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New directions 

Brake's biography     | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |


Return to filmmaking

By the late 1960s, Brake could see that the era of the big budget picture magazines was fading. He decided to return to documentary filmmaking, and set up a Hong Kong film company called Zodiac Films in 1970.

Brake spent the next five years making films in Indonesia. His first were promotional pieces on the operations of the Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina. But he also persuaded Pertamina to fund a series of cultural documentaries related to Indonesia. These included Borobudur: The cosmic mountain, The Ramayana Indonesia, and Batik: The magic cloth.

Studio photography of art objects

Around the same time that Brake moved away from magazine work and into film, he also began photographing museum and art objects for books.

His earliest was The house on the klong: The Bangkok home and Asian art collection of James Thompson (1968). This was followed by other books on Asian art, such as The sculpture of Thailand (1972) and Legend and reality: Early ceramics from South East Asia (1977).

But the books that became best known, to New Zealand audiences anyway, were Art of the Pacific (1979) and Craft New Zealand: The art of the craftsman (1981). The first was commissioned by the Arts Council of New Zealand to showcase Pacific and Maori cultural objects held in museum collections as art. Craft New Zealand had a similar intent: to transform craft to art in the eyes of the public. Both books were lavish coffee table books and Brake used the lighting style he first learnt in the portrait studio of Spencer Digby to give the objects dramatic presence.

When the Te Maori exhibition was shown in New Zealand in 1986, photographs from Art of the Pacific (as well as a few extras Brake took specially) were published in exhibition merchandise and promotional material. They have been reproduced many times since, in books such as Maori art: The photography of Brian Brake (2003)

Continue reading - Later years

Brian Brake filming in Indonesia
Brian Brake filming in Indonesia, 1970-1976, Durazzo, Michelangelo (date unknown–1993), Indonesia. Gift of Mr Raymond Wai-Man Lau, 2001. Te Papa
Brian Brake at the National Museum, Wellington
Brian Brake at the National Museum, Wellington, circa 1975, Ulyatt, Trevor (1978– ), Wellington. Te Papa

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.