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Sport 30: Peter Black-Real Fiction

End of the Road

End of the Road

The past keeps moving—‘places go by, and that's how you leave the past’—disappearing off into the far distance. In hindsight, Peter Black's ‘Moving Pictures’ is a pictorial essay about a period when New Zealand collectively realised that Jesus wasn't going to save us, but entertained the thought for a moment that money—or ‘prosperity’ as the PR for the era went—might. ‘In 1986 page 66 and 1987, for many the country felt bad’, Peter Black wrote a few years later. ‘It seemed like the social fabric was being unglued. The economy was being restructured, unemployment was high, rising interest rates were forcing farmers off the land, and then the sharemarket crashed.’

Shortly after ‘Moving Pictures’, the roof blew off the decade and the series inadvertently became a kind of ready-made memorial, with its boom ‘n’ bust litany: ‘TWIGGY NEEDS GRUBBING’ … ‘SURE TO RISE’ [On the Edmonds Building, now demolished] … ‘Satellite TV’ … ‘One Hour Photograph’ … ‘Ray Kearly Has Aids’, ‘Wheel Alignment’ … ‘Sterns For Furs’ …

Since that time, New Zealand has continued to reconfigure—witness Peter Black's recent series ‘Streetworks’ [pp155–59], which is marked by both an eerie continuity with the past and a sense of radical reinvention. By the late 1990s, the Waikato town of Matamata had become Hobbiton and other areas had been assimilated into Peter Jackson's filmic Middle Earth. And, at the time of writing, Tom Cruise is residing near New Plymouth where a Samurai movie is being shot, because, as a film industry representative says, ‘Taranaki is the best place [in the world] to create a 19thcentury vision of Japan.’ These disjunctions seem oddly consistent with what Peter Black's photographs were inferring all along: that ‘seeing is disbelieving’, particularly when it comes to national identity in a world of not only radical social and economic change but also of digital enhancement, virtual reality and increasingly frequent moa-sightings [p163].

Black and white photograph.

Child's grave, Lake Taupo, 2002