Bell-MartiFreidlander-Louise Henderson,

“When she photographs a person it’s never simply a photograph of a human being: there’s always two or three layers of meaning below. She rarely photographs someone she doesn’t know, and she knows people very quickly. … Marti, when she photographs a person, decides who they are, and, in that context, decides even whether she’ll shoot up at them versus down. … She contextualises them; she’s very bossy: she pushes them around, and tells them, ‘You know, where you’re standing now isn’t you; stand over there, that’s who you are.’ And so she captures them with those multiple layers of meaning behind them.”

 

—Daniel Brown, in Marti: The Passionate Eye (2004)


 

(FOR DETAILS OF THIS DOCUMENTARY, HOVER HERE.)

Marti: The Passionate Eye (2004)
 
Directed by SHIRLEY HORROCKS, this ebullient 73-minute documentary is, without doubt, one of the more entertaining films to have been made about an Aotearoa New Zealand artist.
 
It's free to watch, over at nzonscreen.com. Just click HERE.
Bell-MartiFreidlander-Rita Angus, Wellin

“... A sense of a rich diversity of human

faces in all their irreducible individuality

is an abiding characteristic of Friedlander’s exhibition and work. Crucial to these encounters with faces is the photographer’s role as witness, not master or mistress; encounters in which her own place and identity are explored and questioned as much as those of her subjects. Fundamental to her photographs is that turning to others which involves an

openness to their singularity and difference. This quality brings to mind the ideas of the French (by way of Lithuania) Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, for whom the face-to-face encounter necessarily involved an ethical relationship, and who defined subjectivity itself primarily in terms of vulnerability.”

—LEONARD BELL, writing in

    Art New Zealand, #99 Winter 2001

“... A sense of a rich diversity of human

faces in all their irreducible individuality

is an abiding characteristic of Friedlander’s exhibition and work. Crucial to these encounters with faces is the photographer’s role as witness, not master or mistress; encounters in which her own place and identity are explored and questioned as much as those of her subjects. Fundamental to her photographs is that turning to others which ...


 

+

Megillah of the month

May-June 2021 / Sivan-Tammuz 5781

_________________________________________


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust

 
 
list of chapters
the new zealand jewish archives
 
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NZJA%252520silver%252520fern_edited_edit

“Yet it is not (it seems to me) by Painting that

Photography touches art, but by Theater.”

 

—Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

“For me it is people that matter, with all our fallibilities, and I have a sense of the absurd and the sadness attendant in all our endeavours and pretensions, and the alienation from each other, in spite of the need to belong.

 

—Marti Friedlander, 1972, in a letter to Michael King

 
 
 
 
 
the new zealand jewish archives

Portraits

FRIEDLANDER'S

Marti

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Marti Camera.png
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Regarding

Marti Friedlander:

Portraits of the Artists

by LEONARD BELL 

Megillah of the month

May-June 2021 / Sivan-Tammuz 5781

_________________________________________

full_1973_Marti_self_portrait_Paris_1-4_


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust

ARTISTS
an artist's

 

Uriel khein

 

______________

URI is the creator, designer, and managing editor of nzjewisharchives.org, through his company THE SNUDE LOUNGE (link upcoming), on behalf of The New Zealand Jewish Archives Trust Inc.

 

the details

Marti Friedlander:

Portraits of the Artists

by LEONARD BELL

Auckland University

Press, 2020.

RRP: NZD 75:00

Following on from Marti Friedlander, his definitive 2009 study of a practitioner whom he knew closely, noted art historian LEONARD BELL has surveyed—and celebrated—Marti's lifelong dedication to photographing her fellow New Zealand artists, across all genres, in a new volume: Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists. Below is the first of an ongoing series discussing the volume, and exploring, (taking a multi-faceted approach), some of the critical (and biographical) issues raised by the photographer's legacy.

AS AN IMPASSIONED documenter of New Zealand society and culture from the mid-1950s, through to the early part of a fresh millennium, MARTI FRIEDLANDER (1928-2016) is renowned as a unique and groundbreaking photographer in Aotearoa. Born in London, and raised, from an early age, in Jewish orphanages, she is the most consequential artist to have been a member of Aotearoa New Zealand's (in particular, Tamaki Maakaurau Auckland's) yet but long-established Jewish community. 

