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New Exhibition, Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists at The Suter Art Gallery

Marti Friedlander: Portraits of the Artists (19th February – 10th April 2022)

Exhibition developed and toured by The New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata and supplemented with artworks from The Suter’s collection.

For fifty years Marti Friedlander (1928-2016) was one of New Zealand’s most important photographers. An emigré artist Friedlander’s documentary-style pictures recorded her adopted country’s social and cultural life from the 1960s into the twenty-first century. A constant in her practice was photographing New Zealand’s creative talent, painters, potters, film-makers novelists, actors and musicians.

Friedlander’s striking photographs are mainly in black and white, capturing the artist with examples of their work often in their studios.

This exhibition will be supplemented with a display of artworks from The Suter’s collection by artists that Friedlander photographed, and will include some of the big names of New Zealand art history, Rita Angus, Toss Woollaston, Don Binney, Philip Clairmont and Gretchen Albrecht. Locally based author Maurice Gee is one of the writers photographed by Friedlander.


Marti Friedlander (1928-2016) was one of New Zealand’s most outstanding photographers. Her best-known portraits are probably those published in Moko: Maori Tattooing in the Twentieth Century. These portraits not only document their subjects with empathy, but also helped Friedlander, an immigrant who initially felt displaced and isolated, become more at home in New Zealand.

Friedlander made her first portraits of artists, writers and other creative people in the late 1950s. This developed into a lifelong project. She wrote, ‘As I was travelling around the country, a priority was to seek out artists. It seemed to me that artists were struggling for recognition. I resolved to photograph as many of them as I could’. The subsequent body of portraits also functions as an extraordinary visual history of cultural changes and creative flowering from the 1960s.

Her portraits reveal qualities of personality and temperament. She could catch seemingly conflictual states in the one face. Photohistorian William Main characterised Friedlander as the first photographer here ’to take up the challenge of trying to tell you something about a person through the very nature of her photographs…[her work] put New Zealand portraiture “on the map” in every sense of the word’.

Curated by Dr Lenonard Bell

Toured by the New Zealand Portrait Gallery

Explore previous exhibition at The Suter Art Gallery virtually

Click here to find out more…

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