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Marti Friedlander receives honorary doctorate

Marti Friedlander receives honorary doctorate

Esteemed photographer Marti Friedlander has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Auckland in a moving ceremony attended by University staff, family and friends.

The honour reflects her distinguished contribution to the art of photography in New Zealand and nearly six decades spent documenting the country’s people, landscape, culture and movements for social change.

Born in the UK in 1928, Marti was brought up in a Jewish orphanage in the East End. When she met Gerrard Friedlander, a Kiwi in London on his OE, she was working in the studio of two of London’s leading fashion photographers, Douglas Glass and Gordon Crocker.

She emigrated to New Zealand in 1958 after “falling in love at first sight” and later marrying Gerrard, who has been her lifelong love and companion ever since.
After arriving in the new and strange land, she says she first used her camera “to record the unfamiliar and make it coherent”.

While she memorably captured a wild and empty landscape during her travels around the country, it is her striking images of people that have become not only her trademark, but an iconic part of our history.

Elderly Maori kuia with moko, artists and writers, farmers and vintners, politicians and protestors, and in particular, children, portrayed candidly and unsentimentally.

During Monday’s event the University’s Public Orator Professor Paul Rishworth said Marti “brought her own supply of innate passion” to a people English journalist Austin Mitchell famously described as “passionless”.

“She has left us a great gift in her legacy of photographs, and her legacy of inspiring New Zealanders to see and appreciate themselves and their place in the world.”

In her emotional response to the honour, Marti praised the high standard of care she received during a recent stay in Auckland Hospital, stressing the importance of her many friends at such a time and the lifelong love and support of her husband Gerrard.

Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon says Marti Friedlander is a most worthy recipient of this degree.

“At a time when some people are questioning the value of the Arts, Marti’s work reminds us of the many important perspectives that art – in this case photographic art – can bring to people and society. We are delighted to have been able to honour her in this way.”

Marti Friedlander is now an Honorary Doctor of Literature at the University of Auckland.
Editor’s notes:

• In 2007, Marti and Gerrard established the Marti Friedlander Photographic Award to financially support talented photographers and have also established an endowment to the Auckland University Press supporting a series of books on creative lives.

• Marti‘s own life and photography have been celebrated by University of Auckland Professor Leonard Bell in his 2009 book Marti Friedlander, by filmmaker Shirley Horrocks in the 2004 documentaryMarti: the Passionate Eye and in her 2013 autobiography with Hugo Manson, Self Portrait Marti Friedlander.

• Marti is quoted as saying: “My photography has always been about an involvement and extension of a personal view of life, rather than a particular attention to the craft itself. My cameras accompanied me then so that I could record the everyday. As a photographer I see images everywhere. What prompts me to take the photograph at any given moment is an intuitive impulse. The play of light on the subject is the catalyst for the moment I choose to press the shutter.”

• In receiving this honorary degree from the University of Auckland, Marti joins such distinguished company as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Prime Minister Helen Clark.


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