Creatively Captured

New Zealand Composer Portraits by Gareth Watkins


GARETH WATKINS Gillian Whitehead 2011
Colour photograph

Gareth Watkins is a soundman by day; an archivist at the National Library with a penchant for pursuing the visual with his Canon 5D.

Select circles know the Wellingtonian for his clean-cut, straight-off-the-street portraits of capital youth. The latest have been collected together in his appropriately-titled Street Adonis, a publication that any elegant coffee-table would be proud to support.

These images grew out of a delicate relationship between artist and subjects; little wonder that Watkins admires the late Diane Arbus for the all-important trust that she instilled into the people who admitted her into their lives.

Watkins’ latest project, his Composer 015 series, has been supported by the Wallace Arts Trust and the Lilburn Trust. His often remarkably dispassionate portraits must be one of the first concerted attempts to catch a cross-section of our classical composers since Kenneth Quinn’s work of the late ‘80s.

Watkins is still not sure where the division can be made between images for gallery walls and publicity shots―both aspects are important to him―but, in the meantime, he reveals himself as a man fascinated with the human face.

Shakespeare’s Claudio wanted every eye to negotiate for itself and Watkins likes ‘the natural glint in the eye when the line of sight is hit by the sun.’ He will risk blurred extremities if these windows to the soul are responsive.

While Gillian Whitehead comes across as an indomitable protector of her Otago landscape, Eve de Castro-Robinson is an Auckland urbanite, looking outward to the light source shared by her own student drawing from the late ‘70s.

Watkins generally eschews the expected props of piano and manuscript, but two young composers, Claire Cowan and Alex Taylor, toy with pencils. For Watkins, this might be a moment of thought or an expectation of something happening; in an age when computers can too easily take over the composing, a 2B Staedler is reassuring.

Not all of these people write music ― the veteran John Hopkins, captured formally, his face a veritable mask of wisdom, is a conductor and an ardent battler for our music in his time. And, as for the music of tomorrow, it is clearly in the hands of composers such as Karlo Margetic, whose energetic gesticulations catch both his own lively music and a positive future for the environment in which he works.

GARETH WATKINS Eve de Castro-Robinson 2011
Colour photograph

GARETH WATKINS Claire Cowan 2011
Colour photograph

GARETH WATKINS Alex Taylor 2011
Colour photograph

GARETH WATKINS John Hopkins 2011
Colour photograph

GARETH WATKINS Karlo Margetic 2011
Colour photograph