A Signature event for Auckland’s Festival of Photography 2016, Chris Corson-Scott’s second solo show at Trish Clark Gallery, “We passed the setting sun,” draws its title from a poem by famed American poet, Emily Dickinson. Just as she meditates upon Death’s leisurely, though inevitable, procession through time, Chris Corson-Scott captures places that carry quiet significance as historic sites. Revealing a history all but invisible except to the keen observer/researcher bearing witness, Corson-Scott draws out the impossibility of fully preserving the past.
Producing evocative images that also speak to the essence of photography as a medium bound to the attempt to arrest the fleeting moment, Corson-Scott at 30 years of age remains resolutely insistent on the use of analogue film and ‘old-fashioned’ 8×10 view-camera as critical to the aesthetic of his work.
The striking lighting of Cliffs and Rockfalls Awhitu Peninsula (2015) is not manipulated, but is indeed the setting sun. Standing at the foot of crumbling cliffs on the Awhitu Peninsula at the mouth of the Manukau Harbour, we see the photographer Mark Adams peering up in the direction of a rockfall. What isn’t apparent in the image is that the cliffs represent the remnants of what was once a major Maori agricultural site that has now largely eroded into the ocean. Adams, himself a notable photographer of the New Zealand landscape, bears witness to both the land and the process of time’s passage.
Following the sunset, we see what remains when the light passes in Evening, The Frank Sargeson House, Esmonde Road, Takapuna (2015). It shows the interior of Frank Sargeson’s modest bach, now preserved as a heritage site, but during his life a refuge for Sargeson’s literary pursuits and friends, including Janet Frame, and his persecuted sexuality. The eeriness of a bedroom captured in time is offset by how homely and unassuming the space is. Located on Esmonde Road, then a dead end road ending in mangroves and now a major thoroughfare, the house preserves a lapsed moment in New Zealand’s literary and sexual histories while acting as a marker of Auckland’s rapid physical and socio-cultural expansion.
All Corson-Scott’s images play with this dichotomy between history and the present, always extraordinarily illuminated. He has exhibited widely in Auckland, and internationally. Exhibitions include Kinder’s Presence (2013-14) at Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki; History in the Taking: 40 Years of PhotoForum (2014) at The University of Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery; Photo 14, Maag Halle, Zurich, Switzerland; My Place (2013) Pingyao International Photography Festival, China; Recent Auckland Photography (2013) at North Art; and solo exhibitions at the artist-run space Snake Pit, New Photographs (2012); and Photographs (2011) at Wallace Art Centre. With art historian Edward Hanfling he is the co-author of Pictures They Want to Make: Recent Auckland Photography (Photoforum, Auckland: 2013).