May 10, 2018

Mind Field

Self (anon.), Mind Field, 2018, mixed media abstract, 102 x 57 Cm.

May 8, 2018

Kiwi Glam 1966

A significant time for Down and Nearly Under: post-colonial dependency on the Mother Country faded into fond memory for our expats as the fancy new passenger jets began to encroach upon our cozy insularity (and put paid to Kerosene for domestic heating).  When designing forms for the new PAYE tax, the Department of Inland Revenue learnt that the average mental age of Kiwis was twelve. 

The Government Statistician projected that our population would reach five million by the end of the millennium.  He would have been right, but as successive statisticians noted, in the interim 1.2 million of us had declared, upon departing, our long term intent to seek greener pastures (Queensland benefited most from The Great Kiwi Brain-Drain).

But the residue, wanting to assure ourselves worthy of star rating upon a nebulous international stage, adopted the images of what we perceived to be Western sophistication, as this ubiquitous visual cliché appears to indicate.

Photographed opposite the village store at Castlepoint, a small beach-side town on the Wairarapa coast of the Wellington Region. To the far Right can be see the lighthouse, which stands near the top of the northern end of a one kilometre long reef.

But the real interest is the nippy little roadster  - an early example of a Mark 1 Tiger, circa 1964.  Behind the Walnut dashboard lurks a 4.3 litre, 260 cubic inch V8 engine.  From an idea by Jack Brabham, to a design by Carroll Shelby, built by Jensen for the Sunbeam Motor Company of England and bearing the badge of a world speed record holder, this car appealed to the North American market so much that the Yanks bought the company during the model's run.

New price circa NZ$3,500 - currently fetching around NZ$150,00 for a really good one.

The image came to the digital dark room as a scan of a scratched and pitted 35mm enlargement of an over-coloured half-tone lithographic impression.  Might have graced a garage workshop calendar in an earlier incarnation.

May 4, 2018

Artificial Intelligence in Freemans Bay

This image is a photographic montage comprised from three frames of a 14 minute film entitled New Zealand, 1950's from the Huntley Film Archives:

It depicts a 1955, South-westerly aspect of the South side of Wellington Street East, Freemans Bay from near what was the intersection with Union Street and is now the overpass across a motorway junction.

Three years earlier the territorial authority had served compulsory purchase orders on most of the properties in the area, with compensation set at 1952 valuations.  However, the Council was not in a hurry to complete acquisition, which, amid much resentment and controversy, was eventually completed in 1979 - at 1952 valuations.  In the interim property owners were reluctant to incur the expense of anything beyond what decreasing rental values would justify.

And so it came to pass that what had once been an inner city suburb renowned for the solidarity of its social cohesion and the political unrest that had been a thorn in the side of conservative governments from 1913, declined into abject dereliction.  

In what was possibly one of the ugliest examples of the corporate psychopathy that might seem to have plagued the Auckland Council since its inception, the consequential window of opportunity was used to plaster the popular Media with images of the deplorable state into which the area fell - dodgy propaganda justifying the premeditated demise of a community.

Although the houses that comprise most of the image survived from the late 1860s until 1977, the photograph is date-able to 1955 by the lack of houses and shops in the block between Howe and Hepburn Streets, which were subsequently replaced by the Freemans Park development of apartment blocks and courtyard houses.

The artificial intelligence bit is the acquisition of every known digital image of the area and then renaming all of the images firstly with the date, then with the geographical location, aspect, elevation, etc., followed by relevant keywords up to a length of 256 characters in the file name.

The in-house Ponsonby & Freemans Bay database includes works of art, photographs, maps, ephemera, audio and video, etc., all of which adhere to the same file-naming protocol.  An easy familiarity develops with the landmarks and eras to be seen in the images and the database becomes increasingly accurate (and interesting) as the knowledge-base expands. 

Although there is a tendency to think of landmarks as steeples and towers, etc. below consciousness there is a whole other level of landmark recognition - a fact readily brought to mind as a strange sense of alienation when much of central Christchurch vanished in a cloud of dust a few years ago. 

So whether it's swanning around downtown, or soaking up a Freemans Bay slide show, markers accumulate below consciousness ready to spring to one's aid with a slightly fuzzy sense of familiarity in a four dimensional cognitive model.

