Road trip around the East Cape. Hoping for soft light for landscapes
Australia - Surfers Paradise always interesting for its rich culture.
Heading to India for Dec, Jan and Feb. Hope to post an exhibition in March 2018
My new exhibition can be seen: here Banks of the Arrow is the results of the South Island work in July.
I'm away on a road trip to the South Island of New Zealand to do landscapes. Back around 10th July. It's going to be cold down there in my little camper van.
April 10th Leaving for two weeks on the road. Next posting about 26th April
One of my photographs in the exhibition: Being Chinese in Aotearoa: A Photographic Journey. At Auckland Museum. See photograph here.
Virtual TART - Human Landscapes - Julian Ward Exhibitions see here
F11 magazine has published a 40 page article about my street photography work. See here
One of my photographs is on show in an exhibition 'Chinese in New Zealand' in Beijing. A group show for several months. See photograph here Details here
My Early Auckland Street Photographs are on exhibition at the Unseen Niche Gallery in Amsterdam this month. They have also made a magazine as a give away and will send copies soon. See details here
Just received a site message from a lady with connections to the town of Ierapetra on the south coast of Crete. I spent some time in the town in 1975 and took hundreds of photographs. Here is the content of the email: A photo in your Ierapetra, Crete 1975 gallery. Τhe children photographed are acquaintances of mine. What a great surprise for them after all these years!! Thank you so much!! :) It's 40 years since I was there and the children will now be in their 40s and 50s. This is fascinating that she found my work and memories are so long. See the Gallery here.
Longbush Trees: Longbush (the narrow gap between road and bush or farmland) is an upper road near the old bush line in the Wairarapa, New Zealand. These rugged old trees follow the road and rivers and become very beautiful after days of rain (when the bark gets soaked black) and soft wet light. It's perilous gumboot country once off the road with mudbanks and swamps. It's also a place where some locals dump rubbish and dead animals - not at all pleasant. I've just discovered this place and it will be an on-going project. Only in bad weather - the sun is my enemy. See the Gallery here
Four of my photographs are showing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. See link here See Photographs Here
My work is featured in D Photography magazine: See Here called Street Photography as a Cultural Record. Featuring Julian Ward, John B Turner and David Cook. Quote: “I‘m not socially conscious,” he admits. “I’m not interested in the state of humanity. I’m not interested in saving the world. I’m not interested in photographing down-and-out people or people with issues and problems. I don’t do any other kind of photography, not even family photos. I don’t take assignments. I don’t do documentary [photography] at all. I don’t tell stories. “It’s the very essence and familiarity of a city which I enjoy,” says Ward, who has been shooting since he was 14 and is never without his Leica M9 camera with its 35mm f/2.0 lens when he is outdoors. “To observe the rhythm of light, shadows, reflections, and groupings of people. To return to the best spots and wait and wait …"
Peter McLeavey and the Satiric Dancer. In 1999 I was having some work shown at the Peter McLeavey Gallery on Cuba St. We got talking about the Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz (1894 – 1985) because we both enjoyed his work, and especially his evocative Satiric Dancer photograph (a beautiful young woman contorting on a chaise longue). Peter also has one of these settees in his gallery, which is probably why the subject of Kertesz came up in the first place. I asked if he would like to pose for a portrait on the chair and curve his body as the dancer did in 1926. He did his best but looked rather lifeless so I then suggested he puts one foot on top of the other to make the picture come alive. Then I suggested he drops his hand to the floor in a Michelangelo biblical pose, which he did so gracefully. I gave Peter a print a few days later and he went home laughing his head off. Sadly Peter died yesterday but the picture lives on in my 2006 book Wellingtonia See photos here
I have been told one of my prints is hanging on the walls of the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt. The Dowse has purchased two of my prints over the years. I was told it was two nuns so the print is Forrestal House, Inglewood 1981. See print here. This print was page 29 in my book Face Value 1993. Must go out and have a look.
