26 Photographs of a House

Ann Shelton

  • 2 Oct - 2 Nov, 2007

The Castle I have photographed is not really a Castle, however the myths that circulate around the Wilkinson house designed by well-known Arts and Crafts architect James Walter Chapman-Taylor would seem to situate it in the realm of a gothic tale. Themes of the gothic, the English elite, and ludism are often associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement of which the Castle is a late and geographically removed example (the movement is usually sited as running from 1870-1920 and was primarily practiced in England and in America). In what may seem like an awkward relationship or indeed an interesting contradiction the house references the quaint English cottage retreat while resonating with troupes of the gothic tale.

This project engages site, an ongoing theme in my practice. During the Govett Brewster artist in residency I developed several bodies of work around themes of place, history and narrative. Crucial to this investigation is a questioning of absence, a reexamination and recognition of the variable accounts that are narrated in relation to place.

As I have said elsewhere, I have sought to make images that embrace the speculative and mobile nature of history and memory. The photographs presented here are vacant in that they are unpopulated, but they are occupied by the numerous histories and stories that a viewer brings to them. Particularly relevant in this instance is the fact that the castle (as it is known locally) is let out as a holiday home and is often booked up two years in advance. The visitors books in the main lounge give a sense of place as a repository and of the re-population of the site over and over. We get a glimpse of the status of the house as a transporter, as a little utopia, or a sanctuary.

This project utilizes archival images taken by Chapman-Taylor at the time the house was constructed and contemporary images photographed by myself during a weeklong stay at the property some 75 years on. The temporal relationships between the archival images, printed primarily from Chapman-Taylor's glass plates, sourced by myself from the collection of Chapman-Taylor historian Judy Siers, and the contemporary plates is intended to emphasize a temporally displaced return, a reevaluation of place in a new historical context.

Here the diptych motif common to my work is developed further to include an element of temporal slippage. The inclusion of archival images allows a juxtaposition, which emphasizes the gaps in the perceptual and temporal spaces that these images occupy.

Ann Shelton 2007

With special thanks to Ian and Gwen Besley, Judy Siers, Wendy Garvey, Polli Mariner, Sada McCormack and Duncan Munro.

All black and white images are the work of photographer, architect and astrologer James Walter Chapman-Taylor. The bulk of the black and white images are printed from the original glass plates held in the collection of Judy Siers, Napier based Chapman-Taylor historian, and Author of the publication, The Life and Times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor, forthcoming in April from Millwood Heritage Press. The remainder were made as camera copies off contact prints, courtesy of Auckland University Architecture Library.