Larence N. Shustak (1926 – 2003)
Larence N. Shustak
1926 – 2003
Remembered by John B. Turner
Born in New York City in 1926, Larry Shustak moved to New Zealand in 1973 to establish the photography department of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury. To merely say that he brought with him a wide background in photography and filmmaking would be to understate both the breadth and depth of his experience. He was an exhibiting photographer who had studied with W. Eugene Smith and David Vestal in the late fifties, and his photographs were published in Camera 35, Contemporary Photographer, Modern Photography, Popular Photography Annual, and U.S. Camera, among other journals, so this aspect of his work was known in New Zealand before he arrived. But he had also made numerous films, from newsreels for French television (working with William Klein), to commercials, to educational, and personal projects.
As he said of himself, “I have an insatiable curiosity and I am an omnivorous reader Buckminster Fuller’s ideas have shaped my thinking [and] I am concerned with new realities arising out of familiar situations and sights.”
As I discovered when he taught at the 1974 Elam summer workshop, Shustak was a brilliant and idiosyncratic teacher. But, sadly, as time went on his skills were used less and less at Canterbury University, where the School’s administrators never learned to communicate with the mercurial New Yorker in a way that did not further frustrate and alienate him from their more conservative approach to art education. Few students knew how to get the best out of him, but those who did had their enthusiasm and fresh ideas doubly reinforced.
Shustak retired in 1992, and continued to work on a variety of innovative mixed media and computer- generated projects.
Stuart Page, a graduate of the School of Fine Arts, [has completed] a documentary film [Shustak] celebrating Shustak’s life and work [http://shustak. org].
John B. Turner
First published in PhotoForum 69 (December 2003), and re-published in PhotoForum at 40: Counterculture, Clusters, and Debate in New Zealand by Nina Seja, Rim Books, 2014