1955  14-19 Wellington Street East  South side  South-westerly aspect  Union Howe Hepburn Pratt Franklyn  'New Zealand, 1950's'  14 min film 30854  Huntley Film Archives.jpg

Apr 4, 2018

String Band Promo

Promotional announcement for a concerto in eight short movements for piano and chamber orchestra by the Wellington composer Lyell Cresswell (b.1944).

Auckland Chamber Orchestra -

Jan 30, 2018

Lyttelton 1982 & 2007

Two pairs of views of Oxford Street, Lyttelton from early February, 1982 and November, 2007.

Taken from adjacent locations at the intersection with Exeter Street, the upper pair of images depict a north-easterly view of lower Oxford Street, with the lower views depicting a southerly aspect of the upper levels of the street.

Although there are few structural changes in the ensuing 25 years, the ubiquitous change of house colours is probably symptomatic of the progressive gentrification of the town as a trendy suburb of the close by provincial capital of Christchurch. But the real change is in the tripling of the number of motor vehicles to be seen in the images.

Oxford Street was the nascent town's first principal thoroughfare. Original location of the seat of the government of the province, it was also the site of the township's first school, town hall, post office, prison and hotel, etc.

Thanks to Gerard Richards of Auckland for the 1982 photographs.

Lyttelton early February, 1982.  A westerly aspect of the principal shopping precinct in London Street from the intersection at Oxford Street across Canterbury and Dublin Streets to Hawkhurst Road.

The photographer supplied three faded Kodachrome prints of a visit to the town in January or early February, 1982.  The angle of the shadows in the images indicated that they were taken close to mid-day on a weekday when children could be seen wearing school uniforms, which ruled out the school holiday month of January.

Until about 1990 colour fading of Kodachrome chromogenic process 35 mm prints was caused by spontaneous chemical changes in the image dyes of colour prints.  Today's prints are more stable and significant fading will occur in about forty years at room temperature, the colder the conditions, the slower the fading.

Thanks to Gerard Richards of Auckland for the original photograph.

Jan 18, 2018

The Tramway Hotel, Millerton, New Zealand, 1902-1982.

Seen in the 1902 photograph is the newly opened Tramway Hotel just above the Taramakau bridge on Millerton Road.  The hotel offered fourteen guest rooms, three lounges, a billiard room and a dining room with seating for thirty.

By 1982 (lower image) the old hotel had been closed for some time and within a further three years virtually nothing of the building remained, all of the recyclable materials having been taken by the community for improvements to their homes.

Thanks to Gerard Richards of Auckland for the four 1982 pics of the hotel, restored and blogged in fond remembrance of good times at Millerton in the '80s.


The Village Green Revisited

The communal centre of the village of Freemans Bay at Auckland, New Zealand, from a pair of aerial photographs, dated to the 18th of February,1954 and the 5th of July,1979.

Known to bureaucracy as the Pratt Street Block in the time of the earlier image, the area is enclosed by Wellington, Hepburn, Anglesea and Collingwood Streets.

Pratt Street Block 1974

Subjected to compulsory purchase orders all of the properties within the block (with a few exceptions in the South-west corner) were cleared of all structures, the site was extensively landscaped using bulldozers and Pratt Street became a cul-de-sac culminating in a pedestrian entrance to an internal square of beguiling sylvan beauty (below).

The 1979 image was taken shortly after the completion of the Community Hall (1), the Kindergarten (2), the shopping centre (3) and the first and largest of the three apartment blocks (4)

Much is knowable about the people who have lived here, from the time when the first cottage (5) overlooked a swamp at the bottom of its backyard.

For instance the eight-room, two story Grocery shop at the corner of Wellington and Pratt Streets (6) first appears in the photographic record in 1881.  By 1908 it belonged to a widow, Ellen Wilkins also owned the two-room cottage next door and the pair of two storied town-houses beyond that.  Mrs Wilkins sold her shop in 1920 and was succeeded by the Francis, Emmerton, Barchard, Jeffs and Rupa families until it was demolished in 1968.

Or Richard and Esther Poulgrain of 18 Pratt Street (7).  Born in 1851, the proprietor of the Vulcan Ironworks in Albert Street, raised eight children in what had begun as a simple two-room cottage in 1873.

