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THE MATCH: Portraits of NZ Rugby Players

THE MATCH: Portraits of NZ Rugby Players

The search for the spirit of rugby in New Zealand has been a 6 year project for English photographer David Matches.

‘The Match’ is a series of 100 life-sized portraits of amateur and international rugby players which will form a major, ground-breaking exhibition in the NZ Portrait Gallery during the international rugby festival, opening on August 18. The portraits, photographed between 2006 and 2011, capture the essence of New Zealand’s most popular sport as David Matches watched club games to select players who stood out for their character.

They were photographed as they left the ground, against a white paper backdrop taped to the clubhouse, before the effects of the match could evaporate. The spirit Matches sought, shows in the rawness of the moment and the photographs express the varying emotions depending on the outcome of the games. He used an old 10x8 bellows camera to take only a single photograph of each player.

”Rugby provides the opportunity for its players to express profound emotions and aspects of their identity with a kind of articulate expression often impossible in everyday life,” Matches believes.

Gallery Director Avenal McKinnon says this is the biggest and most complex exhibition the Gallery has yet mounted. “ The visual impact of these works is huge” she says “ and no matter what the individual viewer’s attitude to rugby, the effect of such raw emotion and great, muscular energy, is inescapable.”

Matches and McKinnon believe the exhibition is not only a celebration of the legacy of rugby in New Zealand and a tribute to the clubs which are so important in encouraging the next generation of senior players, it is also a bridge between the worlds of art, sport and psychology in the land where rugby is king.

‘The Match’: Portraits of NZ Rugby Players
The New Zealand Portrait Gallery Shed 11 Wellington Waterfront
18 August to 16 October 2011 10.30 – 4.30pm daily
Admission charges apply: Adults $10.00 Children under 16 free


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