Marti Friedlander

Eglinton Valley

1970
gelatin silver print
195mm x 285mm

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Literature

Marti Friedlander and Hugo Manson, Self Portrait (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2013), 249.; Leonard Bell, Marti Friedlander (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2009), 8.; Ron Brownson, Marti Friedlander Photographs (Auckland: Random House New Zealand, 2001), cover illus.

Collections

Another from the edition held in the collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki (acquired 1976).

Essay

Eglinton Valley is one of Marti Friedlander’s most iconic images, and justifiably so: it encapsulates her ability to represent the familiar with a refreshing wit and ...

Read full text
Estimate $5,000 - $8,000
Achieved $9,610

Marti Friedlander

Eglinton Valley

1970

gelatin silver print

195mm x 285mm

Auction N˚5

Estimate $5,000 - $8,000

Achieved $9,610

Footnotes

1.   Leonard Bell, Marti Friedlander (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2009), 4.

2.   Roger Oppenheim, “Paradise Lost,” New Argot, 3, I, March 1975, 5.

3.   Marti Friedlander, Self-Portrait (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2013), 250.

Eglinton Valley

by Linda Yang

Eglinton Valley is one of Marti Friedlander’s most iconic images, and justifiably so: it encapsulates her ability to represent the familiar with a refreshing wit and arresting clarity. A straightforward description of Eglinton Valley—sheep in the countryside—may conjure up a stereotypical image of “godzone,” but in Friedlander’s hands the sheep take on an almost mystical appearance, emerging out of a timeless fog. They seem uncannily drawn to Friedlander’s camera, creating a moment of unexpected exchange. We look at them, and they look at us. This suspended moment of mutual curiosity is something that runs through Friedlander’s extensive oeuvre: she was always curious, and always looking.

As a Jewish immigrant who moved to New Zealand with her husband in 1958, Friedlander was suddenly displaced from a vibrant, independent London life to a quiet, semi-rural Henderson existence. This was an isolating and challenging experience, and she would later regard her first three years in New Zealand as the most difficult of her life. However, it was her adjustment to a foreign land that catalysed her to use photography as a way to explore her new surroundings, and find her own place in them.1

It is perhaps Friedlander’s perspective as an outsider that lends her images a sharp insightfulness. When her photo-book Larks in a Paradise: New Zealand Portraits (1974) was published (in which Eglinton Valley was included), her photographs were widely praised for what they revealed about New Zealand and New Zealanders. The images in Larks range from up and down New Zealand, from city to country, from the young to the old. In one photograph, weathered faces creased by the sun raise glasses in a pub. In another, criss-crossing clotheslines flutter in an Arrowtown campsite, a discarded beer bottle offsetting the grand mountains behind.

But Friedlander’s unflinching eye was at times too revealing for some, causing one reviewer to note that “[Larks] tells us much that is not comfortable … the book disturbs not so much by the direct challenge of the images and words as through an insidious nibbling at the edges of unconsciousness.”Perhaps New Zealanders were not ready to be seen as Friedlander saw us: at times lonely, joyful, discontented, or sparsely scattered across a storied landscape. Even her photographs of children are without sentiment, but powerful in their raw emotion and spontaneity.

Nevertheless, Friedlander’s photographs of New Zealand captured a changing society and landscape, and through her lens we may reflect on our shared history with fresh eyes. Her images of protest marches document the feistiness of the 1960s and ‘70s, showing ordinary people proclaiming their positions on war and women’s liberation. Friedander’s extensive travels within New Zealand enabled her to probe aspects of our culture and tell a dizzying range of stories. Her celebrated portraits of kuia for Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th century (with Michael King, 1972) have become an invaluable record not only of moko, but also of whakapapa. Her affinity for diasporic peoples informed her photographs of vineyards for Pioneers of New Zealand Wine (with Dick Scott, 2002), many of which were owned by immigrants seeking a new and better life. Friedlander also photographed many artists for Contemporary New Zealand Painters, Volume One A – M (with Jim and Mary Barr, 1980), creating some of our most iconic portraits of artists, including her photographs of Rita Angus and Ralph Hotere.

Friedlander’s career was celebrated in a retrospective exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2001, curated by Ron Brownson. Eglinton Valley was selected as the flagship image for the exhibition marketing, with the words “What are you looking at?” emblazoned across the foreground. Suddenly, Friedlander’s sheep confronted us on Auckland buses and billboards, bringing these timeless, rural creatures into our urban present. One can trace a continuous captivation with sheep and sheep farmers throughout Friedlander’s career. Whereas Eglinton Valley faces the sheep head-on, another photograph, Scratching Fence (1967), only hints at them: a wire fence is dotted with tufts of wool where sheep scratch themselves for relief, transforming the fence into a soft, passive version of barbed wire. Some of her photographs of farmers have also become iconic images: Shearers, Balclutha (1969) shows two sheep shearers on a break from their labours, resting against a fence with one farmer dangling a cigarette his mouth. Friedlander also photographed stock sales in 1972 and 2004, with glimpses of livestock framed between the legs of farmers standing on top of fences.

During a summer holiday on Waiheke Island in 2012, Friedlander encountered sheep again, gathered on a grassy knoll. Reminded of Eglinton Valley, she hurried to photograph them. But, as she recalls in her memoir, “it just wasn’t the same and I cannot explain why.”Though the moment may have changed, Friedlander’s need to photograph had not.