June 2015: I was on a panel today at the City Art Gallery: Athol McCredie chairs a panel of photographers, Anne Noble, Mary MacPherson, Bruce Foster and Julian Ward, who discuss the progression of their practices, from involvement with PhotoForumHCR
Julian Ward 2015 Americanisation of New Zealand culture I feel we are in the last years of a recognizable New Zealand culture before we are finally swallowed up by American popular culture. Initially, slow changes were influenced by television, music and films but now online media is the last aggressive assault. Where people on the street were once uniquely Kiwi in dress and attitude, with a carefree and pioneering spirit, now people constantly view smart devices, influencing them even more. I have been photographing our communities with this in mind, the old and new, when-ever and where-ever I can. It is fascinating to watch, especially the young people. However, I rarely have the time to travel, wait and observe rural New Zealand where the changes are less obvious, but often more interesting. Winning the HCB grant would enable me to spend time and acquire a sense of place for each location. I want my photographs to be subtle in order to make people think. My proposal is to spend a full year travelling throughout New Zealand and living in a campervan. I want to emulate a photographer I greatly admire - Robert Frank when he made The Americans. Frank, a foreigner in America, was able to travel and closely observe Americans in a way I would like to observe New Zealanders. I would also love to have time to carefully edit and make a book (and exhibition) called The New Zealanders. This grant would allow me the financial freedom as Frank had in the 1950s.
Wellington Museum of City and Sea has selected Wellington Streets for a time capsule (Several copies, archival prints and statements). Wellington is 140 years old, it would be fascinating to be there when they look at this book in another 140 years.
Oct 2014: Heading over to Perth on Friday for 15 days. I'm going to rent a car and have a look around the country side. Someone suggested I drive east till I run out of water. I'll also stay in south Perth for a few days with old friends. Not sure if I'll have the internet so there will probably be a small gap till my next post.
I have been asked about my first serious photograph. This is a portrait of a lady next door to us in Seatoun, Wellington about 1965 when I was 16. Her name was Mrs Richmond. I was able to use my uncles darkroom and my first Rolleicord camera. I was fascinated with photography after making this picture, and have never stopped. See Photo here.
Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth: Gala Days is an exhibition of about 50 photos reflecting a time in Taranaki when it was easy for a young street photographer to wander in and out of people’s lives. For Julian Ward, a bored engineering draughtsman, who fulfilled his passions capturing life through a camera lens, it was truly the “gala days” of photography when he moved to New Plymouth in 1970. He found open doors to almost all public and even private events; he could wander into a factory to observe tired workers, document a tangi with a nod of approval, or get a cuppa from the teachers when photographing children. Initially, he thought he might want to be a photo journalist, but the young Ward discovered his street photography became more about “human landscapes” in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson than news. Ward spent 15 years in New Plymouth, before heading back to Wellington where he has continued his obsession with street photography. But for him it all began in Taranaki as a young man during those early innocent times, he always thinks of as the Gala Days. Published by Puke Ariki New Plymouth. See here.
Linden Wilkie: Over the Xmas break I spent some time looking at work by various NZ photographers.
Your work is clearly my favourite. You have a strong eye for story-telling in images, for finding the unusual in the usual, and for a sense of humour (a rare talent in ‘found’ photography).
But I think I like your landscape work just as much. As a NZer who has lived away from NZ now for 13 years, there is real resonance for me in some of those images. They convey a kind of unvarnished truth to me, in a way that the NZ picture-postcard landscapists do not at all. When NZ seeks to project itself on the world stage it is that latter look that you see, and people say “wow! NZ is so beautiful”. Well, it is, that is true. But it’s also how we NZers have treated that landscape, how we have shaped it in a very unsentimental way. All those relentless paddocks, rows of wind-break trees, wire fences, sheds. And as you arrive at places inhabited, the dairies, pubs, general stores, then shopping parks and endless sprawl of particularly un-beautiful architecture. I’m struck now, when I visit, at the sprawl and the ugliness of what we do to our amazing landscape.
I love your sense for the unusual in everyday scenes, your sensitivity as a portraitist, and for landscapes that are at once essentially New Zealand, yet far from the saccharin style we so often see here.
Linden Wilkie (Hong Kong) 01/2016
Seddonville, West Coast of New Zealand 2014 - Julian Ward
Streetwise—Peter Ireland—Eye Contact 24 Dec 2014
The artier end of photography may have become fashionable in the past couple of decades, but there remain aspects of it still overlooked, even though they are close to the heart of the medium itself. What’s called “street photography” is in this category. You can replicate Dutch still lifes and make a killing, but depict the seemingly chaotic verve of a very ordinary city street and you’re doomed to critical isolation.
