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New Zealand had the beginnings of an identity, but this Real New Zealand was firmly rooted in the (white) countryside - in the awe-inspiring mountains and green fields, the cows and countless sheep, our Real Men farmers and rugby players. In Inventing New Zealand (1996), Claudia Bell writes that “in New Zealand we can see the exclusion of women from the national character, the marginalisation of Maori, and the representations of the country that focus on just one class” (p. 188). She argues that this causes a massive disparity between the imagined national identity and the reality of cultural experience (p. 189). The Real New Zealand that New Zealanders were offered was largely incongruous with every day existence and it was not until the ‘70s that a different picture of New Zealand - often urban and less pastorally idyllic - was presented to both the outside world and to home audiences. Social documentary photographers such as John Pascoe, Les Cleveland, and in particular Marti Friedlander, produced photographs that helped form part of our new cultural iconography. These photographs are both familiar and yet strange - why would anyone want to take photographs of ordinary New Zealanders when there are beautiful mountains and rivers to photograph? However, as Marti Friedlander said, “I like the ordinary. I find the ordinary extraordinary. I go into a street, I see so much. Not just in terms of moments that need to be captured, but because of aspects that say something about the humanity of what’s there.” (Cohen, NZ Listener, 2004). One of the first documentary photographers to emerge in New Zealand was John Pascoe. He started out photographing the New Zealand landscape - in particular mountains, as he was a keen mountaineer and tramper. In many ways he was considered the archetypal Kiwi man - as Athol McCredie wrote in Witness to Change (1985), Pascoe was “self taught, self-motivated, highly flexible” (Bayly, McCredie, 1985, p. 30) and “down-to-earth” (p. 34). It was not until Pascoe worked for Internal Affairs for the New Zealand government in 1942 that he began to record aspects of everyday New Zealand life - in particular relating to the war effort. Pascoe worked for Internal Affairs for only three years; however during that time he recorded images that according to McCredie are “the most evocative images we have of that period” (p. 29). Many artists and writers were beginning to explore all aspects of New Zealand culture, not just the sanitised parts that were good for tourism. Pascoe was highly influenced by British filmmaker, John Grierson, who once said, “In England, we seem to see and hear a lot about New Zealand. . . I knew about your mountains and glaciers. . . I knew you had a lot of Maoris who staged shows for rich tourists, and that you had mud that bubbled… But never anything about the human beings that live in it” (p. 33). For this reason, Pascoe proceeded to capture images of ordinary New Zealand human beings. Due to his official status as a Government photographer, Pascoe had authorized access to places, events and people that were well out of reach of most other photographers during that period. Therefore, he was able to record a part of New Zealand history that would have otherwise gone unrecorded - such as Japanese P.O.W.s, warfare training, women in industry and munition manufacture. This extensive documentation of what was essentially ordinary New Zealand, would have been at the time unheard of - although, McCredie writes that the Depression had “awakened a social conscience… a belief that it was the ordinary person who mattered most” (p. 32). The Labour Government in power during the war supported this belief, and it was Pascoe’s job to document the newly initiated social programs aimed at helping the ordinary New Zealander. His photographs of health camps, state housing, milk in schools and physical education programs could easily be viewed as propaganda for the Government, or tools to raise morale - as depicting every day New Zealanders helping out ‘Our Boys’ in any way we could, would invariably lift national morale. However, according to McCreadie, not all of Pascoe’s photographs were well received by the Government. It was reported that the Prime Minister at the time, Peter Fraser, was “rather displeased” (p. 35) with a Pascoe photograph of Maori

First Son: Memory and Myth, an adjustment of faith  

First Son is an exploration of cultural change in New Zealand from the 1940s till the 1980susing textiles as medium for communication. It ai...

First Son: Memory and Myth, an adjustment of faith  

First Son is an exploration of cultural change in New Zealand from the 1940s till the 1980susing textiles as medium for communication. It ai...

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