Murray Cammick

Pontiac photographed late 1975

1975
gelatin silver print
154mm x 235mm

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Literature

Nina Seja, PhotoForum at 40: Counterculture, Clusters, and Debates in New Zealand (Auckland: Rim Books, 2014), 27.; PhotoForum 39, August/September 1977, cover.

Collections

Another from the edition in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Essay

Murray Cammick emerged in the mid-1970s alongside other New Zealand documentary photographers like Glenn Busch, Fiona Clark and Clive Stone, seeking communities and identities t...

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Estimate $800 - $1,200
Achieved $780.81

Murray Cammick

Pontiac photographed late 1975

1975

gelatin silver print

154mm x 235mm

Auction N˚5

Estimate $800 - $1,200

Achieved $780.81

Flash Cars

by Andrew Paul Wood

Murray Cammick emerged in the mid-1970s alongside other New Zealand documentary photographers like Glenn Busch, Fiona Clark and Clive Stone, seeking communities and identities that were on the margins of the bland mainstream culture of the times.

Through his love for soul music and Americana, Cammick was drawn to a nocturnal and youthful urban demimonde of Auckland’s Queen Street. Between 1974 (while still a student at the Elam School of Fine Art) and 1981, he documented an early manifestation of boy racer culture: the young men (and a few women), mainly out of West Auckland, who paraded their restored classic American V8 cars up Queen Street on a Saturday night, and the entourages that followed them.

This became the series Flash Cars, to which the present images belong. This series typifies Cammick’s approach to the problematic relationship between photographer and subject. Despite being slightly older than his subjects (although he still lived with his parents in Glendowie when he started), Cammick achieved his subjects’ trust by being part flattering courtier and enthusiastic supporter who ingratiated himself with attention and free prints, and part social anthropologist, observing, perhaps slightly enviously, from the outside.

Other aspects of Cammick’s work touched on sex work and the emergence of punk in New Zealand, chiming with the work of Fiona Clark, and the working man, paralleling Glenn Busch. Cammick’s easy relationship with outsider youth culture eventually led in 1977 to the founding of Rip It Up magazine with Alastair Dougal, and what became a career in rock journalism. In the 1980s Cammick launched other publications: the short-lived Extra, street fashion magazine Cha-Cha, and pop magazine Shake. He also founded two music labels: Southside Records in 1989, an early incubator for Pacific hip hop, and Wildside Labels, which fostered the New Zealand rock revival of the 1990s.

Part of what gives Cammick’s pictures their charge is their holistic, sensitive, non-judgemental embrace of the subcultures he was documenting. This aesthetic shows the influence of the movie American Graffiti, which had come out in 1973, but also a kind of shy deference that perhaps stems from Cammick being a somewhat inexperienced born-again Christian when he began recording these slices of an edgier, more primal side of life with his SLR Minolta. It was a time when professional cameras were still far from ubiquitous, and to have a stranger ask to take your picture was glamorous and flattering, especially for people consciously putting themselves on display.