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August Feature – Fiona Pardington

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Native fauna such as Kereru and Huia may feature prominently in her work but photographer Fiona Pardington is a Magpie at heart.

Artefacts and Māori taonga, including hei tiki and life-cast portraits; rare and extinct native birds, 1960s erotica, toadstools and Taniwha laundry soap have all found a niche in her distinctive practice spanning 30 years.

Recently she has been working in a still-life format within museums, recording taonga and other historic objects. An elegant interplay between culture, science and history characterizes all of her work.

In 2011, she completed a remarkable book project, “The Pressure of Sunlight Falling”, photographs based on life-casts taken of Indigenous Maori by 19th Century French explorer, Dumont d’Urville. The exquisite book, designed by her brother Neil Pardington and edited by Kriselle Baker and Elizabeth Rankin, is published by Otago University Press.

As a photographer Fiona is a purist, working in analogue and hand printing and toning her own prints. While each piece carries the mark of its maker, she has no issue with letting completed work go.

“Any good work has a life of its own. It goes off on its own journey, having relationships with the people who go on to own it.” She continues, “the romance is always with the work I am trying to bring into being at the time.”

While she doesn’t set out to provoke her audience, Fiona isn’t afraid of ruffling a few feathers. Longing and desire feature strongly in all of her work and she hopes those qualities encourage people to understand themselves better through viewing it.

Fiona is of Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Scottish descent and holds an MFA in photography from the University of Auckland. She has received numerous fellowships, residencies, awards and grants both in New Zealand and abroad and in 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Arts Foundation Laureate Award.

When she isn’t in the darkroom, she can often be found in the company of her little dogs and not so little children, clearing weeds and ti-tree on her Rocky Bay section on Waiheke Island.

Portrait photo courtesy of Akura Pardington

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