This item is an image. It was created by on or around the date 01/01/1988.
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This colour photograph of a bridal shop on Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland was taken by Haruhiko Sameshima in 1988, using a large format, 4 x 5 inch Linhof camera. It documents one of the many newly constructed shop fronts that sprung up around Auckland city in the building boom of the 1980s. This photograph was created while Sameshima was studying at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. Along with Khyber Pass, Grafton and Broadway, Newmarket (both also in the Te Papa collection), Karangahape Road, Newton was part of Sameshima's submission for an assignment. The Studio Two students were asked to document the changing face of Auckland, a city undergoing massive transformations during the 1980s.
Witness to change?Karangahape Road, Newton resists the conventions and meanings of documentary photography in its choice of subject matter and in Sameshima's use of colour film rather than black and white. Elam provided Sameshima with the opportunity to find out more about the history and theory of photography. Books such as Susan Sontag's cautionary text On Photography and Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida emphasise the morbid connotations of a lot of photographic practice. Often the photographer was seen as a witness to destruction and loss, and photography was viewed as a kind of funerary tradition, freezing in time that which was decaying and would soon be gone. To escape these aspects of photography, Sameshima chose new buildings to photograph, ignoring the past in favour of a triumphant present. We might also read Karangahape Road, Newton in these terms: trapped behind plate glass the bride in the shop window is forever young, poised in a moment of purity and spectacle that will never come to an end.
The commercial and the conceptualPhotographs like this are not the first time Sameshima had depicted commercial buildings. Te Papa's collection includes photographs like Coolstore, from 1980, which reveals that such a subject has been a long-standing concern for the artist. However, Karangahape Road, Newton, also shows how far Sameshima's photographic practice had developed. Whereas the earlier images seek to understand the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography - how does a large format camera represent the world? - the later photographs ask questions about what such representations mean, and how photographs can challenge or extend an existing history of photography. For all its apparent banality and concern with the everyday, Karangahape Road, Newton is an engagement with photographic ideas like the legacy and tradition of documentary photography in the twentieth century.