Selected images from 1963 – 2003
Best known for the making of landmark movies including Sleeping Dogs, Smash Palace and The World’s Fastest Indian, Roger Donaldson has always armed himself with a camera.
Lopdell House Gallery in Titirangi is very proud to be touring Roger Donaldson’s first public exhibition of photographs. ALL DOGS SHOT, presents a stunning collection of black and white photographs shot in New Zealand and around the world.
NB: This is a Lopdell House Gallery tour. Please direct inquiries to Kate Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the first time I have exhibited my photographs.
In 1965 I came to New Zealand from Australia on a summer holiday. I was a geology student and I had been drafted by the Australian army to go to Vietnam. I was very confused about what I should do with my life and very ambivalent about my prospects in Australia. I realized my real passion was photography and so I decided to abandon my career as a geologist and try and become a photographer. ..By now I had fallen in love with New Zealand land and I had with me my treasured 35mm EXACTA camera that I had bought from a childhood friend when I was 16.
Within a couple of weeks I found myself in Nelson and managed to get a job as a beach photographer taking snaps of people on Tahunanui Beach. This was a less than profitable exercise and so I moved on, eventually finishing up in Auckland.
I presented myself on the doorstep of one of New Zealand’s best known fashion photographers of the time, Bill Double. Bill and his assistant Barry McKinley gave me a bed to sleep on and some real encouragement to pursue my dream to become a professional photographer. With their help I put together a portfolio of images and set about trying to get some work and make a name for myself.
I managed to get a job working for another photographer, Cyril Taft and this experience gave me the confidence to set up my first photographic business, “Roger Donaldson Photography Limited” in the basement of a house in Parnell.
During this time I met two people who were to make a big impact on me in the years to come; Bob Harvey and Des Dubbelt. Des was the editor of PLAYDATE, a magazine devoted to movies, fashion and the arts. Bob ran an advertising agency called MacHarmans. These two became life long friends and a real inspiration to me over the years. Des and Bob gave me some of my first paying photographic assignments. For Playdate I photographed the music and fashion scene and for MacHarmans I did commercial work. With their help and encouragement my photographic career was launched. However, it was a real battle working away on my own. Around this time I had the good fortune to meet a like minded guy of a similar age, Mike Smith and together we started Aardvark Films.
Working freelance for Bob Harvey and MacHarmans, led to Aardvark Films making the leap into the world of film-making. I happened to be in MacHarmans discussing a still photo shoot when the possibility of filming some TV commercials for the NZ Labour Party came up and from then on still-photography slowly morphed into me becoming a movie cameraman and ultimately into writing, producing, and directing movies.
My partnership with Mike lasted a couple of years and after we had gone our separate ways I continued shooting stills as well as making documentaries. Around this time I met Ian Mune, a young actor and stage director. Together we set about creating dramatic films, the first of which was “Derek”. Together we collaborated on 10 films. The most important of those was “Sleeping Dogs”
After “Sleeping Dogs” I went on to make “Smash Palace” The international success of that film led to me accepting offers to make a studio film in Hollywood. I was spending less and less time in New Zealand so I reluctantly closed the doors of Aardvark Films. I was then confronted with what to do with fifteen years of film and still photography negatives and prints. I sent all my movie based materials to the NZ Film Archives and put all my photographic and movie equipment as well as all my negatives and prints into a storage facility. As fate would have it, the day I flew out of NZ bound for Los Angeles, the storage facility burnt to the ground and all my original still negatives and equipment were lost in the fire. As a result there are very few images that exist of my still photography work before the early 1980’s.
This loss was a major blow to me. It was some time before I was able to face taking more photos. Although I was spending most of my time directing movies my hobby was still-photography. I built a dark-room under my home in Santa Monica and spent hours working away trying to produce the perfect print of photos I had taken. When digital photography came along I instantly saw how it would revolutionize photography. I was eager to embrace this new world of image capture.
My film “The Getaway” was the second Hollywood movie to be edited digitally. Overnight this new technology changed how films were edited. I recognized that the digital world was upon us and so I bought one of the first digital still-cameras to come on the market.
In the early 1990’s digital imagining was still in its infancy. The prospect of making high-resolution fine art prints that could rival traditional photographic prints in terms of aesthetic value and longevity was still a dream being pursued by a handful of visionaries. Among those early digital pioneers were rock musician Graham Nash and friend and former band road manager of “Crosby, Stills and Nash”, Mac Holbert. Together they established NASH EDITIONS, the first fine art print studio in the world.
Around this time I saw an exhibition in Los Angeles of David Hockney’s work. Some prints in the show were produced by Nash Editions. I tracked down Mac Holbert. He was a mine of information and very generous with his knowledge. I had some of my negatives scanned and printed by them. The high quality results convinced me that digital printmaking was the future of the art.
I now have two Canon digital cameras that I constantly use. With digital photography the feed back as to what the image will ultimately look like is instant. I love it. I also have a Nikon film scanner and do my own scans of my old negatives. I love how I am able to reproduce, with much more precision, what I was hoping to capture in my original photograph. Although it is more time consuming, I am able to produce prints with a subtlety I am much happier with than those that I had done in my darkroom.
The prints in this exhibition “ALL DOGS SHOT”, were digitally produced by me over the last 4 years. Some were originally shot on Kodak black and white negative stock and some on my Canon digital cameras and processed using PHOTOSHOP software. All the prints in this exhibition were printed on Epson printers by me personally.
My commitment to the digital world continues. I am now in the middle of making my first all digital movie. It is being filmed on the new Arriflex D20 High Definition camera and is the first feature film to be shot on this system.
ROGER DONALDSON Documentaries & Short Films
1960s-70s LABOUR PARTY ADVERTISING FILMS – Camerman
1969 TE HENGA – Cameraman/editor
1969 START AGAIN Produced by Bob Harvey & Warwick Brock
Roger Donaldson Camerman
1971 OFFERINGS TO THE GOD OF SPEED about the life of
Southlander, Burt Munro. This documentary was the
inspiration for THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN
1971 GEOFF PERRY documentary on NZ motorcyclist
1973 DEREK with Ian Mune, David Mitchell & Roger Donaldson
1974 THE KAIPO WALL mountaineering documentary
1975 EVEREST a return to Mount Everest with Sir Edmund
Hillary 21 years after his successful ascent
1979 CAPE HORN a sailing expedition around Cape Horn
1976 Donaldson and Mune produced the following 7 films
under the title WINNERS AND LOSERS:
THE WOMAN AT THE STORE; A GREAT DAY
SHINING WITH THE SHINER; AFTER THE DEPRESSION
BIG BROTHER LITTLE SISTER; A LAWFUL EXCUSE
BLUES FOR MISS LAVERTY
1976 JOCKO (TVNZ drama series) Director
1977, with the help of Larry Parr, Donaldson raised the finances
to make his first feature film, SLEEPING DOGS, based upon the
novel SMITH’S DREAM written by New Zealand author C.K. Stead.
The film starred Sam Neill, in his debut as a feature film actor, as
well as Ian Mune, Warren Oates and Nevan Rowe.
SLEEPING DOGS was a major factor in convincing New Zealand’s
politicians that a Film Commission, financed with public funds,
should be established.
1977 SLEEPING DOGS
1981 SMASH PALACE
1984 THE BOUNTY
1987 NO WAY OUT
1990 CADILLAC MAN
1992 WHITE SANDS
1994 THE GETAWAY
1997 DANTE’S PEAK
2000 THIRTEEN DAYS
2003 THE RECRUIT
2005 THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN
2007 BAKER STREET (in production)