Ann Shelton’s internationally recognised large‑scale, hyper real photographic works operate at the nexus of conceptual and documentary modes, investigating the social, political and historical contexts that inform readings of the landscape and its contents. Shelton, born in Timaru, is recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading photographic artists. Having gained her MFA from The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, Shelton’s work is regularly seen in New Zealand and internationally in countries as diverse as China, Lithuania, Italy, England, Poland, Germany, Australia and Canada. She is Associate Professor in Photography at Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University in Wellington and Chairperson of Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington’s longest running artist-run space.
A critique of press photography – Shelton’s previous career was in photojournalism – has informed Shelton’s trajectory as an artist and is central to her ongoing interest in the politics of representation. In what can be characterized as a marked shift away from Henri Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’, Shelton’s images are less concerned with depiction of an event and more interested in capturing what has been termed the ‘after-moment’. Her images of historically loaded sites refuse to visually represent an event as it occurs, embracing uncertainty and alluding instead to what might have happened, by adopting absence as a reoccurring photographic troupe. This strategy can be said to prompt a different kind of looking, slower, more speculative and engaged, this mode foregrounds the importance of the viewer’s engagement and role in creating meaning in a photograph.
Shelton’s major project ‘a library to scale’ toured New Zealand and Australia in 1997. In 2009 her series ‘Public Places in Images Recalled (Bilder auf Abruf)’ was exhibited in Germany’s largest photographic biennale, curated by Tobias Berger and Esther Ruelfs. In 2010 Shelton co-edited the publication ‘Sightseeing: an exhibition and a publication of postcards that explore the representation of place in contemporary German and New Zealand photography’ – this group show included her work among eight German and eight New Zealand artists. Shelton’s work was included in ‘Dark Sky’, curated by Geoffery Batchen and Tina Barton in 2012 at The Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand. In 2013, the exhibition ‘The City of Gold and Lead’ at Wanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery was accompanied by an adjunct installation for New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Contemporary Museum of Art titled ‘doublethink’, a series of consecutive billboards on the side of S.H.3 in Taranaki’s Midhurst. Shelton’s ongoing body of work ‘in a forest’, has been seen in London, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland, and and was exhibited in 2014 at ‘Espai d’art contemporani de Castello’, Spain. In late 2016 Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki mounted a retrospective of Shelton’s work, accompanied by a monograph.
Shelton lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.