Digital Dimension Sure To Delight At New Portrait Exhibition
An innovative digital dimension to one of the most significant photographic collections in Aotearoa New Zealand will feature in a new exhibition at the National Library in Wellington.
Between skin & shirt: The photographic portraits of William Harding comprises a selection of 60 portraits from the collection, held by the Alexander Turnbull Library. This first major exhibition of Harding’s work will run from 26 May until 29 October.
William Harding had a photographic studio in Whanganui from the 1850s to the 1880s. His photographs depict the township and most notably its people. The Harding collection is a rich source of information relating to Māori and Pākehā individuals and their relationships at a formative time in our country’s history.
“The exhibition shows a selection of 60 prints taken from original glass-plate negatives, of which there are over 6,500,” says exhibition curator Dr Fiona Oliver.
“It also includes a digital display of all the portraits which will give the exhibition a dynamic, sculptural dimension. Visitors will be able to take a selfie and their face will be matched with one in the collection, which will then appear on a 3-metre-high hanging screen.
“This interactive feature aims to tangibly connect audiences with Harding’s photographic subjects.”
Using few elaborate props or backdrops, and unwilling to retouch his photographs to flatter his sitters, Harding’s portraits are remarkable for their sensitivity and honesty. The women, men, children, families and other groups who were his subjects appear with startling immediacy.
“Harding was able to reveal the person behind the formality of appearances,” says Dr Oliver.
“These people seem so immediate that we find ourselves looking, it seems, at someone we might know. Maybe that person is ourselves.”
Between skin & shirt: The photographic portraits of William Harding