The Last Race
This exhibition opens at 5pm, Friday 9th July, 2021, at Photospace Gallery, 1st floor, 37 Courtenay Place, Wellington, and runs until 21 August, 2021. There will be three more Photospace-hosted Photography Aotearoa exhibitions to follow, through until January 2022. Information about those will be posted in due course (on our new website, which will replace this temporary site soon).
Note: Photospace Gallery opening hours are 10am-3pm Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm Saturday, and the gallery is closed on Sundays and public holidays. Regrettably there is no wheelchair access to the first floor gallery, but the stairs are not steep and have a handrail on both sides. Phone James Gilberd on 027 444 3899 for assistance.
'The Last Race' photographs by Sean McMahon and Dylan Owen, Photospace Gallery 9 July to 21 August, 2021
The Last Race – Documenting the horse racing community
Dylan Owen and Seán McMahon
The central kuapapa for photographic collaborators Dylan Owen and Seán McMahon is the current state of horse racing in Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2018 the Minister for Racing, Winston Peters alerted the nation to the dire state of the thoroughbred horse racing industry within the country. He commissioned a report by the Australian racing manager John Messara. One of the recommendations of the report was to close twenty, mainly provincial racecourses and restructure the industry generally. The New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) board also recommended the amalgamation and closure of numerous racecourses. While the closure of these courses may have financial benefits to the profession, there are major financial and community impacts for the provinces and towns where these courses are based. A traditional way of community life will die with these closures, particularly in areas which have facilitated horse-racing for over one hundred years.
The photographic approach taken by Owen and McMahon is to capture these racecourses, their infrastructure, racing communities of trainers, owners, jockeys, punters and horses before these courses are closed permanently and the buildings demolished. They have also endeavoured to visually document the social side of racing, particularly on a thoroughbred club's final race day. To express these works artistically they have shot both in black and white, and colour photography. They have also used the dual mediums of film and digital photography. There are formal portraits, group portraits, photojournalism, architectural photography (internal and external), art photography and a dash of street imagery.
This work is part of a larger on-going project to conduct a documentary survey of every racecourse within Aotearoa, both current racecourses and those courses long since closed down. Further exhibitions are envisaged and hopefully this will lead to a horse racing publication eventually.
I am a highly experienced research librarian working on national projects often involving image location, selection and use.
Over the last three decades, I have extensively documented aspects of New Zealand society through photography, particularly protest. Some of my work is held by the Photographic Archive of the Alexander Turnbull Library and available online through the National Library of New Zealand. My work has appeared in many print publications and exhibitions, the most recent being
Seán JD McMahon is a manuscripts curator, photographer and keen horse-racing enthusiast. He lives and works in Wellington, and enjoys nothing more than travelling around the country visiting racecourses and shooting film. Seán has also worked in the thoroughbred racing industry and is keenly following the recent restructure of the profession and the impacts this has on the racing community. If photography is capturing a snapshot of time then documenting a community of activity like horse-racing is to freeze the passion of participation with the evidence of history.