|Student volunteers hanging Ian Macdonald's prints for 'To Save a Forest.... exhibition|
As usual, there were pluses and minuses to the PIP Festival, with the positives dominating, and apart from the extraordinary array of photographs on display, it was the genuine warmth of their welcome, and the generous help from the volunteers that made a huge impression. Ian Macdonald summed up the exhibitions when after his initial foray he returned to exclaim that he had seen more outstanding photographs in two hours at PIP than he had seen during his recent exploration of London's photography scene over a four week period. Ian and Elise Macdonald are legendary hosts, and Ian did as much as any official tourist bureau could to entice their new Chinese friends to get to enjoy a New Zealand visit and visit them at home in Matakana.
|Auckland Festival of Photography's exhibition 'People' at PIP|
|Martin Hill's work, 'To Save a Forest....', PIP|
|Jenny Tomlin's pinhole exhibition 'Life Beyond the Lens', PIP 2014|
|'Industry of Hebei - Memory' exhibition by the Hebei Black & White Photographers Association, Main Hall, Jixiang Temple, PIP 2014|
|Unfolded cover of 'To Save a Forest....' catalogue designed with the help of Hamish Macdonald, Auckland|
|Visitors at 'To Save a Forest.....' exhibition|
|Installing Ian Macdonald's work in 'To Save a Forest....' exhibition|
|Installing Craig Potton's work in 'To Save a Forest....' exhibition|
|Ian Macdonald with PIP volunteers who hung 'To Save a Forest....' exhibition|
|Group photo of 'To Save a Forest....' team at PIP Pingyao|
|Martin Hill: 'Diamond Lake Ice Circle'. Wanaka, NZ, 2011. Midwinter ice cut from lake. Sculpture diameter 1300mm|
|Craig Potton: 'Storm, Milford Sound,' Fiordland, NZ 1993|
Right from the start Martin Hill's elegant photographs drew attention with the simple universal forms with which they construct temporal sculptures from local materials such as ice, sticks, stones and leaves. Martin was concerned to make clear that his photographs featured symbolic sculpted shapes made by him and his partner, Philippa Jones, and were not found objects. That was something the more sophisticated visitors understood, but the confusion was palpable among a large number who had not yet read the catalogue or captions and figured it out.
|Martin Hill's floor talk, 'To Save a Forest....' PIP 2014|
|Martin Hill's floor talk with translator Julia Yuanyuan, 'To Save a Forest....' PIP 2014|
After we were first informed that none would be available, a large new video monitor miraculously appeared, and was quickly assembled by Ian Macdonald so Martin could run his short film showing how he and Philippa made their sculptures for the camera in the mode art historian Van Deren Coke called 'Fabricated to be Photographed'. By contrast, in an ironic twist, Ian Macdonald's latest work, composed of numerous segments seamlessly stitched together, can be accurately described as 'Photographed to be Fabricated.' Both approaches have become as mainstream as Ansel Adams's (or Craig Potton's) "straight" photography, thanks to the digital revolution. For this exhibition each method has been used for the purpose of raising awareness about the crucial need to protect the natural environment and nature's cycles upon which we depend for survival.
|Ian Macdonald's floor talk, 'To Save a Forest....' PIP|
|Craig Potton's floor talk, 'To Save a Forest....' PIP|
My delight on hearing of Martin Hill's deserved award came with mixed feelings. Firstly because it is strange to have one of three equally distinguished practitioners singled out from a themed show celebrating different and highly sophisticated approaches. (I have the same problem with the Prix Pictet and most awarding systems which are more akin to a lottery.) And sadly, the credibility of the PIP awards system is undermined by its lack of transparency and sometimes perverse decisions that defy any logic when it comes to quality. (This year, for example, a young "curator" was solemnly awarded for presenting a display that made selected woman photographers' work a minor accessory to an indulgent homage to her own pink artwork. Last year a pathetically presented survey of an old soldier's work gained a top award for curatorship. Such lapses do not help PIP's reputation.)