Richard Hamilton’s justly famous 1956 work Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? still has the power to surprise and delight, despite countless reproductions and its elevation to the status of “pop icon”, to say nothing of the artist’s own 1992 “remake” and 2004 “upgrade” - perhaps his way of preventing the image from being taken too seriously by the art history industry. Replace the word “homes” of the title with the word “art” and it’s a good question to keep asking, especially today when art production is so diverse and voluminous. But it’s a question asked and answered by artists rather than art historians.
The very recent publication of Julian Ward’s fourth book suggests there may be some merit in rejigging Hamilton’s title a little further: take out that “homes” and “art” and shove in “photography” and suddenly Ward’s images take on a new potency. They might be “about” life on the Capital’s streets, but they’re just as much about photography: just what is it that makes the medium so different, so appealing?
So much photographic imagery’s like a double-sided coin: on one side there’s the subject matter and on the other there’s, well, something else. Whatever it is it’s something to do with meaning, and that’s a whole bunch of stuff ranging from historical context to personal response. There is no fixed answer, only continuing questions. Of course, this lack of definitiveness can be seen in two ways: by sceptics who see it as a reason to reinforce their suspicion of art’s uselessness (and what a crew of wankers artists and art writers are), or by more seasoned viewers with a taste for enquiry - Mallarme’s “The world is rich, not clear” again - as an opportunity for reflection, challenge, intellectual enlargement and emotional satisfaction.
One of the inescapable elements in the bunch of stuff around meaning is, of course, fashion. In high Modernist days this was a pejorative term because it tended to undermine the prevailing fetish of originality - despite the pretty obvious fact (even at the time) that fashions in Modernism were as endemic as in any other art movement since competition first entered the equation between two Assyrian bass-reliefists. Complicating this business of art-world fashion is the seldom-admitted fact that most art consumers are like reef-fish, programmed to move with majority opinion, micro-sensitive to changes of taste and reputation. Taste follows reputation pretty much, and it’s a posse of dealers, art writers and institutions constructing reputations, with the auction houses following close behind, like James K Baxter’s dung-collecting householder - as critics behind writers - following a horse with a spade. At any one time there are always artists whose work falls under the radar because it’s perceived to be unfashionable (or, worse, a reputation has never been constructed around it) whose fate is to have their work appreciated only by later generations who have the perspective to differentiate between genuine cultural expression and period décor.
The artier end of photography may have become fashionable in the past couple of decades, but there remain aspects of it still overlooked, even though they are close to the heart of the medium itself. What’s called “street photography” is in this category. You can replicate Dutch still lifes and make a killing, but depict the seemingly chaotic verve of a very ordinary city street and you’re doomed to critical isolation. Even an absolute master such as Peter Black is relatively unknown outside of Wellington and relatively uncollected anywhere. If reef-fish suck (do they?), they could suck on this.
Julian Ward’s unlikely to star on a ten metre banner outside a metropolitan gallery anytime soon, but by now he’s built up a quietly significant body of work full of pulse and revelation. Like Black and their godmother Ans Westra he roams the streets with an unobtrusive skill and killer alertness, eyes tuned to the flow of life, not the machinations of the art market. But here the blinkers of fashion rule and Ward’s alertness is not at all matched by his viewers’ - even if they happened to stumble on his work. Not a name they know, you know.
The street tradition arose in Europe in the later 19th century, once camera technology had advanced far enough to capture rapid movement with clarity, but the style of the tradition was forged on American streets from the 1930s, reaching its apogee, perhaps, in the 1960s and ‘70s with masters such as Helen Levitt, William Klein, Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, the earlier of these the precursors of England’s Tony Ray-Jones, for example, and other photographers worldwide, including John B Turner here (1) The vast majority of this imagery is black and white - another deterrent for current art-world interest - but as what passes for a photographic history unfolds, street photography in colour stretching back to the 1950s, such as Canadian Fred Herzog’s, is gradually appearing in published form and is, frankly, revelatory.
While securely in this tradition, Julian Ward’s work has its own spin, salted by his own sense of humour, which never, mercifully, descends into corniness. His patch is Wellington’s “Golden Mile”, a commercial highway beginning at the Parliament end of Lambton Quay and ending at the Embassy Theatre, or Hobbit, end of Courtenay Place. Ward, however, mines more of the precious ore in a smart detour up Cuba Street, perhaps New Zealand’s most interesting byway. While he clearly knows the geography of this path, what his camera tells us is that socially it’s fresh fuel for endless knowledge - and delight too, it must be said. “Delight” may seem a bit flippant for some of his subject matter, because while he brings an unjudgemental eye to his subjects, the intelligence behind it is not unaware of the ironies implicit in the social disparities his lens often portrays. He may not be an old-fashioned “concerned photographer”, but he’s not an unconcerned one either. The response to his admirably short “artist statement” on the title page - “Just outside my window is Wellington city where I wander most days with my camera” - just has to be “Yeah, right”.
