Thursday, December 17, 2009

The middle view


Whites Aviation: Classic Photography of New Zealand From the Air


Alexander Turnbull Library - Godwit (Random House NZ) 2009

This is a very good book. It has clarity, and economy of words and pictures and design.

NZ is captured in a (mostly) 1950s freeze frame at a time of prosperity and blooming growth.

Whether one sees that growth as a cancer or as progress, this book is all about the photos and it provides a suitable conveyance for viewing them.

It's a treat to look at these pictures. All of them - the familiar and the new.

I can see my suburb before I was born, and then I can see a day I remember so well - the day everyone in Auckland except me walked over the new Harbour Bridge. I cried that day because I wasn't allowed to go because I was just out of hospital after major surgery. I watched the ant-size people crawling all over the bridge and here again is that sight!

Ah, nostalgia. On the whole the pictures are from not too close and not too far off. You can't see into back yards and you can't see that NZ was anything but a tidy and perfect society.

It's a middle class view, too, and it's only one part of New Zealand and its reality, but it's a steady, honest middle distance point of view.

The photos were sold to landowners, institutions, business and the government.

What farmer didn't have that proud shot of homestead and farm?

New Zealand was a rich country, on the pig's back.

And what a beautiful country this is.

I'm lucky to have got this for an early Xmas present...


1 comment:

Vanda Symon said...

That is such a gorgeous book. I have given a couple of copies as Christmas gifts and was sorely tempted to buy one for myself too.