Read an extract of The South Island of New Zealand — From the Road


Louise Callan, former journalist and friend of Robin Morrison, writes an introductory essay to the new edition of The South Island of New Zealand — From the Road. Stuff has run an extract of the essay:

‘More than 40 years since its publication, photography fans still scour secondhand book stores for Robin Morrison’s legendary The South Island of New Zealand From the Road. Now, the 1981 book is being reprinted for the first time. Morrison’s friend and journalist Louise Callan writes on its beginnings.

In the high summer of 1975, Robin Morrison and I spent two days in and around the small Central Otago town of Cromwell. We were covering a story for Thursday magazine on the controversial hydroelectric dam to be built on the Clutha River.

The Clyde Dam would flood a sizeable part of the town, surrounding orchards, and the scenic Cromwell Gorge, a star in the emerging tourism industry. We were both affected by the town’s plight and the extraordinary landscapes. The photographs that accompanied the story seem to me now as harbingers of this book.

Three years later, Morrison returned to capture the places and people that would be forever changed by the dam. The result was his 1979 Clutha calendar. The trip had whetted his appetite for more of the South Island, and that same year he applied for a grant from the QE II Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand) for a major project — to photograph the South Island for a book.

The timing was good. Photography was the hot medium; it was breaking out of the box that separated it from the art world, and word was that all the bright young things studying art at university were choosing photography over painting and the other traditional arts.

Photographer Laurence Aberhart remembers established art gallery owners quietly telling him that if they were braver they would open photographic galleries instead. The Arts Council was similarly keen to support local photographers, according to its then chair, Hamish Keith.​’

Read the remainder of the extract on Stuff here.