Restoring the Residual: Alternative Technologies in Contemporary New Zealand Photography
In recent decades the development of digital imaging technologies has stimulated a creative return to historic or "alternative" photographic technologies. This thesis examines the revival of alternative technologies in New Zealand since the turn of the twenty-first century, using the work of Alan Bekhuis, Joyce Campbell, Ben Cauchi and Darren Glass as case studies. The aim of this thesis is to consider the significance of the use of alternative technologies by these photographers and to examine how those technologies impact the ways in which their work is experienced and understood. Placing their practices within the context of the international revival of alternative technologies this thesis also aims to determine whether there is a uniquely New Zealand manifestation of the antiquarian avant-garde. Chapter One examines the nature of alternative technologies and relationships between technological obsolescence and the formation of artistic movements. In particular, the impact of digital imaging is seen here as a distinctive driving force behind the revival of alternative technologies. I also briefly trace the history of that revival, and consider its development in New Zealand. Chapter Two examines the daguerreotypes and traditional enclosures of Alan Bekhuis. Focusing on the status of the daguerreotype as an image-object, I examine the connections between tactility and memory or reverence present in his work. Drawing on Geoffrey Batchen and Walter Benjamin's writing I argue that Bekhuis's daguerreotypes reintroduce Benjamin's concept of cult value into the photographic medium. In Chapter Three I consider two series by Joyce Campbell. Utilising photography's historical role as a purveyor of visual evidence, Campbell employs alternative technologies to present powerful statements regarding the intersection of natural and cultural systems. Here I demonstrate how Campbell utilises a Gothic Sublime aesthetic to convey a global message of sustainability. Chapter Four examines Ben Cauchi's use of the ambrotype and tintype to create elaborate tableaux revealing the highly constructed nature of all photographs. I consider how Cauchi draws on nineteenth-century relationships between photography and the occult and uses his own presence to subvert assumptions regarding visual truth and perception. In particular I argue that his work can be associated with post-photographic practice. Finally, Chapter Five investigates the pinhole cameras and images created by Darren Glass. His engagement with experimental camera forms results in work that is highly autobiographical and concerned with processes of time, memory and perception. Relating Anne Hollander's discussion of the "moving eye" to Glass's mobile cameras I argue that Glass emulates active human experience and extends the traditional viewpoint of the camera. In conclusion, I argue that while the work of Bekhuis, Campbell, Cauchi and Glass represents the presence of the antiquarian avant-garde in New Zealand it does not necessarily reflect any themes or concerns unique to a national context. Their use of alternative photographic technologies does, however, have a significant impact on the nature of their work and in drawing on photography's historic associations they enrich our current understanding of the medium's past and present while providing new possibilities for its future.
Advisor: Wolf, Erika; Wanhalla, Angela
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Art History and Theory
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand photography; alternative photography; photographic technology; Alan Bekhuis; Joyce Campbell; Ben Cauchi; Darren Glass; obsolescence
Research Type: Thesis