Max Oettli: MEN
April 11 - May 28
At Chics, Port Chalmers (2008)
Digital file, printed on Hahnemühle, approx. 600 x 800mm.
Max Oettli, born of Swiss-German parentage in 1947, arrived in New Zealand at the age of ten. He was educated at Fairfield College Hamilton and studied at Auckland University, later Geneva University for a B.A. and the equivalent for an M.A., primarily in English literature.
His connection with photography began in 1965. Oettli has been a serious photographer since 1967 with a first one-man exhibition in 1970 (Wynard Tavern, Auckland) followed by the publication ‘A Visual Dialect’ in collaboration with twelve other photographers. He has had many exhibitions in New Zealand from 1970 to the present. Max was the founding president of Photo Forum from 1973 to 1975 when he left New Zealand and established himself in Geneva as a photographer and teacher, specialising in Architecture and aerial work.
He was Principal Lecturer in Photography at Dunedin School of Art from 2007 to 2012.
He is presently Wellington based, scanning work at the Turnbull Library in view of a major book on his work in 2018 to be published by the VUW Press.
I was invited to show with the Wallace Arts Trust, with pretty much a carte blanche. I am especially conscious that this is the first major Auckland exposure some of my more recent work has had and swoon with as much grace as my advanced age and my arthritic joints will permit.
I was even more delighted that I was to be coupled by Peter Simpson’s marvelous exhibition Leo Bensemann and his circle, which I was not going to copy but which to some extent steered me to a principally people in landscape orientated approach. This coupled with my preoccupation with men, with gender and other issues relating to us/them.
A recent encounter at the Pah steered me towards the idea of Man Alone, but the show would not have to be saddled with the pretension of that name, I know too much about John Mulgan. So Mulgan was more of a bouncing off place on the ping pong table of my compilation. Possibly its true heart beats somewhere else, say in the region of Henry Purcell’s ode to solitude. But that again would be narrowing it too much, and I’m not going to enumerate a series of Byronic and other references like an earnest MFA student! So the show is linked loosely by a theme somewhere in that region which I am unable, or more likely: cannot be bothered to define more precisely.
The strategy I adopted was to go back and look at a much earlier show at Massey University Palmerston North where I was invited exhibitor at the NZ Universities Arts Festival. I worked there on very small and very fine prints of men alone some of which have beautifully survived in my archives, one of which is being meticulously reconstituted by modern technology.
– Max Oettli, 2017