Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Here are some spreads from my new autobiographical photobook AGAINST FORGETTING. It's a 32 page, 100 copy, print on demand edition.

I've written this in the book by way of introduction and explanation:

For the first thirteen years of my life I lived with my parents in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill. Our family home was a modest, two bedroom, flat roofed, weather-board house, which my father had built around 1940. The suburb is known for its volcanic peak, 110 metres in height, one of the many extinct volcanic cones that dot the Auckland isthmus. Mt Roskill has been referred to as the Bible Belt of Auckland with more churches per capita than any other New Zealand suburb.

Now, after more years than I care to think about I’ve gone back to look at my past. Where I grew up. So much has changed. Other things, very little. Here are some photographs. Against forgetting. Harvey Benge, Auckland, April 2010

Copies are available at 25 Euro plus postage, please contact me at: harvey.benge@xtra.co.nz

Monday, April 26, 2010

The World's Best Photographs

This is a book I came across in a Thrift Shop here in Auckland. I bought it for the cover, well how could I resist, The World's Best Photographs. Clearly a case of hyperbole if ever there was.
Published in Britain in 1947 the book has photographs from Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, all selected by the editor following an invitation for photographers to submit prints for consideration.
Divided into six categories, action, expression, landscape, children, animals, design and pattern, the book even includes Henri Cartier-Bresson's now famous picture Children of Seville made in 1933.
It's interesting that the book was published the same year the Magnum picture agency was founded. Perhaps at the time Cartier-Bresson had been looking for some exposure and the Magnum machine had yet to kick in. Who knows?
There are also photographs from New Zealand photographers Ellis Dudgeon who was a Nelson studio photographer and a certain E T Robson. Inevitably there are war photographs too..... most pictures don't rise much above the cliche, certainly measured against todays way of seeing.....

Auckland - some new photographs

Here are a few pictures I've made around Auckland in the last day or so..... not made with any particular intention in mind, just because they were there....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Penn photos highlight of Christie's $9.3m sale

NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - Sales of nearly $10 million of photographs, including works by Irving Penn, at Christie's showed that international collectors are willing to pay top dollar for rare images.

The Penn photographs, the largest collection of his work to be sold at auction, were given to his personal assistant Patricia McCabe over 30 years. They fetched $3.8 million of the $9.3 million from three auctions.

"What we realized even in the recession is that there really is quite a strong market for the right sort of material," said Laura Paterson, of the photography department at Christie's, adding that works that are rare, important and have great provenance sell whether the market is good or bad.

Penn's photographs of objects and people are visually simplistic but they convey a deeper story. Often in black and white, the images beg for deeper observation.

Broken Egg, New York, 1959 was a surprise hit, fetching $206,500 after an original estimate range of $7,000 to $9,000. Paterson said it showed that placing a price tag on rare photographs is not an exact science.

"I think it speaks to kind of the Penn market generally, which was strong -- strong last season immediately after his death ... His prices are going to remain extremely strong. Everything was very fiercely competed over," she said.

Penn's 2 Guedras, which sold for $314,500, was the highest selling photograph from the photographs given to McCabe.

"What was really nice about the collection, and I think reflected in these prices, was the condition of these prints and how beautiful they were. We see the image a lot in platinum and it's not an uncommon photograph. But these images were absolutely beautiful, in great shape. So not only do they have the provenance, they have perfect condition," Paterson added.

Penn's Woman in Moroccan Palace from a separate private collection sold for $446,500.

French photographer Eugene Atget's Joueur d'Orgue set the world auction record with a sale price of $686,500 during the two-day sale last week.

The auction bodes well for Christie's next big auction of fine art photography which will be held in New York in October.

"We choreograph our sales very carefully, so we will be looking for material that we think will do equally well and create just as much excitement. The market clearly gave all of the houses a signal by responding warmly to rare and important things," Paterson said. (Reporting by Bernard Orr; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

Two Guedras, Morocco, 1974

Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn)
Marrakech, 1951

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Photographers whose work I like - No 3 / Bert Teunissen

I first met Bert Teunissen at the Noorderlicht Festival in Groningen, Holland. I wandered into a gallery that was showing some of his Domestic Landscapes. Bert was there we met and talked. I've been a fan of his work ever since. It's great to see work you admire and know you could never do it yourself.

Bert has this to say:

For the last thirteen years I have been working on a photography project called Domestic Landscapes. This project is about light - natural daylight. The photos show how daylight illuminates the domestic interior, and how it dictated the way the interior was build, used and decorated. This specific light and the atmosphere it creates have their origins in the architecture of the pre-electricity era, when daylight was the main source of light. This kind of light started to disappear from European homes after World War II when the old way of building was abandoned. At this moment few of these homes remain.

Domestic Landscapes is also about identity and diversity. Every country, every region has its own distinctive culture that can be recognized in its homes, customs, cuisine and traditions.

