Max Oettli was born in Switzerland in 1947; when he was 10 his parents immigrated to New Zealand in 1957 where his parents purchased a dairy far at Whatawhata near Hamilton.
As an admirer of the fellow photographer Henri Cartier Bresson he emulated the artist’s camera methodology of always travelling with a 35mm, both day and night. From 1965 until 1976, he undertook a style of photography which is intensely autobiographic.
Oettli enrolled in the University of Auckland, studying English to BA level. At the same time he became the photographer and illustrations editor of Craccum, the Auckland University Student’s Association weekly newspaper. Using the notion of ‘visible evidence’ he photographically documented every aspect of student’s lives; both at the University and off-site. His adherence to always being ever-ready with his camera give his images an astonishingly vibrancy and connectedness.
Certain themes recur during the 10 years Oettli was based in Auckland: street culture (shopping, protest, parties, night-life), the urban built environment undergoing change and renewal, and the human realities within private and public relationships. Rather than being obsessed with photographic technique, Oettli focussed on recording his emotional rapport with inner city urban life.
Oettli’s confident practice makes the images which he created at Auckland over a decade amongst the most personal visual diaries made by any post-war New Zealand photographer. There is nothing of received or polite behaviours in his photo-record of the period. He is honed on seeing what’s occurring in his immediate space rather than making it appear composed or ‘arty’. It was this spontaneity that drew Tom Hutchins’s attention. The Black Star photographer and Elam Lecturer in Photography invited Oettli to work as Elam’s first technical instructor in 1970. As a leader in the foundation of PhotoForum, Oettli influenced an entire generation of camera practitioners.
- Boy and Skeleton, The Australian Museum, Sydney
- Production date
- gelatin silver print
- 237 x 177 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Max Oettli, through the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation, 2018
- Accession no
- Copying restrictions apply
- New Zealand Art
- Display status
- On display
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