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27 September 1987 —
25 October 1987

Witness to Change: Life in New Zealand

John Pascoe, Trainee Physical Education Instructors, March 1944. Black and white photograph.


Witness To Change is about photography which describes and comments on the social character of New Zealand between 1940 and 1965. The exhibition focuses on the work of John Pascoe, Les Cleveland and Ans Westra. Their maturity of vision, commitment to the medium over an extended period of ability to evoke, describe and illuminate the unique character of New Zealand life set them apart from other photographers working at the time.

As Documentary Photographers they deliberately set out to record something of a particular time, place or people with a regard for wider significance and meaning.

Separate concentrations of focus in the exhibition have emerged from the three photographers’ own specific areas of interest. John Pascoe (1908-1972) photographed in the early 1940s for the Department of Internal Affairs, covering aspects of the war effort in New Zealand as well as many of the social programmes being instituted by the Labour Government. Les Cleveland (1921-) focused on buildings and people on the West Coast of the Soyuth Island, and to a lesser extent, around the Wellington region, in the 1950s and early 1960s. Ans Westra (1936-) photographed Maori communities almost exclusively from her arrival in New Zealand in 1957 until return visit to Holland in 1965.

Witness to Change also serves to increase our knowledge of mid 20th century New Zealand photography, which has been neglected until now.


Witness to Change: Life in New Zealand, 1987, exhibition card

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