As with Winogrand and Lee Friedlander his formal sense seems to be instinctive, a highly-attuned ability to frame an image in an instant. Seemingly snapshots, their structured excellence becomes all the more apparent the longer you look. What’s more, there’s a consistency in his oeuvre expertly replicated in this beautifully-paced book. It’s a very modest publication but it records much, much more than a modest talent.
Photography and the street are great mates. A strength for those who “get” the medium, a weakness for those many who don’t. But, it’s only 2014 and patience is, apparently, a virtue. Meanwhile Julian Ward and his like get on with the job of revealing how humans are in the spaces they inhabit. Not much still life there.
A very personal view of the streets of our Capital City, Julian has given us here a careful selection from a large number of photographs he takes on his wanders with his trusted Leica. The patterns of light and shadow are not accidental but a strong reason for the juxtaposition and inclusion here.
Ans Westra Feb 2015
Comment from Tom Elliott
Some photographers have highly developed senses of heart and see less through their eyes thankfully and more through that side of their nature which is true to who they are in their everyday life. After all, in this dreadful Yuga of Kali, who should, in all honesty, be expected to believe their own eyes? Photography appeals to some of us because it touches on the above and teases the viewer to see more with their feelings and forget for just a moment what the eyes alone might see.
Ansel Adams, in addition to his acclaimed photographic history, was an accomplished pianist and many of his photos were described as having their basis in music. Personally, I prefer jazz and couldn’t see jazz in his work—but from a classical perspective, yes, I could see the structured and melodic influences of music there, especially in the manner of his finely interconnected tonal backgrounds which tied it all together through his Zone System into an orchestral whole. Ansel’s photographs are prized by collectors and galleries the world over.
Michael A. Smith, another wonderfully dedicated large format photographer, noted for his ability to transform a part of the phenomenal world into a photograph—an aesthetic object—into truths beyond illustration or subject matter, was also an accomplished musician – (playing) the hammer dulcimer as I recall. Michael saw a direct connection between ‘bird song’ printouts (sonograms) and what he saw in the spread of his 8x10 inch format as laid out before him. Many of his prints as well as those of his wife Paula Chamlee are held in the highest regard by keen collectors and name galleries throughout the US. (see Michael A. Smith: A Visual Journey—Lodima Press).
Julian Ward, as I have only recently discovered, also has a love of music and I believe we can see it demonstrated in The Tui Folk Festival and Willis Street photographs. The first is more obvious, as the background banner tells us it is taken at a folk festival and the girl playing a violin stands inside a swirling hula hoop as she plays. How musical is that? Also the support pole just behind her to her left connects with that same hoop forming a giant musical note. The background chaos of props can also be read as a melody of music emanating from the violin; a veritable spreadsheet of vertical and horizontal bars and lines--- there are to be found every conceiveable symbol of music, microphones, crotchets and quavers within the mesh of steel, all captured by a photographer, I suggest, who may not have seen at the time but who photographed instead with a heart that felt, or a heart that sensed.
The second photo (Willis Street) shows a figure seemingly hurriedly walking by, largely in shadow forming a strong base note; solid, bold, mysterious; topped with a striking ‘gong of light’ on his forehead, which appears electric to me, not unlike the “zap” moment when electricity strikes and look at that splatter of shimmering silver birch leaves, vibrating in the Wellington wind. That’s music. Notice also the panelling in the building behind. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that not the same or similar to the lineal pattern upon which music is written and the figures on both extremes left and right of the central figure like keys touched by the outstretched fingers of a pianist, all work to hold the image in perfect note.
I’m not suggesting Julian saw all this through his camera as he pressed the shutter; the point is that we instinctively reflect what is within, without--- as is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. Perhaps it’s vice-versa, and, if the magic that is music is swirling around us and through us as we meander through life, it is often reflected , albeit unconsciously in everything we make contact with, such as personal relationships and photographs we may take.
