The Wellington and Auckland of the 1960's and 1970's might not be the height of cosmopolitan sophistication to today's New Zealanders, but at the time they were an eye-opener and an inspiration. For the young John Daley, fresh from the country with a passion for photography and an eye for candid composition, they were our very own Big Smoke - cities full of stories and the people living them.
Daley's startling and insightful black-and-white images, and Louise Callan's introduction evoke a world both familiar and strange. Captured over the decade 1968-1978, and presented together for the first time, these images show city-dwellers caught in a world of continuity and change, where Kiwi tradition still held sway but new ideas and fashions were coming to the fore.
The images in Big Smoke provide tantilising glimpses of a world we have lost, a people we once were. They show us how far we have come, and perhaps how far we still have to go.
I found this book an interesting coffee table type of book, with some great and some ordinary photography, but an interesting nostalgic look at people from another decade. I like how a lot of the people are either unaware they're being photgraphed or are looking away, so the potraits are quite natural, candid shots. There was even some humour, e.g. beer garden.
Every time I thought the photography was sort of, well, ordinary and unconnected, I'd turn the page and find a very interesting shot!
I was only 6 when the last photo for this book was taken, and wasn't even in the country for most of that time, so I have little recollection of New Zealand of that era, so this book held some interest for me. What was I missing, as a child growing up in Auckland in the 70's? One answer would be 'Not much' - since as a 6 year old, I was too young for much adventure in the big city. But the answer I think most appropriate is 'Quite a lot' - because this book shows me there was a world out there beyond the comprehension of a child of such tender years, and this is my chance to travel back and explore some of my past in the city of my birth.
This is not really a book, in one sense, since it has no anecdotes or stories, just an introduction, and a caption under each image telling where and when, not what. The pictures tell their own stories, as all good images should. Many of the stories are confusing, some are a little mute, some speak volumes... and everyone will see a different piece of the overall picture, so this book is many things to many people.
To those who lived through this era, it will be a conduit back through time to the era of their younger selves. It will serve to remind you of where you came from and who you used to be. For even as we individuals are the end result of a billion decisions and the environment in which they were made, so too is our society... and this was our society and it's characters more than 20 years ago.
To those who were not alive, or fully aware, of this period of our past, this book will serve as a lens, taking you into the private, candid moments of your parents or grandparents, when they were doing the same sort of things you plan to do. Living and loving life. Rare moments never to be repeated, caught on film, frozen in silver nitrate crystals on a gel and paper sandwich, reminders of previous moments in time.
With a natural eye for the moment, John Daley has given us a window into the near-past, a chance to remember for a while, who we once were.
Overall, I think this a great book if you enjoy nostalgia... but if you only live in moment, you won't appreciate what this book has to offer.
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