AMERICAN LANDSCAPE: SHUSTAK USA 1960–1971
This publication showcases photographs made by Larence Shustak before he left USA in 1973 to establish the photography department at the School of Fine Arts in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Shustak was part of an early ferment on the East Coast of the emerging awareness of photography as an independent tool of art, self-expression and social engagement, existing outside of the mainstream picture magazines and commercial studios. American Landscape samples Shustak’s early experiments, commissions and personal projects that reflect an evolving sense of a time in transition, seen through the artist’s eyes. Starting with more traditional street studies, graffiti, lively New York Jazz recording scenes and a serious documentary study of a Harlem-based Ethiopian Hebrew synagogue, the subject matter then evolved into art ‘happening’ events and the hippie culture of the late 1960s, and on to his provocative and lascivious nudes using a fish-eye lens. It provides a window to the intriguing worlds that photographers were traversing at the time.
There are two additional treats in this modest, but gorgeous limited print publication: A well-researched essay by James Robertson written for a New Zealand exhibition of Shustak’s work in 2008 that placed his US photographs in the context of the times, and a feature documentary film ‘SHUSTAK’ (2009) on DVD, made by Stuart Page as a means of elaborating on the intriguing narrative and a biopic of this man. Page’s documentary was made with one simple question in mind, “Why would a successful New York photographer leave his family, friends and career behind, and travel to the edge of the earth, Christchurch, New Zealand?”
Here is Robertson’s assessment of this informative and entertaining DVD:
“So director Stuart Page, student and long-time friend of Larence Shustak gives us ‘SHUSTAK’. Both man and documentary are unconventional in more than just name and Page emphasises this photographic onomatopoeia extending aural and visual into a unique character study. Though biography is always an incomplete project, Page rethinks how a documentary functions, to match its subject, and to knowingly and playfully exist as an artwork in its own right. What results is a multi-layered work that reflects on its own process of production. A multifaceted portrait of an artist, as the one-time apprentice radically yet respectfully re-masters the teacher through friends, family, students, and colleagues and most importantly the artist’s own output.”
42pp, soft cover, staple bound, 90 min DVD
RRP NZ $100 inc.GST LIMITED FIRST PRINT EDITION of 10
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