The photographer Walker Evans remarked that photography is done instinctively, not consciously. Unless Evans felt that the object photographed was a ‘transcendence’ of the object, of the moment of reality, he would throw it away. He also commented that there are millions of photographs made all the time which do not transcend anything, and they are not anything. In this sense, he said, photography is a very difficult art and probably depends on a gift, an unconscious gift; and sometimes, an extreme talent. It is for these reasons I for one am grateful to Julian for his incredible photography and the satisfaction it brings me. I hope every collector, curator sits up and takes notice of this talent of longstanding amongst us and works to provide a sanctuary for his work for all New Zealanders to appreciate in the future.
We do not need to look overseas to purchase the Winogrands and Meyerowitz’s of this world, as totally inspirational their works might be, in Julian Ward can be found at least the equal, perhaps better, certainly local, right under our noses. Is there not any way we in NZ can move to have Julian’s outstanding photographs made available through our prime galleries as part of our permanent collections? Tom Elliott, KareKare, Waitakere October 2011
Fragments from the Cosmic Womb
This photograph captured my attention immediately. At first, I, possibly like you, recognised a baby fur seal apparently at rest in a rock cavity anchored within a breakwater of other, more rugged rocks; all held in place by a small manmade wall. That on one level is what the photograph shows us.
A number of seasoned photographers will remind us that great photographs are likely to transcend the mundane and offer us alternative possibilities.
It was the beautifully formed rock holding the seal which first took my attention; it being so very, very smooth, like a finely sculptured piece thrown amongst much rougher specimens, the rock stood out alone as remarkable. A perfectly formed chair-like profile appears to have been blasted out of this rock and the seal has folded itself into a blissful advantage of rest from the support it now offers. The quiet presence of the photographer is not noticed.
The rock, in particular, carries a diagonal scar to the right of its swollen surface, a caesarean-like mark; perhaps into the cosmic womb of creation, revealing like some museum collection of specimens, the benign creature of its making, carried to earth to begin its sojourn somewhere along the copious waterfront of Wellington.
The uppermost rocks resemble a darker, planetary avalanche and the sparkling stellar details of the pebbles pressed within the wall below work to contain the greater galactic nature of this photograph. Finally, the protection afforded the seal settled into the rock suggests to the observer of the ever present need all animals require of us – to love and above all, to protect.
Recent horrors of animal cruelty bought to our attention through the media form a constant reminder of the duty of protection we as humans must provide all animals, at all times. Man’s inhumanity to man is one thing, ever outrageous, but with many of us, man’s inhumanity to animals strikes a far deeper chord and cannot under any circumstance be tolerated.
Julian has printed this photograph with just the right amount of darkness and mystery, a technique he has well mastered, further cementing the birth/death overtones of this image, casting it high into the realm of yet another classic.
Tom Elliott, Karekare, Waitakere. December 2011
I am attracted to this photograph perhaps because photographs built around reflections have been amongst my personal favourites since the 1970’s when I purchased and still have, a copy of Lee Friedlander’s “Self Portraits” [Haywire Press].
Photographs capture so much within reflections and have broad appeal as they usually depict very much a one-off, never to be seen again moment. Reflections are seldom the same even seconds later, hence an urgency exists to capture the image then and there; one frame seized from the movie we call life, be it raucous, peaceful, thought- provoking or tragic-- we are compelled to preserve it.
This particular gem from Julian depicts three lovely ‘gals’ in a coffee shop enjoying their refreshments at a bench affording a good overview of Wellington street life and fashion, perhaps, as it passes by. Remarkably, the two outside figures possess inwardly turned expressions which highlight the euphoric expression of the central figure, lost in her personal vision which we are made to feel is wonderful – utter contentment, the mild pleasure of a happy observer in her moment, while the remaining two figures appear left out, separate, grim, even questioning ‘what’s she so blissed out about’?
On first seeing this photo I noticed the three ovoid shapes hovering above the well- groomed heads, like three outsized, old-fashioned hair drying machines freshly lifted from their coiffeured settings. A street telephone booth, seemingly inside the coffee shop, is apparently stuck to the side of one lady’ head. Other ovoid shapes appear within the image: smaller tables, chairs, manhole covers, bowls and the brilliant white cups and table knick-knacks all help create an even larger ovoid around the collective portrait.
This is a photograph of great depth, printed in the crisp Julian Ward method. It is surely another timeless image which should form part of our greater national photography collection.
