ON IN THE STREETS

For decades, John Miller has been doc­u­ment­ing the most im­por­tant in­stances of Aotearoa’s pop­u­la­tion tak­ing to the streets to ef­fect change. The pho­tog­ra­pher takes us back to one of his ear­lier protest sub­jects to tell the sto­ries be­hind the im­ages

New Zealand D-Photo - - PROFILE | JOHN MILLER - WO R D S | Q I A N E M ATATA - S I P U

John Miller is a name synony­mous with New Zealand so­cial doc­u­men­tary. He has cap­tured this coun­try’s most mo­men­tous protests, from land marches and war demon­stra­tions to anti-apartheid events and Maori ¯ rights move­ments. His ar­chives hold more than four decades of Aotearoa his­tory, its peo­ple and its land­scape. Our in­ter­view takes place over a slightly crack­ling land­line phone, the mi­nor re­verb mim­ick­ing a broad­cast in­ter­view of the ’60s. We’ve met a few times, and I pic­ture him to­day sit­ting at his ta­ble, wear­ing his in­fa­mous mil­i­tary-style fit­ted cap. He al­ready has me en­grossed in one of his sto­ries. Of Ngaite­wake-ki-uta, Uri Tani­wha, Ngati ¯ Re­hia, and Nga¯puhi de­scent, the 68-year-old paints his black-and-white im­ages with colour­ful de­tails, vividly re­call­ing names, dates, events, words spo­ken, and flags flown.

“So, are you go­ing to ask me about the ex­hi­bi­tion?” he queries, as we get lost in con­ver­sa­tion about his first-ever pho­tographs, taken on his fa­ther’s “lit­tle Ko­dak cam­era”, at age 11. One was of a visit to Auck­land Zoo, the other a cross­ing over the Auck­land Har­bour Bridge. He goes on about his Rus­sian twin-lens Lu­bi­tel — “the ba­sic ver­sion of a Rollei­flex” — and the Ko­dak In­sta­matic with pop-up flash that was bought for £25, the equiv­a­lent of his

mother’s weekly teacher’s wage.

The cam­eras are im­por­tant, be­cause Miller used them in 1965 to pho­to­graph the open­ing of Pare­wa­hawaha Meet­ing House in Bulls and his school’s sports day. By the time he got to uni­ver­sity, run­ning around the streets with var­i­ous cam­eras was a daily ac­tiv­ity.

“Some of those pho­tos have ended up in this show,” he ex­plains.

We’re back on topic.

Miller’s lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion, Protest, opened in Septem­ber at the Pah Home­stead, TSB Wal­lace Arts Cen­tre, and was part of the Artweek Auck­land pro­gramme. The 14 im­ages are a col­lec­tion that spans five years of Viet­nam War protests, taken dur­ing John’s time as a sec­ondary and uni­ver­sity stu­dent and as the pho­tog­ra­pher for

The Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land’s stu­dent weekly mag­a­zine, Crac­cum.

“The first time this col­lec­tion showed, there were 100 im­ages,” he points out. “This is just a lit­tle snip­pet.”

The pho­tographs doc­u­ment an era that saw close to 15,000 peo­ple take to the streets in marches and or­ga­nized ac­tiv­ity.

“There was a huge range of peo­ple from all dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Stu­dents, the mid­dle-aged, ladies with fur coats and hand­bags, work­ers with plac­ards. “Ide­o­log­i­cally, I was very against the Viet­nam War,” he adds. “We had been get­ting all the in­for­ma­tion from abroad via Amer­i­can un­der­ground news­pa­pers.”

As a first-hand wit­ness to some of the turn­ing points in our his­tory, John says that not too much has changed in the protest land­scape over the past 40 years. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he was pho­tograph­ing the anti-nu­clear move­ment. The early 2000s saw the anti–Iraq and Afghanistan war protests. There were also protests against ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing and the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

John has recorded his share of con­fronta­tions at Wai­tangi, too, but says the po­lit­i­cal land­scape there has be­come less charged.

“Last year, I got served a plate of break­fast from [Green Party co-leader] Marama David­son and [Labour MP] Kir­i­tapu Al­lan,” he laughs. “I’m old enough to re­mem­ber what Wai­tangi used to be like, when it was con­grat­u­la­tory back­slap­ping, the [Royal New Zealand] Navy march­ing around salut­ing and fir­ing guns, and speeches from politi­cians about how ‘mar­vel­lous’ the state of re­la­tions was. Then the rad­i­cals turned up in 1971 and shook things up.”