Both the widow Wilkins' shop and the Poulgrain's cottage would make way for the 30 apartment Wellington Court building (4).  Completed as social housing in April 1979 for $440,099, the territorial authority sold the freeholds of most of the apartments between 1997 and 1999.  And so it came to pass that within four decades these handy little pied-√†-terres would be changing hands at around 40 times their initial cost.

Jan 16, 2018

Denniston, New Zealand, 1981.

Fifteen kilometres up The Coast from Westport, Denniston is situated on the Mount Rochfort plateau, 600 metres above the beach and about one and a half kilometres inland.

The sitting room had panoramic views to the West out across the Tasman Sea to the curvature of the earth (amazing sunsets).   Windows at the other end of the room looked out to the snow clad peaks of the Papahaua mountain range.

By the time that this photograph was taken the population of Denniston had reduced from around 1,400 to 23.

Taken from near the front of the fire station, to the Right is the garage of Denniston Motors, with a petrol bowser on the forecourt and, unmoved for many years, an early 1930s school bus within.

Across the intersection, with its' red-lead painted corrugated iron cladding is the Doctor's house and surgery facing the (unseen) Post Office.  Beyond the Doctors' is the Police Station, with the cell block (unseen) in the back yard.

It was a good time to be living on the sub-alpine plateau, the residents were mainly artists, musicians and potters, etc. and there were great parties that would attract friends from across the island and go on for days. 

But the halcyon era would not last, by the 1990s commercial dope growers had moved in, arson became the new game in town and the doctors' was fortified, even the garage burnt. But what little is left slumbers on as a no more than a ghostly curiosity for tourist.

Original photo by Gerard Richards of Auckland (his sporty Vauxhall HC Viva to Left), subsequently tarted up and reminisced upon by self.

Jan 10, 2018

The Village Green

An elevated westerly aspect of the village green at the south-west corner of the intersection of Wellington and Hepburn Streets, Freemans Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.  Sunday, 31st December, 2017.

There was a time when our village green was a swamp where waterfowl roamed amid marsh-misted reeds at the headwaters of a stream.  One hundred and seventy eight years ago the least affluent of the earliest European settlers came to this place to cut bull-rushes for the liveable huts they would construct nearby.  

By the beginning of the 1850s the stream was forded by a steep livestock track that led from David and Margaret Archibald's suburban farm on Franklin Road to the garrison towns' markets.  The first settler's cottage stood close to where a fashionable Japanese restaurant can now be seen just to the right of centre in the photograph.

By the mid 1860s the stream had been enclosed in a brick tunnel down to the lagoon at the far western side of Freemans Bay, where the last boat shed survives opposite the supermarket.  As the pressure of suburban in-fill increased six houses and three shops soon occupied the site of what is now the village green.

With its panoramic views of the city and the harbour Wellington Street West, as it was formerly known, was originally deemed to be in the suburb of Ponsonby, rather than industrial Freemans Bay, and thereby to nominally separate it from the city end of the street, with its pubs, boarding houses and brothels. 

Between 1878  and 1886 Auckland's population doubled and about a dozen shops; grocers, bakeries, a butcher, and a boot maker, etc. formed the centre of the village.  Suburban in-fill was complete by 1900 and remained more or less intact until 1970.  Diagonally opposite the green one the original grocer's shops survives as the iconic Rupa's Cafe.

From 1952 the territorial authority began acquiring much of the Freemans Bay area by compulsory purchase for residential redevelopment.  Demolition of the structures on the site of the village green took place from 1968 to 1974.  Formerly occupying the back garden of a cottage on Hepburn Street, only the gnarled tree to the Left of centre in the photograph survives from the early 1950s, all of the other trees in the image are less than forty years old.

Opposite the village green on Hepburn Street, new social housing was completed in 1965 (David Lange, sometime Prime Minister of New Zealand, lived here in his time as a Legal Aid lawyer at the Magistrate's Court). Gentrification of Freemans Bay began in 1970 with the completion of the Sheridan Square town-house development opposite on Wellington Street, and the eleven shops that adjoin the village green were built between 1974 and 1978.

The population of Freemans Bay peaked a century ago at 10,500, today it's somewhat less than half of that.  More than a million dollars is now required in order to acquire a bijou town-house in the vicinity of this village green that's within an easy walk to both the Paris end of town at Ponsonby and the centre of Auckland city.

Not trusting the fallibility of received history, the foregoing was mostly compiled from contemporary newspaper reports and 339 old photos.