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Steve Schapiro, Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March, 1965 © Steve Schapiro & Fahey/Klein Gallery
Steve Schapiro, Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March, 1965 © Steve Schapiro & Fahey/Klein Gallery

New Zealand artist PJ Paterson’s images comprise multiple layers where sweeping landscapes are juxtaposed with the trappings of a consumerist society to create surreal environments. His melding of fact and fantasy taps in beautifully to this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography theme – Truth and Fiction – so it is no surprise that when the Festival was searching for the 2015 commissioned artist, Paterson’s work fell under the judges’ gaze.

“This is my first public commission, it’s awesome, “ says Paterson. “Working with the Festival’s theme of Truth and Fiction meant the brief was very broad and wasn’t beyond my normal scope…my work is highly manipulated, it’s not a real representation of what I see, but rather what I feel.”

To demonstrate, Paterson refers to the image where thousands of bicycles reach to a brooding horizon. “When I was in Amsterdam there were bicycles everywhere. It’s overwhelming how many bikes are on the streets, but taking a single image doesn’t convey that sense, that feeling. In this image I am recreating the impression that all these bikes had on me, that idea that there are thousands and they go on forever to fill the landscape”.

This train of thought is also evident in Paterson’s other images where junkyard cars and engines flood picturesque valleys creating a metaphor for the waste generated in our cities. He says that initially it wasn’t his intention to make comment on the consumerist nature of society, and its environmental impact, but that is what many people believe is his aim.

“I’m not really trying to convey a message or a belief of mine, but it is amazing just how much stuff we make and buy and throwaway. There’s a kind of beauty to it, like there is with images of derelict buildings. There’s something cool about it, they look amazing even though it’s someone’s hurt. There’s kind of a voyeurism to it rather than being right in it.”

Paterson tells that he came to photography through painting after a life changing experience led him to follow his artistic heart. This former electrician is now carving a name in the art world and making a living from his passion with his unique canvases and limited photographic series. Sold exclusively through Sanderson Contemporary Art gallery in Auckland, Paterson’s photographs are available in editions of only three increasing the cachet for collectors.

Initially Paterson used photography as part of his painting practice, photographing subjects that he would then interpret on canvas. Now he works across both mediums dedicating himself to one stream at a time depending on inspiration. Recently he’s been selling as many photographs as paintings, which he says is a shift. “I think there’s been a bit of a stigma around photography as art because so many people think they can take a great photo, but attitudes are starting to change”.

To fulfill the Festival commission Paterson has created five new works that deal with urban-scapes and feature images he shot in Shanghai earlier this year. This new series builds on his existing work where Paterson inserts unlikely objects or buildings into existing streetscapes to create newly imagined cities. The commissioned work will be on show at Silo 6 in Wynyard Quarter until 17 June.


Auckland Festival of Photography
From 28th May to 20th June, 2015



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