The Language Series Paul Thompson
28 September 15 October 2005 at Idiom Studio, Wellington
The Language Series
words and pictures
pictures and words
Photography and literature are first cousins. Both concern themselves with transmission of narrative; whether that narrative be fact or fiction is irrelevant. Both are shorthand simulacra of reality; sometimes consciously mediated through a personal perspective sometimes presented as ‘objective truth’.
‘The Language Series’ grew out of the rather surprising finding that over 180 New Zealand poets, ranging from household names to the as-yet-unpublished, had used photography as subject, simile or symbol in their work. This coupled with the relatively common use of poems and photos or photos and poems alongside each other reinforced the thesis that there are strong connections between the two. While of course there are congruencies between words and images it maybe that as distillations of the bigger spheres, poetry and photography have a closer than theoretical relationship.
If we can write about images we can picture about words. As photography is my preferred medium, and, to use a vernacular phase; ‘one picture is worth a thousand words’, my approach has been to study in images and theorize in pictures. Hence ‘The Language Series’
It’s tricky business photography. Every print is an ‘original’ even though there may be many of them. This vexing conundrum often confuses even people who are otherwise knowledgeable about art for they are used to thinking in the painterly terms of ‘originals’ and ‘reproductions’ with of course the unique ‘original’ having the value and the cachet while the ‘reproduction’ is a definitely second best.
Paul Thompson’s latest show at Idiom with its many ‘originals’ plays with this idea among others and is priced accordingly at $49.95 per print. As Paul says, ‘Consider if photography was regarded like literature. What is valuable or unique is the author’s idea and their skill at communicating that idea. The individual copies of the book are merely the mechanism by which that idea is presented; they have no great intrinsic value in themselves. Of course books are mass produced in a factory and photographic prints are made by the photographer (or under their close supervision) but in many ways they are conceptually closer to publishing than to painting.
Paul has been exhibiting his photographs since 1975, with solo shows in major private and public galleries He is represented in public and private collections in New Zealand and overseas.
Previous exhibitions include Photos from Nowhere, or the Illustrated Erewhon, at the National Library, Wellington in 1998, and Niu Tireni at Idiom Studio, Wellington in 2001, Galerie Romerapotheke, Zurich in March 2004, Pataka, Porirua and Te Manawa, Palmerston North in 2005 . Gardens of Erewhon, appeared at Idiom in September 2003 and went to the Hocken Library in September 2004.. A further series, Album Gauguin, has been published as a unique photographic album.
Paul is the author of several books including An Ink that will Stand Forever - Maori rock art and The Bach. He also selected images and wrote text for A Century of Images (on 20th century NZ photography) and A Gentlemans Collection (on the nude in 19th century postcards). He has written extensively on photography for the NZ Journal of Photography.
He has worked as the concept developer, history at Te Papa and as South Island
manager of the Historic Places Trust, and is currently director of the Museum of City and Sea, Wellington.