Sait Akkirman 1.jpeg

Marti Friedlander, at the launch of Self-Portrait, her memoir (with Hugo Manson), at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, 2013.
 

SAIT AKKIRMAN / artsdiary.co.nz

 

1.

Marti FRIEDLANDER's Portraits 

_________________________________________

marti
and the
quirks of faith

‘When I was a small child, I had no personal relationship with photographs. They might have been taken by the orphanage for the archive, I suppose, but not for a personal album. Photography didn’t mean much to me at all. I liked stories, serious literature, rather than picture books I liked the hands-on activities like sewing and rug making. I wished I could draw well, and I often tried.’

 

—MARTI FRIEDLANDER, in Self-portraits, her 2013 memoir

 

 

SHE APPEARS AS subject of a book that somebody won an award for; who you found out about on a tranquil afternoon, as you sat, half-out, of the opened window (your legs dangling above the garden or, perhaps, the street), and reading a novel (the inclinations of fiction, and its dreamers, being ever covetous of rhapsodic lives). Drawing upon every source—including those that, as with the studies by Leonard Bell, transmit her patiently and implicitly—and Marti Friedlander seems that kind of being: undoubtedly rhapsodic; an inspirational personality who showed her unaffected realness. So although there’s no guise that would suit or reveal her better, other than the one in which fans and friends have found all along, the well-known, late photographer Marti Friedlander could be re-imagined, anyway, by Italo Calvino, the well-known, late magical realist (Marti having been, herself, a kind of magical realist, or perhaps an emphatic realist; the difference between the two being, a texture, only, of particular enlivenment.)

 

The hypothetical Calvino novel could be called The Mind-Made Mirror, in which Calvino (being Calvino) confounds expectation: introducing the one (whose way, in an uptight culture, may be misconstrued as “forward”), as a background roamer: luminously implied in the speculations of the baffled characters in the foreground—diagonal to their flattened view, as if she was gliding in distant scenery on an escalator that had gone rogue. And so, the impetus of the tale follows a band of villagers: folk who’ve staged a vendetta over multiple generations: lasting precisely one thousand years (so porous are the warring factions, that they can scarcely be discerned generation to generation, or even from year to year; such are the endless desertions, defections, and re-alignments of their antagonisms). Deemed incorrigible by most outsiders, the villagers are far too busy fighting one another, to suspect that they’re bound to bungle, sooner than later, into the view of the one person whose gaze they covet least of all—that of Gretamahy, the Queen, who, as protean savant and visionary autocrat, oscillates between mercy and wrath, as between a bench press and a hot tub. Though the villagers may be credulous, they’re not so credulous as to fail to grasp what that kind of attention implies—that is, they can be in no doubt, when the disaster finally does take place.

 

The day after the day of the beginning of the end, the one of mass arrest and exiled incarceration, brings the villagers to a state of stricken semi-relief. As punishment for their incorrigibility, they’re set, by the sagacious sovereign, a collective assignment; one that is very strange: shadowing the “Photographer Laureate,” who is known only by the handle of Marti, as she itinerates around the countryside, and performs her baffling vocation. The villagers are instructed, (naturally, on pain of death, should they fail), to find, and collect, whatever impulse that inspires the presumptive hero to take a photograph—the catch being that no impulse, in respect of any single photo, is the same as for any other. Fortunately, the retroactivity of the photographer’s every impulse is guaranteed: each impulse being only temporarily inert, as a grain of glittery jewel, albeit one tinier than a pinhead. All that needs to occur is for each impulse to be collected from wherever it may have fallen, after the hero has already clicked the shutter: utilising the smallest pair of golden tweezers that anybody has ever seen (on loan to the village from the regalia, and put into the hands, apparently, of one of the more “reliable” of the villagers). The villagers are instructed that, in splitting every impulse in half (utilising, in some fashion, the same pair of gold tweezers) and peering inside, they’ll succeed in uncovering that aspect of humane passion which, recombined with the photograph that it “took”, will transform the image into an eternal verity (albeit one in a prized class of wordless verities which—like an idioglossia sung by the Queen, listening to her favourite diva, who’s singing the same—can be intuited readily, across all barriers of space and time, language and ethnicity).