Tom Elliott, Karekare, Waitakere. October 2011
A Submission to Sleep
Four youthful figures, students perhaps, lie prone, at rest across beanbag chairs at the staged footing of an event unknown. There’s a humour in the casual pose of the figures who, in full public view, seem to have just dumped themselves there without a care in the world. In the upper right corner, just within the periphery of one’s outer vision another lesser activity, not at first glance clear, is taking place.
Large format photographers, while viewing the ground glass under their dark cloths, are well trained to always consider carefully the edges and corners of their photographs as they compose, as often these areas hold or give substance to the image proper. The slightest shift of camera direction can change drastically the final result.
With 35mm cameras, as used here, minus the customary set up time afforded large format, the keenly observant photographer does the same thing; he scans the edges prior to pressing the shutter, albeit instinctively.
The eye, momentarily captured at once by the central figures of this image, senses a form sitting in the upper right corner. It could be a broad backed forestry worker in an industrial style chequered work shirt. On closer inspection it is revealed how the mind plays tricks and one sees small legs protruding from under the shirt, realising that this is in fact a small child standing on the surrounding platform, reaching for the back of someone’s head, as if about to jump them.
This hilarious error of judgement is further added to by the heavily anchored strops set into the ground behind them, like some bungy awaiting release to hurl both into the strata beyond.
The confident submission of the centrally framed youth, collapsed into the body moulding comfort of the beanbags is immediately striking. Older persons in a public arena might be less prone to such wilful abandonment of consciousness.
We notice the figure on the far left has even kicked off his branded sneakers and loosened his belt a little-- he is apparently there for the long haul. The girl next to him lies face to the sky, vulnerable, confidently comatose, while the next figure appears grateful the bean bags were there to capture his helpless toe-tipped stumble into blissful oblivion. The last remaining figure looks like he may be subconsciously calculating the results of his recent maths exam for errors, but the overall impression of the students’ total submission to sleep, stretching out in such random, abandoned comfort in a public place is something I find very encouraging.
Given today’s political currency, we in New Zealand have little need, at least by overseas comparison, to take up arms in protest for our liberty. We assume our safe political situation, taking it almost as a given. We can safely lie around on bean bags. In countries struggling for their democratic voice, thousands of youthful students lie dead on bloodied pavements and blood soaked desert sands, a far cry from our present comfort.
I consider this photograph to be a very successful image, as it reaches me on various levels of awareness. Many of Julian Ward’s photos take a gentle, enquiring approach, other images of his, I find perfectly poetic, some even grate like an old bus that can’t find the correct gear to change down to; that’s not in any way to be seen as a fault of the photographers, rather, it tells me that I need to look harder, for longer, to reflect with a mind that has stepped away from the mundane and gain the deeper centres of possible meanings his richly printed photographs offer us.
Tom Elliott. Karekare. Waitakere. December 2011
Julian Ward. The Eye of Wellington.
Des Brough. .
"Did you bring your camera?" he asked when we met.
"No, I thought I would leave the photography to you," I replied.
"Let's go back to the apartment for a cup of tea."
The next couple of hours fly by as we discuss photographs and books. Eventually we end up in his computer darkroom to view the latest street photography. Soon it is time to go downtown to meet with friends for lunch.
As we head down Cuba Street, I am aware that we are following Julian's daily beat. One minute he is by my side, next he is focusing on a lady sitting at a cafe pavement table with a dog. While he is framing the pooch portrait, I realise that the owner is main subject. Her hair highlights create an interesting composition. Julian is weaving, darting, diving with the practiced moves of a boxer or ballet dancer. It is not just people that he has in focus, he is also paying attention to the background lighting, long shadows and street markings which serve to frame the shot. The shoot is on. I am in the midst of a masterclass in street photography.
Down Cuba, along Manners Street, then we swing right down Willis street heading toward Lambton Quay.
Much depends on peripheral vision and quick decisions, his composition is instantaneous and intuitive. Julian can use detail with stunning effect. For example, a bulging fleshy elbow blends in seamlessly with street sculpture. It takes years of experience to pull this off. This reminds me of the film, " Bill Cunningham, New York," albeit without the bicycle.
With webbing bag slung over his shoulder Julian takes a series of hip shots, rat tat tat. He pauses to ask a punk girl for permission to photograph her on Kirkaldies corner. Happy with the attention, she readily agrees. Her jagged holed black net stockings make a sharp fashion statement. "Not my usual stuff," mutters Julian. He presents her with his card giving details of his blog and website.
