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Diana Arbus wrote 'I can only understand the world if I photograph it', and this certainly seems to have held true for the renowned photographer Marti Friedlander. London born, Friedlander arrived in New Zealand in 1958 when she began what is a lifelong project; capturing the faces, places and events that have shaped this country's recent history. Throughout her inspiring career Marti Friedlander's photographs have offered great insight into the way New Zealand has established a more complex and compelling identity over multiple generations. She has been instrumental in independently documenting the changing nature of contemporary post war New Zealand through the protest and woman's movements, the ever-changing roles of men and women and that of Maori and Pacific Societies.
She was also the first photographer to celebrate the extent to which visual, performing and literary creativity contributes to New Zealand. Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th century (with Michael King) has been continuously in print since it was first published in 1972 and is arguably one of the most important photo essays produced in post-war New Zealand. Larks in a Paradise: New Zealand Portraits (1974, with James McNeish) had a seminal effect on how photographers looked at what contemporary life meant for the people who live in New Zealand. Friedlander has seen her adopted country from within her personal experience of diaspora. As a Jewish artist this knowledge has also been informed by her insight and intuition about the way New Zealand has established a more complex and compelling identity within two generations.
Speaking of her Moko Images Friedlander articulates, "I vividly remember taking photos of these kuia. New Zealander's now-a-days are so obsessed with identity. These kuia didn't need to ask the question; they knew, absolutely, who they were. They were powerful women and I have tried to capture this in my photographs."
Ron Brownson says of Friedlander's Photography,
"Friedlander's approach towards others as a photographer is both very complex and immediately simple. Her style has always been focused on revealing the human situation of a photograph's content rather than trying to design an image's content into an expression of one constant political agenda. She is an emigrant Jewish photographer who is obsessed with the process of cultural diaspora and she has chosen to employ photography as a tool which promotes expressive content before it looks at the attractions of pictorial arrangement. Truth has to consume beauty, it must be an insight of content and it must always be preferred to surface appearances. The more you look at the photograph's content, the more it looks back at you."
Marti's work has been exhibited at the Photographers' Gallery in London, the Waikato Art Museum, and in a large and celebrated retrospective at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2001, which then toured the country. Shirley Horrocks' film, Marti: the Passionate Eye, attracted attention both at the International Film Festivals in New Zealand in 2004 and on local television. She was awarded the Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit in 1999 for services to photography.
THE MOKO SUITE 2010