Road People of Aotearoa: Images of house-truck journeys 1978-1984

Road People of Aotearoa: Images of house-truck journeys 1978-1984
Photographs by Paul C Gilbert

Foreword by Michael Colonna
Essays by Haru Sameshima and John B Turner

A historic photo-essay by the late Paul C. Gilbert, this book chronicles the early days of the New Zealand phenomenon of DIY house trucks, which appeared on the roads around the mid-1970s as part of an alternative lifestyle movement. The house-truckers were drawn to the alternative life and music festivals of the time, including Nambassa in the late 1970s and Sweetwaters festivals in the early 1980s. Paul Gilbert travelled with the grass-roots music and performance troupes in their convoys of hand-converted house trucks starting with ‘The Original Travelling Road Show and Mahana’, as they journeyed through small communities and music festivals around the North Island.

Paul Gilbert’s camera intimately observes the road people while building and decorating the house trucks with their wonderful interiors and also in their everyday activities. He captures their children and families and the fringe circus and musical performances in various festivals and different locations. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many house truck conventions and grass-roots festivals around a variety of themes were held in New Zealand where house-truckers would converge, not only for the event but for the opportunity to connect and share information with other truckers. Low-key festival circuits could be found in regions of Coromandel, Northland, and West Auckland, where, for two decades, Moller’s farm at Oratia west of Auckland, a popular venue for blues and folk festivals, offered an open house for truckers to park on a semi-permanent basis as needed. These were unique times indeed.

Paul C Gilbert (1954-2019) started taking photographs as a young boy via family influences. Early projects were developed as documentary street photography in the fine arts tradition when he was a founder member of PhotoForum NZ in 1973. He was employed as a photographer at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and then at the Auckland City Art Gallery in the 1970s. He left employment to pursue the project, ‘Road People of Aotearoa’ in 1978. Later, as an independent photographer, he mainly specialised in documenting maritime heritage, vessels and history. He was the technical instructor of photography at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland from 1990 to 2008.

Haru Sameshima, in his essay, interviews many of the house truckers – to uncover the historical context of the musicians and street performers against the backdrop of the latter stages of the alternative life movement that manifested in the festivals and events in Paul’s photo-essay. The musicians, clowns, street performers, and their friends, who have now seen many of Paul’s photographs for the first time after 40 years, recount the festivals and road journeys in their own words. John B Turner, influential photography teacher at Elam School of Fine Arts from 1971 to 2011 – in his essay reflects upon Paul’s life as an individual and a photographer – and situates his image-making in the international movement of personal documentary photography, as an embedded observer of life, rather than outsider reporter/photojournalist.


Without a counterculture, what chance has the mainstream culture of improving, growing and diversifying? As well as being vehicles of imagination, poetry and a romantic life-concept, the vehicles photographed by Paul Gilbert have become a far greater force in the country’s evolving consciousness than anyone ever expected. In the present era of small houses and mobile homes, these images offer not only a prehistory but also a soundtrack and some messages worth deciphering, written with love on the fugitive walls and ceilings of the not-so-distant past.

– Gregory O’Brien

RRP $50.00

Add to cart

hardback | 184 pages
275 x 235 mm | 200 illustrations
ISBN 978-0-9951184-6-1
Publication: October 2021

For all wholesale orders and requests info@rimbooks.com

ENTOURAGE: aka Physical Distance Theory, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Videogames

by Tim J. Veling

Self-published artist book from Otautahi Christchurch. Available from Rim Books in limited quantity.

Author of Red Bus Diary (2006), Veling began photographing his home city of Christchurch well before the 2010-11 quakes changed the CBD forever. Since then, for the full decade, he has amassed passionate and personal observations of the transformation and rebuild, publishing many photobooks and portfolios via www.placeintime.org, a multi-platform project facilitating and promoting documentary work about Christchurch and a cross-section of its people. Place … Continue reading

Hinemihi: Te Hokinga – The Return
Hamish Coney and Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera
with contributions by Jim Schuster, Lyonel Grant and photographs by Mark Adams
The journey of the carved house Hinemihi o Te Ao Tawhito (Hinemihi of the old world) is one defined by cataclysmic events and the unpredictability of elemental forces.
Continue reading

DESIGN GENERATION: How Peter Haythornthwaite shaped New Zealand’s design-led enterprise
Michael Smythe
With an introduction and interview by Michael Barrett

This book tells the story of one of New Zealand’s most influential industrial designers. Spanning five decades, Design Generation documents Haythornthwaite’s career through childhood influences, education in Auckland and Illinois, work experience in California and New York, and teaching and consultant practice back in New Zealand. It chronicles his many roles as a design leader: as innovator of design, employer in private practices and his notable contribution to the wider field of design.  Vivid case studies of Haythornthwaite’s work illustrate … Continue reading

CARBON EMPIRE
Allan McDonald

Winner New Zealand Photobook of the year award 2017.

Carbon Empire works in the space between art and documentary photography.

It combines a short series of staged photographs of a ‘man in the street’ made in 1997 with images of closed petrol stations photographed between 2003 and 2017.

Carbon Empire is a juxtaposition of these two series of photographs and a single image, made by chance in 2002.

The closed petrol stations reflect the effects of petroleum law changes across New Zealand. In 1988, the petroleum sector became deregulated, with the large international wholesalers able … Continue reading

WHENUA FONUA ‘ENUA

Benjamin Work with photographs by Brendan Kitto
Interview with Benjamin Work by Giles Peterson

Published by Rim Books in association with Uxbridge Art & Culture.

Early Polynesian navigators gave names to the places they encountered as a reminder of the spiritual threshold between creation and reality. This was because they regarded the ideas of geographic and spiritual origin as mutually similar. Whenua Fonua ‘Enua explores the significance of name and place and the importance of these indicators that connect us to our past and highlight the characteristics of our present. Through new paintings and this companion publication in … Continue reading

TOM HUTCHINS: SEEN IN CHINA 1956
Edited by John B. Turner. Chinese translation by Han Niu.

Published by Turner PhotoBooks, Auckland/Beijing in collaboration with PhotoForum Inc, Auckland, NZ, 2016 as Photoforum issue 86.

English and Chinese text

This bi-lingual book was produced to coincide with the debut exhibition of photographs made in China 60 years ago by the pioneering New Zealand photojournalist and photographic educator, Tom Hutchins (1921-2007), presented at the 2016 Pingyao International Photography Festival.

‘On the platform there are many people waiting to cross the other way, waiting for the train back to Hong Kong. . . … Continue reading

STOMP
Jon Carapiet

STOMP explores themes of photographic portraiture and ‘the gaze’ in the context of destruction, questioning how we connect and identify with the other.

The images were made in Europe, India and Egypt since 2014 and began as a personal response to the destruction in Bamiyan and Timbuktu, Palmyra and Aleppo. Such recent manifestations of fascism have 20th Century antecedents in the Holocaust and Armenian genocide, but trace even further back in human consciousness. There is a long history of attempting to erase people from memory.

Stomp seeks to reach beyond a sense of despair and … Continue reading