Recent acquisition – Una Garlick

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Wednesday 10 September 2014
Ron Brownson

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In 1921 Una Garlick became the first woman member of the Auckland Camera Club; later renamed the Auckland Photographic Society. She was awarded their annual medal in 1926, following on from her many successes at the Club’s monthly competitions.

Garlick exhibited internationally to acclaim between 1925 and 1931 and this success resulted in her becoming an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Such recognition meant that she ranked with Gerald Jones as one of New Zealand’s most famous camera artists of the period.


Garlick liked experimenting with photographic printing media; soon venturing beyond conventional gelatin silver printing papers toned with sepia to the use of a bromoil technique, the extremely challenging vehicle of platinum printing and onto sheet fed gravure. Her ability with these difficult printing techniques makes her images frequently appear very velvety yet also matt and metallic. She moved away from interleaving negatives with sheer tissue towards a deeper and sharper focus.


Una Garlick’s stylistic shift towards the unambiguous image parallels what had already occurred during the 1920s in America (with Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz) and Germany (with Albert Renger Patzsch and August Sander).  I sense that the lessons of American Precisionism and German Neue Sachlichkeit gave her a fresher perspective than almost all of her Auckland Camera Club cohorts. 


There is no question that Una Garlick was familiar with copies of The Studio, Das Deutsche Lichtbild and Camera Work. Maurice Lennard recalled for me some decades ago that she had consulted his copies of Das Deutsche Lichtbild and Camera Work on a number of occasions. Meetings of the Camera Club always involved discussions about what was happening off shore photographically.


An anonymous donor has recently generously gifted a fine late landscape by Una Garlick to the Gallery’s collection. The raking afternoon light is seen from the summit of Remuera (Mount Hobson). With its semi-sharp and deep focus has a full register of tones from dark brown to white, this image is a bravura example of Garlick’s habit of incorporating cloud portraits into her landscapes. In many ways, Garlick transitioned from her early pictorialism to a sharper photographic focus that is much more in tune with what was occurring in California during the 1920s and 1930s.


Image credit:
Una Garlick  (1883–1951)
Auckland c1935
sheet fed gravure
74 x 100mm
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of an anonymous donor, 2014