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Perspectives on the Chatham Islands and Wellington

Perspectives on the Chatham Islands and Wellington, Mezzanine WCC library, 6-12 March.
Review: Lissa Mitchell


Charles Bagnall is currently exhibiting 25 colour photographs featuring Wellington and the Chatham Islands. It is easy to slip into comparing the two locations, the layout encourages such a response – each panel features 2 works, one of each location. However, it is worth into account the subjectivity of individual photographers and their role in producing apparently objective images.

Bagnall works within the tradition of male photographers who see Wellington as a buoyant and quirky city – practitioners like Grant Sheehan in the late 1980s. There is a cult of this kind of thinking in Wellington – a surprisingly fierce provincialism – to be capitalised upon. Bagnall makes a great case for the city – this is a romantic view where the downtrodden is as inspiring as a sunset on a vista of buildings.

In comparison, the images featuring the Chatham Islands exhibit a sense of exposed timelessness. The tone has changed slightly creating more distance between photographer and subject – no longer on home ground the landscape is treated with more caution. People and animals appear unaccustomed to the spectacle of the photographer, compared to the more contrived, and justifiably camera-wary Wellingtonians.

Bagnall is interested in the pictorial potential of photography; this is most apparent in images of historical features. The strongest of these is Olivine Basalt Columns, an image of old, worn, features of a part of the Chatham Islands foreshore. Yet this image is also more dramatic due to its larger scale. If you are one of those people that says "you can't beat Wellington on a good day" – then you'll love this show but you'll have to be quick.

Bagnall also has a stock photographic site: sunflowerimages.co.nz

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