Next he signals for permission to photograph a window cleaner behind a shop window. The cleaner happily obliges by putting in extra effort with his squeegee. Seems to me as if Julian has taken more than fifty photos, where I would have been hard pressed to find a couple of worthwhile shots. I get sneak previews of the LCD screen as we walk, with one or two close ups which shows the quality of his Leica lens. "Mystery, mystery, mystery, that what it is all about." When the mood takes him, Julian is overwhelmed by photographic possibilities.
Not only am I privileged to witness this documentation of street life, I am also able to see how his works are created; how he treats people with respect. Happy to accept their right not to be photographed in public, if they so choose. This is definitely not an "in your face" approach to the street. Julian is fascinated by people and their diverse appearance.
This experience leads me to recall an essay written by Henry Miller in the Thirties, "Brassai. The Eye of Paris." Miller used this sobriquet to describe how Brassai went about photographing the streets and people of Paris. Seems to me that here is a case to be made for Julian Ward to receive a similar accolade of, "The Eye of Wellington."
In his essay, Miller anticipated the digital age, "We are suffering from a plethora of art. We are art ridden. Which is to say that instead of a truly personal, truly creative vision of things, we merely have an aesthetic view." So we have context. Add to this a viewpoint.
"The photograph seems to carry with it the same degree of personality as as any other form of expression of art."
Finally, common ground between what Henry Miller saw in Brassai, and what I see in Julian Ward.
"All I know is that when I look at these photographs which seem to be taken at random by a man loath to assert any values except what are inherent in the phenomena, I am impressed by their authority." For me, both "Eyes" have it.
This is not to disregard or ignore Wellington's excellent photographic community. Nor does it ignore Julian's landscape and portrait work. Rather, it is to suggest that it is time for Julian Ward's photography to be given a major retrospective exhibition, in recognition of his consistent and varied body of work over many years.
In just over half an hour I have been swept up in a maelstrom of decisive moments. I would love to share this feeling with other people. Julian is looking forward to his next exhibition of street photography at Puke Te Ariki in New Plymouth.
On the bus going home, an Indian Poppa and grand daughter were sitting reading together , "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Initially I regretted not carrying my camera, for this could have been my shot of the day. Instead, I marvelled at how this cultural contrast enriched my experience of living in Wellington.
Julian Ward's photography has the power to heighten our appreciation of city life and how it may be seen as living art.
Reference: Brassai. The Monograph. Edited by Alain Sayag and Annick Lionel-Marie. Little Brown and Company. 2000 pp 173-175.
Wellingtonia reviewed by Katy Corner 2006 See the book CLICK HERE
Local photos with universal intent.
Julian Ward has been photographing people and landscapes for over 30 years. His previous books, Face Value (1993) and Just a Word (1996) roamed around the country. Looking at these early images now, Ward can trace the sensitivities of a younger self, experimenting with visual answers. This new collection builds on the additional years, and is all the more precious for it as he distils what he sees into its essence.
Wellingtonia came about after Ward went to ground and sorted through years’ worth of negatives. It’s a gem of a book that brings together images spanning more than 20 years, and although the focus is Wellington, its intent is universal.
There is both a direct and subtle humour in these photographs which encourage the viewer to linger, and the immediacy of the image draws us in. We are in the flight path of the ‘flying lady’ in plate 33. The Cuba Mall gymnast flashes over our heads, so quickly and so far out of our normal frame of reference that her hands have escaped the frame.
Despite the instant rewards, there are scattered clues that justify further scrutiny. In plate 35, an image of a dancing Dalmatian, tail rigid and howling and howling on the sand, is emphatic in itself – then we notice its missing leg and the lack of it adds weight to the picture.
In the laughing clown (plate 25) the balance of clouded air framing outlines of hump and hills is spot on. The beast’s thick, stranded fur nudges against its metal pen, but something else is happening. As our eyes adjust, the negative space reveals monkey features also inhabiting the skull, and looking deeper its grin becomes a leaping fish or rabbit’s ears? It’s a wonderfully over the top.
Ward has linked the images on facing pages so that each is enhanced and he thoughtfully offers ‘rest’ pages. Opposite the camel, a man with fanatic’s eyes talks into a microphone. He looks out of the frame, and the camel in finding his words hilarious. In a coup de grace, he wears the nametag ‘Gene Pool’. What an irresistible find for Ward.
