Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing 2019
Directed by: Shirley Horrocks
Shirley Horrocks’ richly illustrated portrait of the life and career of one of New Zealand’s most important photographers, who dedicated his life to seeing and making works of art out of the everyday.
Continuing her rich tradition of documenting New Zealand artists, Shirley Horrocks presents a comprehensive biopic of Peter Peryer, one of our most important photographers.
What begins as a gentle, engaging look at the artist’s life becomes a photography masterclass in style, technique and his broad career subjects of nature, people and place. Always looking for the next shot, Peryer is a photographer who dedicated his life to seeing. He is generous with self-analysis, and a singularity of vision that often played with scale, negative space and reality vs artifice. He’s matter of fact about the response when his style shifted from black and white to colour.
Peryer’s famous (and infamous) prints are richly illustrated on screen, including Dead Steer, the Erika portraits, and the Mars Hotel series. Expert commentary from industry figures Luit Bieringa and John McCormack, among others, accesses the importance of his work in New Zealand’s art history.
The access to Peryer at his home in Taranaki before his death in November 2018 make this the most definitive documentary that will ever be produced on the artist. Clips from a 1994 TV doco add further depth to the richly told stories, but it is Horrocks’ one-on-one time with Peryer amongst his vibrant gallery of work that beautifully frames the man and the artist. His home is alive with work past and future, with curiosities on every shelf and nature ready to inspire in every corner.
Peryer’s gentle and humble approach to editing his own work is an endearing insight as he collaborates with digital printer Kevin Church in a mutually respectful process with each print that he decides to produce. A late career move to start reviewing the ‘100s and 100s’ of stored film negatives shows him undertaking a similar process with film developer Jenny Tomlin.
Anyone unfamiliar with his work will become a ready convert through the course of the film. It is an essential homage to the great photographer’s life-long dedication to seeing and creating works of art out of the everyday. - Rebecca McMillan