Each year, the day has been used to help bring at­ten­tion to key is­sues, such as

off­shore drilling and the move­ment against metham­phetamine.

“The po­lice loved that one,” John laughs. “They were even help­ing hold the ban­ners.” John is too hum­ble to ac­cept praise for his ex­pan­sive con­tri­bu­tion to New Zealand’s vis­ual his­tory. In­stead, he rat­tles off names such as Ans Wes­tra, Gil Hanly, and Marti Fried­lan­der, so that we don’t for­get to rec­og­nize ev­ery­one’s col­lec­tive in­put. How­ever, with the pass­ing of time, John’s own im­ages have con­tin­ued to ac­quire sig­nif­i­cant value, and, he ad­mits, his col­lec­tions are good for re­mind­ing peo­ple that New Zealan­ders get out on the streets in large num­bers to stand for what they be­lieve in.

In the fol­low­ing, John uses his own words to tell the sto­ries be­hind some of the im­ages in the Protest ex­hi­bi­tion.

AMER­I­CAN MAR­TYRS

“A lot of the protests took place at night­time, usu­ally Fri­day nights. I would have to use a flash gun. The strength of my flash gun meant that a lot of the signs would just white out. I took this photo on 30 April 1971, but it wasn’t un­til Feb­ru­ary 2017 that I re­al­ized how sig­nif­i­cant it was. “The orig­i­nal proof sheet showed only a guy hold­ing a com­pletely white plac­ard. Us­ing a dark­room at the time, I had ex­posed the photo for the per­son. Last year, when I whacked it in the scan­ner and opened it in Pho­to­shop, I man­aged to pull the lev­els and see what was writ­ten there: ‘Re­mem­ber Saint Alice Hertz [Herz], Saint Nor­man Mor­ri­son, Saint Roger La Porte [La­Porte], Saint Florence Beau­mont’, with var­i­ous dates. “All four of those peo­ple had burnt them­selves to death in protest against the Amer­i­can war in Viet­nam. Roger La­Porte set him­self on fire in front of the United Na­tions build­ing in New York City, on 9 Novem­ber 1965. Alice Herz was an 82-year-old Jewish refugee from Hitler ’s Ger­many; she burnt her­self on a street cor­ner in Detroit.

“The stu­dents stand­ing around this man are obliv­i­ous. Back then, there were no cell phones nor Google, so they wouldn’t have been able to ac­cess that in­for­ma­tion eas­ily. I sus­pect this chap was an Amer­i­can work­ing in an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, be­cause his sign was very pro­fes­sion­ally let­tered. He was prob­a­bly a vet­eran of the Sec­ond World War and in his early 50s.

“Some peo­ple have writ­ten about this in­ci­dent, claim­ing that the protesters were throw­ing paint at the sol­diers and let­ting off fire­crack­ers; that is bull­shit”

The thing I like the most about this photo is that it took me 46 years to dis­cover that I ac­tu­ally had it.”

POLY­NE­SIAN PAN­THERS

“[This photo is of what] would have been one of the fi­nal protest events of that era be­cause, about four months later, the Labour Gov­ern­ment was voted in and had a pol­icy to pull out of Viet­nam. “‘Poly­ne­sians against War’ is the main ban­ner here. You will rec­og­nize the dis­tinc­tive fig­ure of Tame Iti in the fore­ground. To the left is Miriama Rauhihi, [mu­si­cian] Che Fu’s mum. She is march­ing, hav­ing lost her brother Pri­vate Peter Rauhihi, in the war three years ear­lier. He died in Viet­nam in June 1969, one of

37 New Zealand ca­su­al­ties. I have an­other pho­to­graph that reads ‘ Vi­et­cong never called me a Co­conut!’, which is from the same group, I think.

“This image was taken head­ing down Queen Street just be­fore the Civic [cin­ema]; I can spot the end of Auck­land Town Hall on the right. It is re­ally im­pres­sive how the peo­ple in this image have stuck to the kau­papa all these years, stuck to their ideals. Tame got his full-face moko in the mid ’90s, so his phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance here is much dif­fer­ent from the man we see to­day.”