The inhabitants of the houses where I take photographs still know how something ought to taste and how it should be made; they understand the importance of time and ripening, and the value of daily and seasonal repetition. I found that when local traditions disappear, most of their visible aspects are also lost. When a small farmer stops slaughtering, the open fireplace becomes redundant. Sausages and hams will be dried artificially and smoked in a factory losing their original flavour and appearance. And when a small farmer stops farming, the stables are converted into storage or living spaces, the stable doors are replaced by windows, the cement floor by parquet, the hayloft is altered into bedrooms, the kitchen is moved to the former parlour, and slowly all rooms and spaces will have lost their original meaning and significance.

The title Domestic Landscapes refers to the characteristic panoramic format of a landscape photo. It also refers to the idea that the homes that I photographed form a landscape of the life of the people that live in them. These homes have changed just as slowly through the years as the landscapes in which I found them. The people in the photos have aged with their habitats and have become part of it.
In the last thirteen years I’ve built an archive of photos of interiors from all over Europe and by the time I will have finished photographing, it will contain over eight hundred images.
Through the financial help of The Mondriaan Foundation, The Dutch BKVB Fund and Hazazah Film & Photography, the project was given a boost and became ready for publication.
In 2007 Aperture, New York published Domestic Landscapes – A Portrait of Europeans at Home, designed by Erik Kessels. In the same year a German edition was published in collaboration with Kerber Verlag in Bielefeld. The book received two prizes in 2008: PDN’s Annual Photography Award and the Prix de la Photographie Paris.

Exhibitions in Huis Marseille in Amsterdam, The Photographers’ Gallery in London, Aperture Gallery in New York, Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld and the Contact Photo Festival in Toronto accompanied the publication. These museums and major coverage in the press (articles in The Independent, The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune) helped to make the first part of the project, being Western Europe, a big success.
Thanks to the financial support of the European Cultural Foundation, I am able to continue with the project. In 2010 I hope to complete the photography of homes in most eastern European countries.
I intend to finish the European project in 2011 after having photographed in Russia and The Ukraine, which part still needs to be funded.

By then I will have covered most of Europe.

The photographs are:

Coppa Ferrata #1, 22/10/2005 16:10
La Alberca#6 1/3/2005 12:56
Mazouco #1, 26/3/2002 13:05
Rakovo #1, 18/10/2007 14:48

Saturday, April 10, 2010


When I think of Niagara Falls, Alec Soth's amazing book Niagara comes to mind. Here's a picture for Alec, found in the Benge family photo shoe box. It's of my father, photographer unknown, made at Niagara Falls in 1978. My father is holding his Nikkormat with its 105mm lens. He later gave the camera to me and I used it for a number of years.

Auckland - looking back

For the first thirteen years of my life I lived with my parents in a modest, two bedroom, weather-board house, which my father had built around 1940, in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill. The suburb is known for it's volcanic peak, 110 metres in height, one of the many extinct volcanic cones that dot the Auckland isthmus.
Mt Roskill has been referred to as the Bible Belt of Auckland with the greatest number of churches per capita than any New Zealand suburb.

Now, after more years than I care to think about I've gone back to look at my past. So much has changed. And some things not at all.

Here are some photographs I made of my father's contact sheets. Pictures of the house, my mother, me......

I'm making a 32 page print-on-demand book about all this..... the looking back, about not forgetting..... if anybody happens to be at the Fotobook Festival in Kessel over the 15 - 17 May, I'll give you a copy.

Rineke Dijkstra at Marion Goodman, Paris

On April 29 the Marion Goodman galerie Paris opens a show of Rineke Dijkstra's work. The show runs until June 19.

(b. 1959, Sittard, the Netherlands. Lives and works in Amsterdam.)

Rineke Dijkstra was trained at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1984 at de Moor in Amsterdam. Dijsktra's photographs have appeared in numerous international exhibitions, including the 1997 and 2001 Venice Biennale, the 1998 Bienal de Sao Paulo, Turin's Biennale Internationale di Fotografia in 1999, and the 2003 International Center for Photography's Triennial of Photography and Video in New York. She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Kodak Award Nederland (1987), the Art Encouragement Award Amstelveen (1993), the Werner Mantz Award (1994), and the Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize (1998).

The image is a still from Rineke's video work Drawing Picasso which Rineke showed at the AUT St Paul Street workshop in Auckland in January.

Darcy Lange at Camera Austria

On Friday, April 16, Camera Austria is opening the exhibition of film, video and photographic works by New Zealand artist Darcy Lange. This first retrospective exhibition in the German-speaking area is curated by Mercedes Vicente curator with Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Introducing the exhibition, Ms. Vicente will speak on Darcy Lange's work in her lecture on Thursday, April 15.

A graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, New Zealand and the Royal College of Art in London, Darcy Lange (1946 – 2005) established a career in the late 1960s as a sculptor with large, hard-edge abstract works but soon turned to photography, film, and video. In 1971, he began filming and videotaping under the general theme of "people at work" in English factories, mines, and schools and continued documenting workers' lives after returning to New Zealand. In the late 1970s, Lange joined Māori activists' struggles to establish land rights during what became known as the Māori Renaissance when bicultural policies in New Zealand fully came into place, and developed his ambitious Māori Land Project (1977 – 1981). Beginning in the 1980s, Lange became increasingly involved in the study of music, especially Flamenco, and created several multimedia performances involving music, poetry, and art. He died in Auckland in 2005.