Auckland photographer Glen Jowitt is internationally renowned for his images of Pacifica peoples, their culture and lives. In the course of his work he has made over 20 visits to Pacific Islands in the last 30 years and he is closely linked to New Zealand Pacific communities. It is not surprising that he has a collection of handmade works from the Pacific, mainly hats, fans and placemats, which are displayed in the living room of his house and which bear silent witness to this sustained professional practice.
Jowitt attributes an early interest in the everyday and ‘special day' expressions of culture, especially Pacific cultures, to his childhood. In the early 1980s Jowitt was commissioned to photograph the Karangahape Road area and this brought him into contact with the Pacific Island street, church and community life that abounded in the area. Sensing his enthusiasm a number of the Pacific Islanders that Jowitt met encouraged him to visit their homelands and it was about this time he obtained his first hat, a gift, made by a Ponsonby woman, Mary Teva. Jowitt also received strong encouragement for his work and his Pacific focus when he was in New York from a curator at the International Centre of Photography who suggested that what was presented in his images was something remarkable.
With Pacific community encouragement as well as curatorial encouragement and Arts Council support Jowitt undertook his first trip to the Pacific in 1981-82 and over six months visited the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and the Tokelau Islands. He says he was warmly embraced by communities on this first trip, and subsequent trips and a number of the items in his collection were gifts to him partly in response to his commitments to negotiating permission to photograph, sharing copyright with photographic subjects and later gifting copies of his publications to schools. He also purchased works for his collection and his buying focus was on practical items that helped him deal with tropical heat, such as hats and fans, whilst travelling. Jowitt is particularly fond of the hats made from rito, the fine fibre of the inner fronds of coconut leaves.
Jowitt‘s collection is a testament to his engagement with Pacific communities in New Zealand and across the Pacific over many years. For him they are souvenirs of particular individuals, places and times as he can easily recall the circumstances in which he acquired every object. But they also stand as evidence of a career that includes the making of countless images, some held in leading private and public collections around the world, the making of 19 books and his deep respect for the cultures of the Pacific.