Home Sweet Home
Works from the
Peter Fay collection
11 October 18 January 2004
Aotearoa New Zealand 1949
Moreporks (Bird Skins Room no. 2) Taranaki St, Wellington, 3 October 1995 1995, printed 2000
gelatin silver photograph
17.0 X 24.5 cm
PF Laurence is a New Zealand photographer, and on this occasion the museum was moving in New Zealand and had been closed down, and Laurence was allowed in behind the scenes to photograph the objects ‘in waiting’; to go into their new home in the Te Papa Museum [of New Zealand], which was later to open.
And so this was a wonderful opportunity for him to have carte blanché with the collection, and this particular piece, with Laurence’s extraordinary eye for detail, using — and I’m not terribly technical here, but the plate that he uses in his camera is the size of the image.
So it’s one of those old-fashioned things that weighs 90 or 100 pounds, however much, and you lug it around, and in this particular piece Laurence is meticulous in capturing, in this instance… In this particular piece it’s impossible to tell. The gaze of the birds is so intense and it’s so still; they’re so real; they’re there, and yet the grouping and the clustering is a museum thing.
In other words, the power of the image transports you beyond what you know it to be into the possibility that these owls, these morporkes are there. They really do put an edge on me, and they really do make me feel quite ill… not ill, but quite on edge.
And yet you know the scale of them is quite tiny, and they’re all clustered there, and so it’s been an interesting thing within the New Zealand connection which came through a meeting with Geoff Thompson, famously making corrugated cows, to start with.
He was a great introduction to things New Zealand, and over the years I’ve been going back there and have developed quite strong links with artists there, and I just think Laurence is beautiful, not only in the setting up of the shot, but he did all his own development, to the point of killing himself in the dark with the various chemicals that he used.
But the attention to detail and the care I find as mesmeric as the beauty of the image under his gaze. You know they are dead, and yet they are screaming out to you ‘I’m coming to get you’, you know…
PF ‘One false move and you’re gone’. And they are at that moment of becoming. They are at that moment. They are neither alive nor dead, they are really held in that thrall.