 

Having been offered no additional guidance (or, when they think about it, any instruction at all that might seem performable), the villagers are very soon having the time of a thousand years: one more wretched than any they could have dreamed of while left to themselves, as (aside from the landowners) people had left them for generations. For a start, it somehow takes the villagers four entire weeks to catch up with the Photographer Laureate (it seems like a curse, how magically she eludes them). When, finally, they succeed in catching up with her, they fail to collect innumerable impulses, while mislaying countless others. Taking turns miserably, while stalking the hero as a group; shambling and shadowing, squinting and ducking, the villagers are perennially exhausted; oftentimes confused about precisely what the photographer is busied capturing (or even what it is that she’s implicitly performing)—while also bungling several attempts to steal her camera rolls. There seem to be no grace that will prevent their adventure from becoming intolerable. Any glint of humour they may happen to find in daylight is much too insignificant to illuminate any night-time. Setting up camp every single night (a prospect as pitiable and frugal as it is laborious), the villagers bicker bitterly and incessantly. Even when gathered around their campfire after a humiliating day, there is no rest: their assignment, every evening, is to pass around a book of the hero’s photo-portraits and decide whether each particular portrait is one that’s defined primarily by the gazed (the subject) or by the gazer (the photographer); something that they’ve been told is as straightforward as squinting, prolongedly, at the detail in every image (focusing on any so-called extraneous detail, as much as posture and face and eyes and hair).

 

The effect of this task, combined with the original one, is to almost drive the villagers insane. And still, they will not grant each other any real relief. Only when they feel extra pity for themselves do all of them weep together, a hopeless surrogate for real solidarity. They weep again, when some benefactor, clearly taking pity on them (always the same benefactor) sends them delicacies that they do not like, but devour anyway, cherishing that hand-held freight of generosity. But there is never, for these ones, ever any more than fleeting peace. Looming, inexorably, over their day time futility and their night-time bickering, is the specter of a ruler that no distraction may dispel. With only awe, and no insight at all, into the deliberation of their sovereign’s mind, they perceive nothing but an arbitrary power that they somehow must appease. If they could only figure out how; having been given, it seems, a task that amounts merely to torture: one that will lead them to their inevitable destruction, as they surmise has been the intention of the Queen all along.

     

MARTI FRIEDLANDER

Louise Henderson,

Auckland, 1972

Bell-MartiFreidlander-Louise Henderson,


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust

Marti FRIEDLANDER's Portraits 

*       *       *

 

Embarked on her travels, and having the time of her life, Marti gradually becomes aware of the alternately bilious and coy, bungling, villagers, in their varying dribs and drabs. And so she begins taking pictures of them. Though embarrassed at playing the innocent with their sheepish obedience, the worldview of some of the villagers begins to budge a little, as she lines them up, or arranges them here or there, in whatever place it is that they’ve followed her to: at times, locations that are picturesque in some unique way; at other times, places that are reassuringly ordinary; and at, still others, sites that seem to bode some kind of spiritual or historical (often mournful) significance. Because the villagers appear in her ambit, and so are photographed together, only in groups of seven, or five, or fewer: there are only very few who encounter the hero more than once. Every shoot takes a long while (the encounters may appear to be incidental, and yet she is never perfunctory about capturing them). Miraculously, as the villagers all soon discover, the attention is something that they enjoy, the novelty being a distraction; nothing quite like it has ever happened to them before. They can even forget, for a moment, all about their unmerciful assignment. On top of this, the hero is benevolent, in her warmly bossy way; though, as with their sovereign, she is a complete puzzle to them: a humourful blend of traits that are both subtle and unsubtle (they know full well that she’s a magician, and that, in her line, subtle traits can often be masked by unsubtle ones).

 

Not only is the feeling of respite in being photographed unexpectedly homely, the villagers begin to feel that they have a role to play: as performers; though not as freaks, but as bearers, already, of a dignity implied through the photographer’s act. They’re intrigued by her sweet busy-ness as she performs her little ceremony with them. And while the little machine she uses may seem to be ambiguous, even faintly ominous, they respond to the fact that she’s so open with them; mysteriously benign, communicative; observable in what she is doing, making no attempt to hide. The villagers get that, in order to impart her gift (for a gift is what it truly seems like) she must overbear her subjects a little, finding a medium between subduing them and enlivening them. At times, she alarms; they see the flash of passionate impatience, and then she looks ferocious; though only in a sense of unsettled weather, with no evident axe to grind. And the fact that those flashes betray no malignancy only confirms for her subjects that she has no artifice at all that should concern them. Still, they have no real comprehension of what it’s all about, this thing she does; but that doesn’t matter: what matters to them is how she is toward them. So taken are they with this, that only one of them, a youth known as Jape, ever remembers to go back to collect the jewel after she is gone.

