Authors - photographs by Alan Knowles
This is Photography Aotearoa's second exhibition project at Waitohi - Johnsonville Library and Community Hub
This exhibition opened at 2pm, Saturday 12th June, 2021 and will be on view to the public from now until late 2021 (we don't have an official closing date at this stage).
The portraits are of New Zealand and international authors photographed (mostly) in Wellington by Alan Knowles, and there is a selection of photographs of a South Island tour of authors, called 'Words on Wheels'. Information about the photographer and exhibition continues below.
There will be an artist's floor talk on Saturday 7 August at 2 pm at Waitohi, 34 Moorfield Rd, Johnsonville. Come and hear Alan talk about the experience of making these images, touring with some of the authors, and the significance of both writing and photography as cornerstones of our liberal democracy. This is a public event open to all with no charge for admission.
Authors – Photographs by Alan Knowles
As a book lover and editor Alan Knowles belonged to PEN Wellington in the 1990s and began a personal project to photograph authors. He was a regular attendee at New Zealand Book Council (now Read NZ Te Pou Muramura) events featuring visiting authors, and he offered to make pro bono portraits for Executive Director, Karen Ross. The result was a collection of hand-made silver gelatin prints for the Council's archives, some of which are reproduced here.
While visiting Europe in 2000 as a guest of Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland, he met the team at Agence Opale in Paris specialising in author portraits, and agreed to become their principal representative in New Zealand. In this role he covered many Writers and Readers Week events at ensuing International Festivals of the Arts.
Alan Knowles learned the craft of photography from his photographer father, J.D. (Doug) Knowles, at their Queenstown home in the 1950s. It was while pushing his dad’s prints through the developer and fixing baths, then washing and drying them on the glazer that he absorbed his father's mantra of: “Rules are made to be broken – but first learn the rules of composition and crops before you do it”.
In general, Alan Knowles’ documentary practice has demonstrated his compassion for the less-well-off and social justice issues. His projects include poverty in Palmerston North in 1982; the workers in the Campbell Tube factory in Thames and the Griffin’s Biscuit Factory in Waiwhetu; Poverty in Murupara, Minginui and Kaingaroa Forest; the homeless in Wellington; aged care workers in residential homes; and water allocation and misuse in Canterbury.
‘Words on Wheels’
Alan Knowles was invited by then–NZ Book Council Executive Director, Karen Ross, to photograph the February 2004 Words on Wheels tour to Otago and Southland. The purpose of the WOW tours was to introduce readers and school pupils to writers who would read from their work and answer questions. The authors on the bus were: Harry Ricketts, Caren Wilton, William Brandt, Barbara Else, Brigid Lowry and Paul Thomas. They performed readings at more than 19 venues over seven exhausting days in Dunedin, Balclutha, Gore, Invercargill, Winton, Te Anau, Queenstown, Gibbston, Alexandra, Palmerston, Oamaru and Timaru!
The four images at left pay homage to all administrators and booksellers responsible for author tours. Then there is a set of portraits of authors, predominantly in Wellington. A selection of Words on Wheels images is at centre, including two photographs made at Janet Frame's home at 56 Eden St, Oamaru, where the group was warned in Wellington before the tour to expect spooky camera failures at the property. The image ‘Unplanned double exposure’ occurred at the address and was only discovered by Alan Knowles when he developed and proofed the film. On the right are more author and poet portraits.
This exhibition would not have been possible without the support of The Johnsonville Charitable Trust and Absolutely Positively Wellington City Council - Me Heke Ki Poneke