|A view from the podium: Awards lineup for foreign exhibitors l-r: Martin Hill, Thomas Kellner (Germany), and Cecilia Paredes (Peru/Costa Rica)|
|Julia Yuanyuan: Stitched lineup with foreigners in front at PIP Awards night|
Martin's award, as well as giving due credit, had the effect of drawing more people to our exhibition and more serious attention, which is obviously a plus, and it helped me to publicise the exhibition more widely in print and on the internet. It has also led to interest in exhibiting his work, and by extension, likely Craig's and Ian's as well, in China. Awards certainly provide exposure and leverage for the winners, so Martin's work was also featured in People's Photography newspaper.
|Martin Hill's work featured in People's Photography newspaper 22 October 2014|
Despite the down sides, it is still worthwhile exhibiting at Pingyao, and the interest in work from New Zealand is growing. Julia Durkin was a judge at the China International Press Photo Contest (CHIPP) in Beijing in April this year and that led to an invitation for her to provide a series of interviews with New Zealand photographers for China's Photo World magazine in 2015. She is raising the profile of New Zealand photography through the Asia Pacific Photoforum, and the Auckland Festival of Photography has already started to feature photographers from China in its offerings.
For me, I am starting to represent Martin Hill, Ian Macdonald and Craig Potton in China and working towards getting exhibitions for them and a few Chinese photographers. So it was rewarding also to see that Wang Qing, whose essay on a traditional Moslem Uighur community in Turpan, Sinkiang, I helped place with the New York Times earlier this year, won an award for her work at PIP.
John B Turner, Beijing, 16 December 2014
More photographs from PIP Pingyao 2014 can be seen on my website: www.jbt.photoshelter.com, at www.ianmacdonald.photoshelter.com, and the PIP website http://www.pip919.com/
Unless otherwise noted the photographs were made by me.
Apologies for the typographical hiccups.
|Ian Macdonald:: Craig Potton and Amy Liu, PIP 2014|
|Ian Macdonald: Jenny Tomlin explaining the mysteries of pinhole photography at her exhibition 'Beyond the Lens,' PIP 2014|
|Jenny Tomlin's pinhole photograph taking on a new life under dismal lighting, 'Beyond the Lens,' PIP 2014|
|Photographs by Qiane Matata-Sipu, from Auckland Festival of Photography's 'People' exhibition, Last day, PIP 2014|
|Photograph by Tim J. Veling in the shade, from Auckland Festival of Photography's 'People' exhibition, Last day, PIP 2014|
|Photograph by Tanu Gago: 'Vicky and Genevieve from Tama'ita'i Pasifika Mao' in the shade, from Auckland Festival of Photography's 'People' exhibition, Last day, PIP 2014|
|Photographs by Qiane Matata-Sipu (left) and two by Solomon Mortimer (right) from Auckland Festival of Photography's 'People' exhibition, Last day, PIP 2014|
|Photographs by Solomon Mortimer, from Auckland Festival of Photography's 'People' exhibition, Last day, PIP 2014|
|Dismantling the exhibition 'My Bed & One Day in China' subtitled 'The First China's Top Ten Mobile Phone Photographers. Last day, PIP 2014|
|Detail from the exhibition 'My Bed & One Day in China' subtitled 'The First China's Top Ten Mobile Phone Photographers. The photographs, although printed on one sheet of paper, were by two different photographers. Last day, PIP 2014|
|Early Installation view of Martin Hill's work in Diesel Factory A1, PIP 2014|
|New display space for PIP's permanent collection with superior lighting, PIP 2014|
|Julia Yuanyuan: Seminar on conservation photography with Martin Hill, Ian Macdonald and Craig Potton, PIP 2014|
|Ian Macdonald: Dinner in honour of the New Zealand contingent hosted by the Hebei Black & White Photographers Association|