

“I was rapt and I’ve been hooked ever since”.

In Wood’s first year of photography, he alternated between slide film and black and white film.

One of his pictures exhibited at ConArt was taken in 1969.

“I scanned this one from the original slide about six years ago and that’s the result.

“I’ve spent thousands of hours in my spare time in between other work scanning my old slides and scanning my black and white negatives.

“It’s quite time-consuming – you can automate it and get rubbish results or you can take your time and get much better results.”

Wood said he has scanned about 5000 of his slides, and about 6000 of his black and white negatives.

One of Wood’s favourite parts of the photography process was working the dark room.

“Working in the dark room was always something that gave me a real thrill.

“It was a magical experience – not only developing film, but developing the prints in the tray and watching the image slowly appear.”

Wood recalls spending “ages” analysing the slides and working out filtration, “and you couldn’t assess the photograph until it was properly dried which was 10 hours after you’d done it, and then you realise, bugger, I should have had a bit more yellow in there, so you start again”.

“These days of course, you can print it and immediately see you’ve done it wrong, so you do it again straight away.

“Things have changed so much.”

When asked whether the instant process took the fun out of photography, Wood laughed and said, “no”.

“It’s just a different kind of magic – a more convenient magic to be able to do it in such a quick time.”

Next year will mark 50 years since he got his first camera.

Dave Wood’s work can be viewed at www.davewood.nz

Lian Hathaway

Lian Hathaway works fulltime as a designer.

She started dabbling in photography because it was something she had “a bit of control over” – “I wasn’t working to someone else’s brief”.

As she pursued her photography, she began to build up quite a portfolio of images, but wasn’t sure what she would do with them.

“I started showing my photos to a few friends to get some feedback.

“The feedback I got was, Wairarapa photographers all take photos of the same things; that same Greytown shed, that same old house on the hill . . . so I tried to look for things that were just ordinary that could be anywhere and I took photos of them.”

Then, Hathaway started to think how she could frame the images, “so they weren’t just a photograph on the wall”.

“I found a couple of these old mirrored frames that people used to frame photographs and pictures in, and they fascinated me.

“When I started taking these frames apart I discovered that the stuff behind the pictures was just as interesting.

“I found old advertising material, old newspaper articles.”

Hathaway collected more and more of the old mirrored frames from second hand stores and would remove the mirroring and and frame her own photographs in them.

“You feel bad when you go to an op shop and buy someone’s wedding photo because you know someone has spent hours creating this to make it special and you pull it apart.

“I had a lot of guilt about the fact I was taking apart someone’s life.”

Hathaway’s guilt has led to keeping the old photograph, and a range of papers that were used to back them in the frame.

One piece of paper used as a backing was a clipping from the Wanganui Herald of a scantily-clad woman with the headline ‘Keen gardener’.

Hathaway said her framing process of her photographs was a point of interest about her work “because we’re all a bit sick of the Warehouse stuff”.

“If you can reuse something and repurpose, it’s good.”

ConArt’s Photography Show, sponsored by property lawyer Simon Ogilvie, launched last month and is running until July 15.

ConArt is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am until 4.30pm.

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