John B Turner (Lecturer at Elam Art School and Editor of PhotoForum) wrote that Ward’s work was “not unlike that of photographers such as Tony Ray-Jones and David Hurn who depicted quirky everyday activities in the UK. Locally his work compares well with Peter Black and Max Oettli….. And deserves to be better known”
There are several forces at work in Ward’s photographs. He has cultivated a sense of heightened awareness and has an inbuilt ability to seize the moment. He has the insight to be able to plot patterns and the patience to wait until all the elements converge importantly, he welcomes chance, and thereby has found a recipe which works beautifully. These images are astute, inclusive, generous and long lasting.
Wellingtonia has high production values, is a sympathetic size and deserves the appellation ‘fine photography’. Ward pays homage to this quirky city whose citizens seem to let go of their self-consciousness long enough for him to release the shutter. For anyone who has been captured by the spirit of this small, perfectly-formed city. Wellingtonia will be a valued addition to their image banks.
Katy Corner is a Wellington arts writer.
Just a Word
Photographs by Julian Ward
By Peter Turner (from the book Photography and Paradox 1999)
Now, Listen, No, better still, look. In the visual/verbal and punching title to Julian Ward’s latest book of photographs. Just a Word, lies a curious truth about our medium. Through habit, custom and a fair bit of media bashing we are word-oriented. Julian has chosen to try and stand that convention on its head by the simple means of taking photographs of a kind that defies words. In short, he’s a photographic purist – a person who articulates most precisely through the image rather than any daft verbal rhetoric.
I can tell you a thing or two about Julian Ward. That’s because I know him. I’ll leave out the embarrassing bits for all our sakes and focus on what drives him.
Just a Word is his second book, and like the first Face Value self-published. You might think this to be in the ‘vanity press’ department, but I think not. Both have been subjected to tremendous scrutiny by their author/publisher. If only our public servants could be so meticulous! Julian wants to communicate directly, boldly and without interference. It’s a hard road. I know this because I’ve done it myself. As they say ‘only fools and horses work’, but that phase was coined be-fore photography was invented.
Back then, to what drives Julian Ward. And a bit of background. Currently he is a maker of videos – a producer, director and editor. The master minder of the magnetic image. But he began as a photographer, after a boring career in engineering in the mid-1970s. And photography remains his passion.
Julian is a craftsman and an artist. If serious photography books have their failings it’s more often in the craft of reproduction, not the art of photography. And the loss lies in the poverty of interpretation handed down by generations of printing workers. They believe in the sanctity of shadow detail, which generally results in dull reproduction. Julian, on the other hand, is willing to sacrifice his carefully held shadows in favour of presence on the page. The book is no substitute for the original prints, which are rich and glowing, but the thirty hours he spent standing over the press area testimony to vision overcoming prejudice. The printer probably thought he was barmy, but they worked on it.
On to the art. And, if you buy the book, as any sensible person will, you will find in it an introduction by me. I wrote this on sight of the pictures, not the book. My first thoughts, when I saw the book fresh from the binders, were twofold. First came ‘can I re-do the intro’ and second was ‘what a gift for my family in England’. Julian has successfully transcribed the place I live in. (which means ‘he takes better pictures than I do’).
The rewriting idea is simple because Just a Word stands almost as a visual history of photography is selective strands. I did not mention that in my brief text. Which is why I wanted to rewrite. What is plain and quite wonderful is the way in which some of the better moments of photograph’s past show up in Julian’s pictures. Something I can and should reveal about the author is his passion for photography and his awareness of many of its best practitioners. There are elements of Atget, Kertesv, Cartier-Besson, Frank, Winogrand, Friedlander and Ray-Jones in these images. Not ‘look alike’, because each one looks like a Ward picture. Nevertheless, a quiet sense of homage hangs over the work.
And that really is the success of Just a Word. It is offered as an homage, not an ‘in your face, aren’t I the greatest’ kind of production. It is gentle authoritive and gives benediction in equal measures to the photographer, what he photographed and why he bothered to do so.
I’m biased, I’ll grant you, but Just a Word has solved my Christmas present problem. It says ‘New Zealand’ well, says it clearly and says it with a subtlety that demands looking again. Just a Word has the quality of being insistent.