John Fields

‘I was looking at people in isolation ... every chance I got, I would head down Queen Street and watch for things...’

– John Fields

John Fields, interviewed by curator Athol McCredie, 2012


JF: Arriving in New Zealand and a total new culture, the impact was enormous. Of course, the motorway construction was starting to get under way in Auckland, and I was recognising that I had seen all this before in the Boston area. So I had some idea what impact that was going to have on the city and communities like down in Grafton Gully, and made some efforts with limited time – and money at the time, with a young family starting off – and fortunately I could fudge some [photographic] paper for printing at work. Stan [Fields’ employer] didn’t mind prudent use, didn’t want me to go too far with it.

So I started getting into my core early photography. Then, I forget exactly at what point, there was a thing where I was looking at people in isolation. I think this was around ’67. And every chance I got, lunchtime, I’d go down onto Queen Street and watch for things. Then friends would take me for little drives around the town ...

AM: So would you have met John Turner or [Gary] Baigent first? As John tells it, you already knew Gary.

JF: Yep, from the Auckland pub scene. And then went to Wellington one time to meet John. And quite amazing, the energy the guy had at that stage. And I personally thought, Jesus, a real crazy. Love the guy. But his knowledge and enthusiasm for photography in general and embracing all different facets of it, his historical interest up to contemporary and looking at new directions ...

John Turner was doing pretty well – in fact, took me on board one time when I went to Wellington. That first time, he showed me about how I could probably improve on some of my prints – that was quite an eye-opener really. I thought, boy, you’ve really got to work to produce a good print. And Turner was adamant about: we’re talking world standards now. There was no compromise.


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