up:date//The Active Eye

up:date//The Active Eye

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PhotoForum 68: up:date//The Active Eye


Published by PhotoForum, October, 2000.

Cover image by David Milton Browne.

This is the CD version of the online exhibition up:date//The Active Eye, launched in October, 2000 with the support of the Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui.

Karen Abplanalp, Jo Alpe, Greta Anderson, Kats Ando, Kapil Arn, John Bannister, Adrian Barrett, Janet Bayly, Matheson Beaumont, Harvey Benge, Hugh Best, Gary Blackman, Jessica Bluck, Rhondda Bosworth, Eymard Bradley, David Milton Browne, Julia Brooke-White, Anna M. Bucknell, Kate H. Buckthought, Pramuan Burusphat, Susan M. Campbell, Kevin Capon, Jocelyn Carlin, Fiona Clark, Les Cleveland, Richard Collins, Bruce Connew. Matthew Cowan, Morice Crandall, Karen Crisp, Stella Daniell, Nikki Denholm, Grant Douglas, Nicholas A. Eagles, Meighan Ellis, John Fairclough, Neil M Finlay, Bruce Foster, Hayden Paul Fritchley, Rika Fukushima, Arno Gasteiger, Russell Gera, James Gilberd, Jennifer Gillam, Darren Glass, Teresa Goodin, Catherine Griffiths, Kirsty Jane Grieve, Vivienne Haldane, Di Halstead, Murray Hedwig, K. T. Ho, Harry Hoskin, Glen Howey, Warren K. Jones, Glenn Jowitt, John William Lake, David Langman, Murray Lloyd, Stephen Lovett, Maurice Lye, Kirsty MacDonald, Stuart Mackenzie, Tim Mackrell, Rochelle Mahon, Elizabeth March, Mark Marriott, Ellen-Jane May, Allan McDonald, Gabrielle McKone, Leigh Mitchell-Anyon, Michelle Moir, Rebecca J. Mouldenhauer, Margi Moore, Nina Kathleen Morris, Tanja Nola, Stuart Page, Neil Pardington, Ken Philpott, Amanda Ra, Evan Reece, Patrick Reynolds, Julie Riley, Ian Robertson, Stephen Rowe, Catherine Russ, Marie Shannon, Ann Shelton, Stuart Shepherd, Ellen Smith, Stuart Sontier, J. Stratton-Maccagno, Jenny Taylia, Stephen Trinder, Colleen Tunnicliff, Julian Ward, Ruth Watson, Ans Westra, Yvonne Westra, Jason Whiteley, Marcus Williams, Gail Wright, Scott Younger, Jane Zusters.

The idea of PhotoForum initiating a second national survey of contemporary New Zealand photography had been bubbling away for several years before Stuart Sontier suggested at our first PhotoForum committee meeting for the new millenium, that the time had come to make it happen.

The poetic logic of recording what today's photographers are up to at the beginning of the digital revolution in photography, 25 years after Luit Bieringa initiated the first national survey, The Active Eye, proved irresistible. The result was this Internet exhibition, up:date//The Active Eye , which is perhaps the first national art survey of its kind in the World.

A dedicated exhibition subcommittee was set up by PhotoForum in Auckland to conceptualise and plan the survey. It consisted of Jennifer Gillam, Eugene Hansen, Elizabeth March, Phillipe Miners, Kirsty MacDonald, Susannah Mackenzie, Stuart Sontier, Wayne Wilson, and John B. Turner who had been involved in the original 'Active Eye' survey as a selector and co-organiser. Gillam, Hansen and Sontier provided the essential computer and web designing expertise, and it was Stu Sontier who came up with the final title of the show.

It took several sessions to hone a list of 60 potential selectors down to five, and a great deal of discussion to reach consensus on many other decisions that had to made.

We invited The Manawatu Art Gallery in Palmerston North to co-sponsor this update because, under the Directorship of Luit Bieringa, it had organised the 1975 survey with PhotoForum, but its current director was not enthusiastic about the concept. The second gallery we approached was interested but was too fully committed to take it on this year.

It looked like we would have to do it entirely by ourselves, but Bill Milbank, Director of the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui, was keen on the idea. His was the first art gallery in New Zealand to collect photographs, he had collaborated with PhotoForum before, and has consistently given photography a high profile at the gallery.

Thus, with the support of the Sarjeant Gallery, this unique exhibition will be launched at Wanganui on Saturday 14 October 2000, and start off a weekend seminar on the state of photography in New Zealand today.

It was not known who or how many photographers would submit work for this new kind of non-print exhibition, despite the obvious advantage of it reaching a potentially huge and genuinely international audience via the Internet. Early soundings, in fact, indicated that some prominent photographers were put off because the digital interface could not match the degree of fine detail or unique print itness that they consider essential for their work. Others, we learned, might opt out because there was no guarantee that if they did submit work, that the selectors would accept all or any of it. We also know of some photographers who were flustered by the unfamiliarity of having to get their work digitised, but got help rather than give up. Others were excited by the concept.

In 1975, to quote Tom Hutchins from his introduction to The Active Eye catalogue "Twelve photographers selected by John Turner, editor of Photo-Forum, were invited to submit three prints of their own choice for exhibition. These were, in his eyes, established photographers whose work merited being the essential basis of this exhibition. "

"Then several thousand printed forms were distributed throughout New Zealand asking any photographer resident in the country to submit five prints from which a selection of up to three was made for possible inclusion. Of 91 who submitted work, 40 had prints accepted. The selectors were John Turner, Gordon Brown, Director of the Sarjeant Art [sic.] Gallery, Wanganui, and myself." [R.D. (Tom) Hutchins]. "So the exhibition represents 52 photographers, all living in New Zealand.'

Tom Hutchins was the Senior Lecturer in Photography at the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, where Turner also taught. A total of 104 photographs were included in 'The Active Eye'. There were 44 men (85%) and eight women (15%, ) represented (as against 56% and 44% respectively, in 2000.

For Up:date//The Active Eye: Contemporary New Zealand Photography 2000, around 600 entry forms were posted to known photographers, several hundred more to schools, and thousands distributed to galleries and camera shops, etc., a good month usually, before the 12 July 2000 deadline. Dozens of photographers were notified by e-mail, and the entry form was downloadable from PhotoForum's web site. A press release was sent to over 100 publications from North Cape to Bluff.

From this, 180 photographers (almost exactly twice as many as in 1975) submitted a total of around 800 works to select from. After 15 hours deliberation, the selectors, Luit Bieringa, John Lyall, Anne Noble, Lisa Reihana, and Haru Sameshima chose 288 works, by 103 of the 180 entrants.

John B. Turner, Editor, PhotoForum

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