Photographer Celebrates Toi Whakaari's 40th

27 May 2011

He usually photographs dancers, but now Stephen A'Court is to pay tribute to Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School alumni in a Toi Poneke Gallery exhibition from Friday 10 June.

Simply called Toi - an abbreviation many people use to refer to the drama centre - the exhibition consists of intimate portraits of those who helped shape the recent history of stage and screen in New Zealand. Stephen has been photographing alumni since early last year, the images set in places that are important to the subject.

The subjects were chosen by Toi Whakaari and Stephen. Some graduated in the early '70s when the course began, others in the last few years. Subjects include award-winning writer David Geary; award-winning actor Jennifer Ludlam - who some might recently have seen perform in Circa's August: Osage County - and also some people you might not expect to see, like Ruth Pretty. Miranda Harcourt - writer, actor and family member of a long line of theatre enthusiasts - also features in the exhibition.

When Toi Whakaari approached Stephen with the idea, he immediately got thinking about the appropriate style for the exhibition.

"I was mostly dealing with people who are either writing or producing stories for the stage, or people who are accustomed to being in the limelight. So that's what I went for - theatrical lighting on all subjects as consistently as possible - a literal tribute to the theatre, if you like."

Stephen found some of the actors had difficulty being photographed as themselves - and not in character.

"Which is understandable. When I usually photograph actors, they're in character. Under the lens this way - they're exposed. And I think that comes across a lot in the series."

Toi coincides with performances of TakuRua by Toi Whakaari's second-year actors and designers - four evocative and intimate site-specific performances - also at Toi Pōneke Arts Centre. Performances take place at 6.30pm and 8.30pm every day from Thursday 9 June to Wednesday 15 June. Tickets cost $15 or $10 concession. Purchase tickets from:

TakuRua - Toi Whakaari website

Toi, the exhibition, opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 9 June and runs until Sunday 3 July at Toi Pōneke Gallery, 61 - 69 Abel Smith Street. The gallery is open from 9.00am - 7.30pm on weekdays, and from 10.00am - 4.00pm on weekends. Entry is free.

Toi Pōneke - Exhibitions