The relationship between photography and art is now a committed one; in fact, it is arguable whether art can exist without it. Like European 'Old Masters' artworks some jewels are only ever seen by a handful of people. And so the photographic representation itself becomes a known and sometimes desired object and eventually part of jewellery's discourse. Jeweller Octavia Cook, who along with fellow jeweller Warwick Freeman has curated Eye Catch, recently had herself photographed wearing her Royal Gilded Ectoplasm Brooch before it left New Zealand with a one-way ticket to Amsterdam. "I like it more in the photograph than in person," she says. "That's the weird flipside of a jewel having a different life in a photograph."
Eye Catch is Objectspace's first photographic exhibition. The categories in which the photographs are grouped are porous, their borders open: jewellery in portraiture; as prop; as product line; as self portrait; as emblem; in fiction; as artefact; in the news; and in time and place. Eye Catch is not a definitive collection of jewellery in New Zealand photographs; it "contains what Cook and Freeman caught after trawling, albeit with the gimlet eyes of jewellery practitioners" says writer Frances Walsh who interviewed the curators about their selection.
Many jewellers have commissioned photographers to document and present their work, especially for publication, and Eye Catch presents a number of examples of this relationship between jewellery and photography. Jewellers Octavia Cook and Lisa Walker have, as content creators, deepened this relationship by authoring a number of photographs that stand alongside the jewellery within their own practices. In the case of Lisa Walker, Frances Walsh observes that Walker's photographs "are pre-emptive strikes to those who would question whether her jewellery is jewellery."
Historically jewellery has played a strong role in portraiture because of its ability to convey significant information about the sitter's character and status. Portrait subjects Liz Maw and Bill Riley seem to compete with the jewellery they sport for our attention. The strong character of medical practitioner and advocate Dr Diana Mason, with her orbital earrings and other accoutrements, seems to be challenging us to enter her orbit. And at the other end of the spectrum the portrait of the nineteenth century Maori youth dressed in Roman toga, feathers and tiara while intriguing seems more baffling than character revealing. In as much as any photograph can be read as true, Glen Jowitt's photograph is pretty much what you see. A school girl attends the celebrations of Tonga's King TÄufa'Ähau Tupou IV's 85th birthday wearing a necklace made of pandanus seeds.
Eye Catch also includes a selection of Victorian and Edwardian jewellery containing photographs, from a Private Auckland Collection.
Mark Adams, George Leslie Adkin, Fran Allison, Jim Barr, Pauline Bern, Renee Bevan, Peter Black, Chris Charteris, Octavia Cook, Mary Curtis, Spencer Digby, Ilse-Marie Erl, Clifton Firth, Warwick Freeman, Karl Fritsch, Jens Hansen, Niki Hastings-McFall, Morrie Hill, Glenn Jowitt, Lizzy Leckie, Len Lye, Adrienne Martyn, Liz Maw, Richard Orjis, Fiona Pardington, Patrick Reynolds, Theo Schoon, Ralph Seldon, Marie Shannon, Aaron Smale, Sofia Tekela-Smith, Yvonne Todd, Lisa Walker, Anna Wallis, Areta Wilkinson
Presented in association with: 2011 Auckland Festival of Photography