As a young man, Mark Adams had his heart set on photography. Between 1967 and 1949, Adams enrolled in the graphic design program at Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts, so that he could have access to their photographic technology. A fellow student taught him developing and printing, and while there, he discovered the School’s 4 x 5-inch Linhof plate camera. Today, Adams is one of New Zealand’s most respected photographers. His friendships with Tony Fomison and Theo Schoon encouraged in him a sensitive and appreciative interest in Māori and Pasifika cultures, that would eventually lead to Adams’ raw, uncompromising documentation of traditional Samoan tatau, as well as richly atmospheric landscape images documenting the sites of Cook’s landings around New Zealand, as fundamental points of Māori-Pākehā interaction.
His work is held in many New Zealand public collections and has featured in exhibitions in Australia, South Africa and Europe, the 1998 São Paulo Biennial, and the 2009 book Tatau: Samoan Tattoo, New Zealand Art, Global Culture, published by Te Papa.