AUNTY HE­LEN

“I got to know ‘Aunty’ He­len [Ke­sha] a lit­tle while af­ter this photo was taken. She was a kuia from Ngati ¯ Whatua. ¯ She was vig­or­ously wav­ing this yel­low and red striped pa­per flag, the South Viet­namese na­tional flag. She is ba­si­cally ex­press­ing great crit­i­cism — in a loud voice I re­call — of the protest. She gave the protesters a real hard time be­cause of her vig­or­ous sup­port for the boys, par­tic­u­larly the Maori ¯ boys, com­ing back from Viet­nam.

“The shot also shows how much Auck­land has changed. Those Land Rovers are driv­ing up Greys Ave. In those days, Greys Ave came all the way down into Queen Street. It was long be­fore they set up Aotea Square.

POLY­NE­SIAN PAN­THERS, ‘POLY­NE­SIANS AGAINST THE WAR’ CON­TIN­GENT IN 14 JULY MO­BI­LIZA­TION DOWN QUEEN STREET TO THE CEN­TRAL

POST OF­FICE, 1972. MIRIAMA RAUHIHI (MOTHER OF SINGER CHE FU) CEN­TRE LEFT FRONT

AUNTY HE­LEN, ‘AUNTY’ HE­LEN KE­SHA OF NGATI WHATUA, FLOUR­ISH­ING SOUTH VIET­NAMESE GOV­ERN­MENT PA­PER FLAG, WEL­COM­ING THE

SAS CON­TIN­GENT IN THE 161 BAT­TERY PA­RADE, WHILE HURL­ING ABUSE AT THE PROTEST CON­TIN­GENT BE­YOND, 23 MAY 1971

GUER­RILLA THE­ATRE, GUER­RILLA THE­ATRE PER­FOR­MANCE BRO­KEN UP BY PO­LICE. NEW ZEALAND ARMY 161 BAT­TERY WEL­COME-HOME PA­RADE, 23 MAY 1971

A lot of my pho­tographs show city build­ings, in Auck­land and Welling­ton, that have since been de­mol­ished.”

GUER­RILLA THE­ATRE

“[This photo was taken] at the same event as Aunty He­len [at­tended] — [the civic pa­rade led by the Royal New Zealand Ar­tillery Band, fol­lowed by a dou­ble col­umn of Land Rovers car­ry­ing the gun­ners of 161 Bat­tery, and troop­ers from the New Zealand Spe­cial Air Ser­vice (NZSAS)] — there was a plan for a group of lo­cal ac­tivists to do some ‘guer­rilla the­atre’ ac­tion. The idea was to show the car­nage that the war was in­flict­ing on the or­di­nary peo­ple of Viet­nam [by burst­ing] bags of red paint to look like blood.

“One of my friends, Far­rell Cleary, was meant to give the sig­nal for the group, who were dressed as Viet­namese peas­ants, to rush out and per­form the the­atre. They were meant to be fin­ished be­fore the pa­rade reached that part of town. But, you see, Far­rell is six-foot-five and sticks out quite a bit. The cops were sus­pi­cious of him, and so one cop stood right in front of him and fol­lowed him around. He couldn’t give the sig­nal.

“The pa­rade was get­ting closer and so he sig­nalled what he could be­fore the cop took him down to the ground. The ac­tivist ac­tors rushed out, but it was too late. It made it look like an at­tempt to

dis­rupt the pa­rade. Some peo­ple have writ­ten about this in­ci­dent, claim­ing that the protesters were throw­ing paint at the sol­diers and let­ting off fire­crack­ers; that is bull­shit.”

Protest is on in the Pho­tog­ra­phy Gallery at Pah Home­stead, TSB Wal­lace Arts Cen­tre, un­til 11 Novem­ber.

PAR­TIC­I­PANTS IN THE HUGE 30 JULY MO­BI­LIZA­TION IN QUEEN STREET, 1971. NEAR­ING THE MARCH’S END, OUT­SIDE THE AUCK­LAND CIVIC AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION BUILD­ING

SEC­ONDARY SCHOOL STU­DENTS PICKET IN CEN­TRAL WELLING­TON, 1970

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.