 

Of villagers who have eluded the photographer’s camera so far, there are but two: a pair who, having both spent time in prison for trying to murder the other, have—in an ever-changing mural of intrigue—become allies (and later on, even more unexpectedly, best buddies). They’re also the only ones among the villagers who have a clear focus: to steal a roll of film from the photographer, which they finally succeed in doing; following her into a tavern in good clothes that they’ve managed to steal. Maintaining their disguises, they take the roll to be developed at a shop that’s open on one afternoon each year (magically, they arrive on the appointed day). But as the two of them wait, unsuspecting, the roll of film is intercepted out the back; the afternoon of the shop’s opening is no coincidence: aside from being an itinerating photographer, the hero is a travelling developer. Notwithstanding their trespass, Marti allows a copy of each image she has taken to be passed by the shop owner into the villagers’ unsuspecting hands. The two thieves, followed by the others, are amazed: having actually gotten something they’ve been desperately wanting and needing all along, they are euphoric, believing their prize might protect them from punishment, as opposed to delivering punishment to them. Ecstatic, at long last, at having secured an advantage, the mood of the entire village undergoes unexpected conversion: marked by abrupt, serendipitous unity. They are having a moment: one that entails nothing other than sharing the hoard of magical images around. Peering at the people in them; gabbling, joking, and pointing, they express surprise and amusement, but without trace of unkindness or mockery.

 

For one night, the first night in a thousand years, the villagers are gathered in a mysterious bond of joy that could lead to a festivity that none of them have experienced. But for now, all that they seem interested in is the sharing of the images. They seem only enlivened by, or actually interested in those people, as if perceiving, in each image, a redemptive possibility of some kind. Some of the images are curious to them; like one that shows an anthropomorphic landscape of flesh gleaming in the sunshine. Somehow the image seems to represent a strange kind of equanimity, in the midst of some expansive purifying ordeal. Then it seems that the person-landscape can be viewed more than one way: either lying down, or perceived horizontally: not as landscape at all but as some great statue (they never end up figuring out which way round the photograph is meant to be shown). But it’s Marti’s images of children to which many of the villagers respond most of all. There is one picture that they find, of a child at the seaside, who is kneeling in the lap of the water; her upper body perfectly erect, while water springs magically above, and over, her knees. The girl, who is absorbed in the playing of a recorder, is like a mythical image of a holy flautist: her closed eyes surrounded by a halo of seabirds; some whose wings appear ablur, in motion, while the wings of others appear to be frozen in space. And then there is an image of a rather different child, one that draws some of the villagers to pity: it shows a shyly imperious little girl in a bright checked dress. She is dragging a handbag with her that is as large as her little head, while holding onto a stick, to which is tied a bulbous balloon. The balloon is one which is large enough, and, in, its refined oblong, shaped appropriately, in order to seem like an airborne inversion of the child’s body. It is then that the three of the villagers who are sitting, cross-legged, examining the photograph together, observe something; pointed out by a woman who is crouching just behind them. The balloon that the child is drawing along is a void, a sheer blank in the composition, and the child’s face is showing the sorrow of it. This, as they can clearly see, is an image of how they feel about themselves: each of them walking around in the same fashion, waving their void on a stick, as uncomprehending as children.    


 

-


 

MARTI FRIEDLANDER

Don Driver in his studio, New Plymouth, 1978


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust

Bell-MartiFreidlander-Don Driver in his

It’s in the end, whilst the villagers are absorbed in examining, speculating on, and even debating, the potential redemptive ramification of every image; that the youth, Jape, (known, until now, only for his idleness and wayward pastimes) makes a startling suggestion: they should all try to record their impression of the images in some fashion, and in doing so create some overarching thesis about the world of humanity, that they can present to Gretamahy. In this way, they may yet be able to save their skins through a felicitous kind of cheating. Now as before, they are incapable of grasping their Queen: their problem being not one so much of naiveté, as an abject—highly uncommon—and pathologically absorbed ignorance of history. They aren’t even aware, as most people seem to be, of one of the most celebrated things about her: that their ruler is no hereditary monarch, but one only by dint of charismatic conquest. That the of origin Gretamahy is a village like their own; and that quite aside from her unique greatness of personality, her power is an open secret: one of aligning with her kinsfolk to confront the landowner class. Similarly, the villagers appear to have no notion that the vendetta that began centuries before has its origin a ruse devised by a cunning landowner to divide the villagers against one another. It’s utterly beyond their imagining that the only emotion that their Queen actually feels toward them is a sorrowful love and disappointment. This is mild, compared to the reaction toward them of people who live in other communities; people who look just like them, but who are exasperated at the villager’s murderous unavailability for the project of common uplift, inspired and driven by Gretamahy—even though her virtue may be undermined, at times, by her flashes despotic will.

