This Road is a Poem
Anton Maurer's Landscapes
ANTON MAURER Pakiri River Road, Auckland Super City 2014 Colour photograph
From Vincent Ward’s Vigil to Jane Campion’s The Piano, the New Zealand landscape has been depicted as an overwhelming force, one that humans fall victim to physically and psychologically. In Auckland-based photographer Anton Maurer’s images however, it is not the landscape that is the threat but rather, ourselves.
New Zealand is a country that has been built on the foundations of its industries ― farming, forestry and mining; the landscape is a resource for financial gain. As the country strives to make it in the global economy, what is the cost to the land ― what will be lost so that we can gain?
These questions are raised through Maurer’s photographs from his journey from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South. Packing up his life in Auckland, he travelled with his partner in an old red van documenting their journey through photography and video. During these travels he casts his eye to the deleterious impact of man in the landscape, capturing silos, caravans, trucks and roads ― traces of a human presence.
His large-scale photographs are made with a considered eye; when faced with these images in person they have an arresting quality. Detailed yet detached, Maurer presents the landscape as he has found it with no added frills. Blue Lake, Saint Bathans, Otago is reminiscent of colonial New Zealand paintings, the viewpoint giving an expansive vision of an impressive landscape unfortunately littered with cars, caravans and boats disrupting the quiet.
Tiwai Road, Invercargill and Pakiri River Road, Auckland Super City epitomise other aspects of the New Zealand landscape, long stretches of road paved through bush with power poles and lines acting almost as stand-ins for human figures. The treatment of colour in each photograph represents the area where they are taken; from deep and misty greens in Milford Sound to the light tan of grasses found on the sides of the road, Maurer has a talent for capturing the true essence of a location.
When making work that investigates the current state of the landscape and our relationship to it, it can be difficult not to associate this with nostalgia. It is important to note this distinction when viewing Maurer’s work. Nostalgia suggests an element of wistfulness, a longing or emotional connection but Maurer takes a far more rational or practical approach. He is asking us to consider our position in the growing economy, our responsibilities as to how we might control the present and direct the future.
Is this the legacy we will leave behind for future generations and as Maurer asks through his images ― is this okay?.
ANTON MAURER Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Southland 2015 Colour photograph
ANTON MAURER Bluff Depot, Southland 2015 Colour photograph
ANTON MAURER Blue Lake, Saint Bathans, Otago 2015 Colour photograph
ANTON MAURER Tiwai Road, Invercargill 2015 Colour photograph