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George D. Valentine

22 May 2005

George D. Valentine

A 19th Century Photographer in New Zealand
9 June – 27 August, Pictorial Gallery, Second Floor
Free Admission

An absorbing journey through the works of one of the nineteenth century’s greatest photographers, capturing a unique moment in New Zealand’s history and some of the country’s most celebrated geographical features – including the famed Pink and White Terraces – George D. Valentine: A Nineteenth Century photographer in New Zealand provides a remarkable insight into the forces that have shaped the land and our nation.

This extraordinary touring exhibition of George D. Valentine (1852–1890) uncovers one of New Zealand’s foremost nineteenth century photographers, outstanding for his artistic and technical skills; his work is remarkable for documenting the Terraces before their destruction.

The terraces were regarded as the eighth wonder of the world and the 1880s saw a generation of novice tourists’ travel to the other side of the world in search of the exotic. About 30 people a day trekked into the ‘Heart of Wonderland’ to marvel at the mighty natural structures. Some painted the legendry staircases, some made engravings, while other put pen to paper to describe the indescribable. The Duke of Edinburgh scratched his name into the surface in a famed act of vandalism. Others, most notably George D Valentine, took photographs.

The exhibition of 30 framed photographic works and a number of other works and supporting material is developed and toured by the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, in association with Ngai Tahu Development and Nga Kaumatua o Tuhourangi – Whakarewarewa, Rotorua.

Although it was ill-health that compelled Valentine to emigrate from Scotland to New Zealand in 1884, George D. Valentine wasted little time in his new environment in exercising his artistic skills.

“In 1885, spending a week at ‘The Warm Lake’ Rotomahana, Valentine created an unparalleled series of images of Otukapuarangi and Te Tarata – the celebrated Pink and White Terraces,” says curator Ken Hall.

"One hundred and twenty years ago on 10 June 1886, as a result of the devastating eruption of Mount Tarawera, the Terraces were destroyed and at least 108 lives were lost. Valentine returned to an almost unrecognisable landscape, and in his remaining few years sought out extraordinary landscapes to match his interests and talents".

"While the subject-matter of Valentine’s photographs holds obvious fascination, the artistic quality of this work is exceptionally strong,” says Ken Hall. "There are many images here that will remain with the viewer".
"George D Valentine presents aspects of his background and story to enhance appreciation of the works, most of which have not been exhibited, or published, since the artist’s death.

For many, this exhibition will be a new experience; an extraordinary encounter with the power of the photographic medium, and with early photography in particular.”


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