Over many years Michael Seresin has assembled a fantastic collection of images by international master photographers. He has generously offered the work he has here to tour New Zealand.
The exhibition offers New Zealand audiences a rare opportunity to see some of the most famous images in photographic history in their original form as vintage black and white prints. Because of their age and calibre these prints are very valuable. The photographers include some of the best-known names from early to mid 20th century, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Eugene Atget, Josef Sudek, W. Eugene Smith, Man Ray, Bill Brandt, Mario Giacomelli, G.H. Brassai, Manuel Alvarez-Bravo and others.
Early twentieth century Paris is represented in several works each by Atget, poetic recorder of old Paris, and Brassai, who photographed habitues of the secretive 1930s demi-monde. Surrealist Paris is evoked by Kertesz’s iconic Satiric Dancer 1926 and Man Ray’s provocative La Prieure 1930. France’s most famous photojournalist Cartier-Bresson has a well-known Mexican image. A Surrealist tone continues in the mysterious image by Mexico’s greatest photographer Alvarez-Bravo Retrato de lo eterno 1935. E.J. Bellocq’s Prostitute, Storyville, New Orleans c1912, reflects Brassai’s concerns. Other Americans include its best-known photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, and William Klein. Bleak British land and cityscapes feature in several well known Brandt works. Still lives by Sudek and Baron Adolf de Meyer extend the exhibition’s theme of beauty. Other photographers include Frank Drtikol, Leonard Herman, Umbo, Mick Lindberg and John Gutman. Artists and musicians are a particular focus, including two portraits of Picasso.
The vintage prints are each startlingly different and unique. Institutional collections tend to have concentrated on modern prints by single individuals. This collection, by contrast, provides an intensely beautiful encapsulation of modernist photography’s key styles and many of its image-makers, who represented for Seresin a fresh and different way of viewing the world.
The collection has added interest because it was assembled by an expatriate New Zealander who has also made his living by his eyes. Seresin was the cinematographer on Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs and later made many films with Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Birdy, Angela’s Ashes) through to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and others. Like Donaldson and Sam Neill, Seresin has re-established a base in New Zealand over the last decade with the successful Seresin Estate winery and olive grove. He continues to give generous support to the visual arts and culture in New Zealand through the winery and his boatshed restaurant at Waterfall Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.
The photographs he has bought reflect Seresin’s attraction to a European aesthetic, culture and history. The images convey romance, beauty, sensuality, mystery and visual poetry. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to access numerous European master works in an affordable way.
Janet Bayly. 5 April 2005
‘Another View’ was curated and organised by the Millennium Gallery, Blenheim.