Wayne Barrar is an observer, a researcher, and a narrator. His photographs have a depth and warmth. At the same time they speak volumes, and convey the photographer's deeply felt interest in - and concern at - the way humans have affected and interacted with the landscape.
These interests have led Barrar through an impressive array of portfolios, ranging from studies of the salt production at Lake Grassmere to An Expanding Subterra, his major exploration of underground industrial communities.
Barrar's research interests have led him to experiment with the processes used in the original photographic surveys of New Zealand, most importantly the albumen print process developed by Blanquart-Evrard in the 1850s. This process, a painstaking method involving coating paper in an egg and salt wash and then floating on silver nitrate, produces images with a rich brown cast and yellow and cream highlights. (1) The current exhibition focuses on this process, one which has been largely unused in New Zealand for over a century.
With The Catchments, Barrar returns to his long-term interest in historical New Zealand landscape representation which, combined with the methods and warm tones of the works, gives the images a strongly nostalgic feel. Rather than focus directly on human impact on the land, here the natural world and the artificial reflect each other, most poignantly in images of bushland waterfalls and similar cascades flowing over weirs and dams. The long time-exposures render these cataracts as silk curtains draped over a dark land which becomes alternately primordial and controlled. We may have "learned to perceive the picturesque and scenic as a particularly authentic representation of the land", (2) but here we are challenged to look again at the environment and human impact upon it, seeing both the natural and manipulated beauty of the scenes.
1. Misa Jeffereis, Albumen Print, Henry Collection, http://dig.henryart.org/photography-and-video/www/innovation/albumen-print/#0
2. Di Halstead, "Shifting Nature" review, Junctures Magazine, No 2, 2004, http://www.junctures.org/index.php/junctures/article/view/154/157