Candidates Caught on Camera by Acclaimed Photographer

23 February 2009

It all started when Labour candidate Grant Robertson moved his campaign office across the road from Wellington photographer John Lake's studio last August.

Soon enough, John came up with the idea of documenting all the Wellington Central candidates in the upcoming election campaign.

"It was actually something I had done before in Fiji in 2006 - following and documenting the military campaign there, as well as the political parties. To do the same in New Zealand seemed like a natural progression," says John.

John's highly-acclaimed photographic exhibition last year at Toi Pōneke Gallery, The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization: Part One, looked into the lives of a disengaged populace. Now he returns with a different perspective - an exhibition detailing all aspects of the race for Wellington Central, showing people getting involved in the democratic process.

"I was surprised to find that there were so many people involved everywhere I went," says John. "Some meetings were attended by hundreds of people. When National candidate, Stephen Franks, and Grant Robertson showed up for a lunchtime debate at Wellington Boys' College, for example, the hall was so packed that even the principal had to take a seat on the floor."

The exhibition consists of portraits of all of last year's candidates for Wellington Central. These portraits - stripped of all possible connotations by using the same white background and lighting - will line the gallery walls. Photos documenting other parts of the campaign - such as party supporters flanked in party flags, volunteers at work, union rallies and political debates in big halls or even sitting rooms - will also complement the portrait display.

There will be a continuous slideshow detailing a linear narrative of the campaign, which will include at least 100 images. John is also self-publishing a 120-page book of all the images in the exhibition, which can be ordered through the gallery.

The Candidate opens at 5.30pm on 5 March at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 Abel Smith Street and will run until 27 March.