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New lectureship honours Marti’s memory

New lectureship honours Marti’s memory

The memory and legacy of exceptional New Zealand photographer Marti Friedlander (1928-2016) is being honoured by a new lectureship at the University of Auckland.

Originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, Dr Sophia Powers is the inaugural recipient of the Marti Friedlander Lectureship in Photographic Practices and History.

Dr Powers travelled from New York to take up the position at Auckland this month, and says she sees parallels between her own journey to New Zealand and Marti’s arrival here from London in the late 1950s.

“Just as I’m moving to New Zealand from the urban centres of New York, Los Angeles and New Delhi, Marti moved from London at the beginning of her career. As someone who is embarking on the journey to become a New Zealander, Marti’s own life experience and the evolution of her artistic practice is a particular inspiration.”

Her own work as an art historian has been devoted to exploring photography from around the world, with a particular focus on three contemporary female photographers from India, on which she recently completed her PhD at UCLA.

“My dissertation examines a mode of collaborative photographic practice in contemporary India that’s marked by intimate, long-term engagements between artists and subjects.”

A longtime admirer of Marti’s work, she says she has always been struck by the “deeply relational” nature of her images.

“The photographs she produced evince a remarkable intimacy between photographer and subject, even evident within fleeting interactions. She saw the world around her with such wonder and empathy, and through her artistic practice, was able to share this vision with the world.”



And after watching Shirley Horrocks’ 2004 documentary, Marti: The Passionate Eye, she was especially struck by the strength of Marti’s personality and “her depth of curiosity”.

“I’m so delighted that Marti Friedlander’s legacy will be supported in such a substantial and meaningful way, and I’m deeply grateful to have the opportunity to honour her legacy through my teaching and research at the University of Auckland.”

This lectureship was made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust.

Gerrard Friedlander is delighted that photography, its history and practices, is to be treated as a serious subject in art history.

“While what she did photographically was intuitive, Marti would have been so thrilled to know that there is now a full-time lectureship in the medium,” he says.

Dr Powers will be teaching undergraduate courses in the global history of photography and global art histories, with contributions to the postgraduate programme in Art History from next year.


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Editor’s notes:

• Marti Friedlander received an Honorary Doctorate for services to photography from the University of Auckland in 2016. She’d had a long connection to the University and photographed many of its people.

• The honour reflected 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 south west London. When she met Gerrard Friedlander, a Kiwi in London on his OE, she was working in the studio of one of London’s leading fashion photographers, Gordon Crocker.

• She immigrated to New Zealand in 1958 after “falling in love at first sight” and later marrying Gerrard, who remained her lifelong love and companion until she died.

• 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.

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