Brian Brake exhibition & BBQ at James' (23rd January 2011)

After months of talking about going to the Brian Brake: Lens on the world exhibition at Te Papa, finally Jono and I decided to check it out this afternoon. It was such a wet day having rained since early this morning and it’s still going! Even with our rain jackets, we still got somewhat wet (eew, my socks are all damp!) getting to the museum. Argh, so annoying!

Brian Brake was New Zealand’s best known photographer from 1960s to 1980s, first making his name as an international photojournalist photographing pictures for magazines such as Life and National Geographic. Obviously everyone thought the same as us “rainy day – let’s go to the museum!” so there were quite a lot of people and several “excuse me”s to manoeuvre past other patrons who were in the way. We stopped every so often to admire the photos that were sectioned by countries, including his most famous work Monsoon taken during the monsoon rains in India in 1960. The best photograph from the Monsoon series definitely has to be the shot of a girl holding her face to the first drops of monsoon rain though this photo wasn’t ‘real’ i.e. true reflection of events as it was a set up shoot on a rooftop with actress Aparna Sen dressed up in a red sari and water poured over her using a large watering can.

Many of Brake’s photos were of people living their every day lives, the type of photography that I personally enjoy taking (and quite difficult to photograph too especially if the subject then comes running over to you asking for money as experienced in our travels in India!). The photos tells a story about the person, or a story in a day of their lives, like the photo of Pablo Picasso’s son Claude placing his finger in his father's mouth during moment of high excitement watching the bullfight. Brake was also renowned for his amazing landscape images, mostly taken on board a helicopter. He’s got to have a pretty fast shutter speed camera to capture the mountains as he bobbed in the helicopter! Most of the photos can be easily replicated today by the amateur photographer – all you need is know how to use your SLR, have a good eye for shots and software to process the photos. Brake’s photos, however, were taken on film and processed in a black room. Oh, and he used some really old-fashioned Leica rangefinder cameras, the ones which were heavy (around 500g) and had a wind (I think there’s one in Grandma’s house) – feels like a block of metal and too mechanical!

Located on the 5th level at Te Papa, the exhibition runs from the 23rd of October 2010 – 8th May 2011 featuring over 320 images taken both in New Zealand and around the world spanning 40 years of Brake’s career. Great for anyone with a keen eye for photography and best of all, this exhibition is free :)

An hour and a half later, we left the museum around 4.30pm and headed over to James’ for a BBQ. Yes, the BBQ is still on despite the pouring rain – James just doesn’t give up! Dribs and drabs, familiar faces turned up – Geoff and Nicola, Grace and Dan, and 2 other ladies from the swing dance scene. Jono got to meet Carly for the first time too :) I’m happy for James – he’s just SO in love with Carly and it’s sweet that he has got photos of them placed in his living room, and the two mischievously teasing one another or stealing kisses throughout the evening. Cute :P

It was great to catch up with everyone (it’s been awhile!) and the BBQ was a fantastic spread as everyone brought a bit of food – fish, chicken wings, grilled veggies, sausages and James provided the garlic breads and salad. Thanks James for cooking up the food and of course, to his kitchen assistants Carly and Grace who helped with the preparation!

No BBQ at James is complete without some SingStar to end the night. Jono was into it (oh yeah, he was into it alright, moving to the music as he sang) and duelling others whenever he had the mic in hand. I have a love-hate relationship with karaoke/SingStar – I would be all “No! No!” when offered the mic and then get totally into it when I have the mic in hand and someone to sing with. What the? Jono and I sang Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” just for a laugh! Real cheesy song with a catchy tune but it worked for my high-pitched voice!!

We said our goodbyes around 10.15pm and braved the rain for home. This has been a weekend full of socialising – I’m glad tomorrow’s a public holiday so I can get some time to chill and unwind!


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