The memory power of rugby photographs

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Thursday 2 December 2010
Ron Brownson

http://assets.aucklandartgallery.com/assets/media/blog-memory-rugby.jpg

 

I was in Hamilton that day in 1981. Roger Blackley, Dean Buchanan, Helga Strewe and I were there because of the Rugby match. The Saturday when Hamilton’s Rugby Park was invaded by ‘protestors’ – the scheduled Waikato versus Springbok game. Very first game of the Springbok tour, I think. The game was cancelled. The protest threw everything amok.

Here’s an aerial view of that superb sports ground:
http://wikimapia.org/26423/Rugby-Park

That was a terrifying day. We felt on the cusp of being murdered. An ugly incident for everyone. Pro-game and anti-game. I reckon none of us present has ever forgotten it.

It is a perplexing feeling for me to recognise myself in this photograph by John Selkirk taken 29 years ago. Looking at it feels like a cross between recovered memory and auto-forensics.

The memory power of rugby photographs:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/photos/2845036/Hamiltons-Rugby-Park-1981-Springboks-tour-protest

Being there has greatly increased my knowledge of the photographic history of Rugby. I enjoy watching rugby and encountering historic photographs of the game.

New Zealanders are exceptional at rugby. We play it in a brave and innovative manner like fearless and tactical brothers. Rugby bloods our identity better than game hunting ever could.

Sonny Bill Williams is proving that by combining his astonishing physical flair with a terrific response time, he is becoming a rugby emblem. Phil Gifford has already told us that in the best way possible:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/opinion/4368799/We-are-in-safe-hands

I wish I had learnt more about the photographic history of rugby, as it would be useful in my Gallery work. I immediately recognise images from the 1956 All Black/Springbok rugby match at Eden Park. In fact, I have exhibited some of the best of these pictures. During the 1950s Show Warwick Roger delivered the most informative talk on rugby photography I have ever heard. Warwick knows so much about the 1956 match.

I came across this brilliant and amusing Ans Westra photograph from 1971 of a rugby match in Wellington. Can anyone tell me the date of this game and who is playing who? Ans is not looking at the field. You do not need to see the players to feel the spirit of rugby.

Caption:
Ans Westra
Rugby spectators at Athletic Park, Wellington 1971
Black and white photograph
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1985
1985/5/3