I’ve been watching the work of New Zealand Architectural photographer, Simon Devitt, for some years. Being an architectural photographer myself in the UK it’s good to see what others are up to and because a move to NZ has been on the cards since meeting my Kiwi wife 10 years ago.
Simon’s new book, Portrait of a House, sums up all that is great about photography, architecture, New Zealand, the current craze for photobook publishing and the Wellington architect Ian Athfield.
To give some background….Ian Athfield (born 1940) is a Wellinton based architect. His first project (and what no doubt will also be his final project) is Athfield House, his family home and studio based in Khandallah in Wellington, overlooking the harbour.
The building started in 1965 and is on-going. Numerous battles with neighbours and planning officials hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm Athfield has shown with his organic, growing hulk of a structure which needs to be googled to gain any understanding of what it looks like (mix a bit of modernism with Star wars and the Greek Islands and you are part there).
The book itself is a loving portrait of Athfield House. It combines recent images and images from the history of the building, personal portraits, interiors and exteriors, shots of parties, shots of food, shots of long forgotten spaces. It does not seek to create architectural bling but an honest and valuable document of how a space looks and how a space has been used over many decades. With the addition of recipes from Clare Athfield and loving accounts of living and / or working in the house, this is a architectural record and a social document and the book itself is a beautifully crafted piece of art in it’s own right. When you first see and touch the book the design and tactcile nature of the chosen thick, hairy card, and muted tones is a joy.
When the house inevtiably ends up as a museum to one persons architectural vision, this book will serve as a balance to keep it’s true memory alive. Far too many photobooks are all design and no substance (like far too much architecture) but this is the real deal.
Go buy a copy
Publisher: Balasoglou Books
Author: Simon Devitt