Max Coolahan

untitled

c. 1960s
gelatin silver print
505mm x 405mm

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Essay

After a limited formal education, Max Coolahan served in the signals division during World War Two, where he was trained as a photographer for the purposes of gathering military...

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Estimate $600 - $800
Achieved $600.63

Max Coolahan

Pit-sawn log

1959-60

gelatin silver print

392mm x 495mm

Auction N˚5

Estimate $600 - $800

Achieved $600.63

Footnotes
  1. Mark Derby, “Going Bush: Photographer Max Coolahan,” in Art New Zealand 98, Autumn 2001, 78.
  2. Ibid., 80.

Images from Nature

by Andrew Clark

After a limited formal education, Max Coolahan served in the signals division during World War Two, where he was trained as a photographer for the purposes of gathering military intelligence. He was seriously injured in New Guinea and was discharged as a result, subsequently experiencing what would now be considered post-traumatic stress disorder, but was then diagnosed as “shell-shock.” Coolahan moved to New Zealand with his wife Kate in 1952, settling in Wellington. Coolahan purchased a hut in the Orongorongo Valley, a stretch of dense bush south of Lower Hutt, which became a refuge from his struggle with PTSD and also a source of inspiration. He took all of his photographs in Orongorongo, documenting the landscape as well as details of the bush: plants, trees, stones and creeks. He exhibited two shows of his work in Wellington: Images from Nature in 1962 and Images and Abstracts in 1963. Some of these photographs were selected for a UNESCO travelling exhibition which toured internationally, including to Japan and Israel. However, Coolahan did not pursue an art career, instead working as a teacher at Onslow College from 1962 until ill-health forced him to retire in 1983. Coolahan’s photography was a part of his pedagogy as a teacher; his works were intended to demonstrate the fundamentals of modernist design and composition, a function at which they excel.