Trish Clark Gallery is delighted to present for the first time Vivienne Haldane’s striking silver gelatin photographs of the Pacific Sisters in a solo exhibition. Noted for their inclusion as large-scale lightboxes in the critically acclaimed Pacific Sisters: He Toa Tāera | Fashion Activists at Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington (2018) and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2019), the suite of lightboxes entered the permanent collection of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. This exhibition includes the original images alongside a broader selection from the Pacific Sisters material, shown for the first time as a body of work of limited edition photographs, hand-printed silver gelatin photographs with selenium toning.
Haldane’s evocative photographs chronicle the Pacific Sisters, one of Aotearoa’s most influential Māori and Pacifika artistic and fashion collectives emerging in the 1990’s. The collective is an integral part of New Zealand’s indigenous and mainstream art history; Nina Tonga, curator of Pacific Sisters at Te Papa says of the Sisters, “they were a generation of artists creating their own form of creative expression”, an ever-evolving group working collaboratively across fashion, performance, music, and film.
Haldane’s self-described “organic journey” of documenting the Sisters began with an introduction from performance artist Mika, and soon after, a commission from John Draper to shoot the Sisters. Working closely with the collective over a period of time in friendly collaborative creativity resulted in images of striking intimacy and emotional weight. Shot around Auckland in locations ranging from Point Chevalier Beach to the Karangahape Road sex shops, Haldane stayed in touch with the sisters over the years and they “often lamented the fact that these photos had never seen the light of day”, Draper’s Glo magazine having never been published. The images surfaced when Nina Tonga contacted the Sisters for the Te Papa exhibition, leading to the inclusion of Haldane’s photographs as an integral part of the Pacific Sisters retrospective at Te Papa Tongarewa. The black and white photographs are at once striking and unpretentious, inviting the viewer into the world of the Sisters with a vulnerable authenticity. A combination of close-up portraits and more theatrical staged shots showcase the vibrant energy of the interior world of the collective, as they inhabited spaces ranging from art galleries to nightclubs. In the words of Ani O’Neill, a member of the Sisters and prominent New Zealand artist, “we might seem a bit hardcore and serious to some, but we have a lot of fun – we like to laugh and play with words as well as frocks”. Haldane’s arresting portraits capture this duality of both emotional honesty and edge.