Gary Baigent

‘Photography’s got to be right. No impact, no life to me.’

– Gary Baigent

Gary Baigent, interviewed by curator Athol McCredie, 2012


AM: So when did the idea for Unseen City develop in your mind?

GB: I was working on the wharf, and I shot a lot of stuff down on the waterfront. And then all the people I was sort of flatting with and living with, I was shooting stuff with them.

And then I met Brian Roach, and Peter Tait. And Brian Roach was fascinated with film. Bad man, terrible man, got me into trouble. He was older than me. Five or six, seven years. No, probably 10 – yeah, probably 10 years older! Anyway, he was always raving on about photography and filming and the French New Wave, and he knew all the directors. He inspired me quite a bit. And so he said, ‘Well, we can make a killing making photographs of Auckland. It’s all there, you just go out and get it.’

But I’d already started doing it anyway, and he came along. But in the end, it was hopeless. He was wanting to play the part of a director, and I’m not like that. I’m my own man really. But there were one or two shots I took with him walking around the city that weren’t bad, but most of them were crap.

Photography’s got to be right. You know all about this. You just can’t shoot because that’s a subject, that’s just not good enough. No impact, no life to me. Anyway, after that I went to Paul’s, and they were excited by it.

AM: So were they the only publisher that you approached?

GB: Yeah. Let me think ... No, it was Paul’s. Blackwood and Janet Paul. They were the only ones. They’d never seen anything quite like it, so we went ahead.

AM: Did Paul’s kind of try to influence you in any way? You’d brought in photos. There wasn’t a complete book at that stage, is that right?

GB: It was semi-complete, I don’t know, maybe 70 percent. I sort of knew what I wanted to get, and I knew where there were gaps. And I said, ‘I’ll have to go and get some.’ And I filled those gaps. I used to go around doing that.

AM: So they didn’t say, ‘Oh, we need this and this and this’?

GB: No, they didn’t.

AM: And when you brought the whole lot in eventually, had you laid it out yourself or did they do that?

GB: I laid it out. It wasn’t chronological. It was sort of subject and introduction sort of thing. And then they went through it with me, and there was quite a lot of changing. That’s hard work actually, compiling the images, getting them right. So there were quite a few changes.

AM: Was that just simply in the arrangement?

GB: Yes, just the order.

AM: So photos didn’t go out or come back in or anything? Or maybe just a few?

GB: I don’t think there was a lot of changes. We used what was there. And looking back after a few years, I look back and I think, ‘Oh, that shouldn’t have gone in, and that’s terrible.’ But there are some good ones in there.


This excerpt is from a conversation for the book, The New Photography, available at Te Papa Store on Level 1.