 

But it’s in finding the photographs that Marti has taken of themselves that they get a lesson not of politics or history but of intimate affirmation in a harsh-seeming world. They are deeply touched: suddenly, they’re perceiving for the first time, their own vulnerability—and better yet, their vulnerability as seen through the eyes of somebody who doesn’t appear to judge them. It all seems like an affirmation—but also a loss of face; they who could never, in the past, have perceived losing face as anything other than a catastrophe, worse than the threat of execution. It’s then that they recall how interested she was in them: unwilling to defend herself from the villagers but seeking the opposite: opening up, with her gaze, a friendlily vulnerable sphere for them to step inside of. Peering at Marti’s photo-portraits of them, they start to remember that any extremity of inclination can be softened by the decorum of a different aspect of their natures, but that they’re not prevented from being kooks, and indomitable freaks, and wild revellers. They could even own to, if they wanted it, an inveterately mild-mannered state. Each of them could embrace traits of serendipity, even in the hot muddiness of flagrant vices.

 

Now, an extraordinary silence settles over the villagers. They’re not sharing the images anymore; not observing, not gabbling, not joking, but simply sitting together in contemplation of the moment. Many of them recognize that they’ve finally been regarded, by somebody outside their sphere, not with the contempt with which they’ve been accustomed all their lives, but an animated attention that’s implicitly humane, yet without any feeling of patronage. Some of them have even got the impression that, as opposed to vice versa, it is they who have been helping her with whatever assignment she has been given (considering, as everybody now knows that no citizen who strays into the sovereign’s purview is even given anything less than some assignment to do. Some of them feel that this may even be a cause for suspecting some vague or discrete arrangement of equality with the hero. Accompanied by gratitude, there’s sense shared by many of the villagers: a feeling, namely, of the foreordained in their encounters with the hero; one that’s outside of having been forced into their role by their ruler.

And some of the villagers are absorbed in a reckoning that’s especially pensive and insightful: they’ve come to see the tragedy of a community that will not perceive its own shadow, stuck in its own nightmare for generations. These are the ones who perceive that the mind-mirror that they have made for themselves is only a dismal chaos of reflection; one in which they’ve never found anything worthwhile noticing, aside from endless projective fragments of their sundry grievances. These same ones have begun, tentatively, to see that, in contrast, the mind-made mirror of the hero is one of an expressive, evolving dance in which she perceives herself in every subject and every subject in herself: a continuous magnifying and aligning of sensitivities—merging into a notion of her work in which she’s the gratified participant, and yet the owner of none of her achievements.

 

The silence is broken, as one of the villagers cries out, and then another, followed by another. The Queen’s guard has moves in from the shadows to arrest all of them: confiscating the photos, dousing their fire, and placing the villagers in wagons, to be taken off to what they all presume will be their site of execution. It’s all over: they have had their moment of joy, followed by insight; and yet have failed, as it seems, only now, that they were ever doomed to do. So the villagers begin their horrendous journey. Arriving eventually somewhere, and beyond grief, they’re initially puzzled to sight a table, laid out for a long banquet. Immediately, they notice the Queen and the Photographer, Marti and Gretamahy: seated side by side at the head of the table, in an animated exchange of pleasantries—until anecdotes, including stories about the villagers themselves, start to emerge and flow, in an ample, relaxed bandwidth of literal vision, from the spoken word of sovereign and hero alike, as photographs. ~

This essay is for Pamela Gray.

COMING: PART TWO

THE MIND-MADE MIRROR

Bell-MartiFreidlander-Merata Mita, Auckl


 

MARTI FRIEDLANDER

Merata Mita, Auckland, 1985


 

Courtesy of the Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust

© New Zealand Jewish Archives, 2021. All rights reserved.

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