Weekend Herald - Canvas
The Confession Box: Fiona Pardington
Photographer Fiona Pardington confesses to three of the deadly sins
What or whom do you envy?
At the moment I’m not envious of anybody but all of us have first-hand knowledge of what that’s like from both sides of the fence. The Catholics say envy is the capital vice and many other vices are attached to it. It’s a bit like a rat king and so much can go wrong. Envy is all about seeking to take away another person’s success or excellence and it’s something you have to guard yourself against. It’s different to jealousy and some people get them mixed up. Jealousy is when you have something that you don’t want anyone else to have. Envy is when you don’t want someone else to have something good. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction in humankind, I think — it’s all around us in the world because there are so many things that are pushed at us that we need or we want or desire.
People will have envied you at many points in your career — have you ever been negatively affected by that?
It can hurt your feelings. There are people who will work against a person to make sure they won’t achieve any more than they have ... That is quite hard-arse, doing that to somebody else. Yes, I have encountered that. I’m not a Christian but I take the Christian attitude of turning the other cheek. There’s very little you can do other than starve the activity by ignoring it or continue to be as successful as you possibly can. Let it make you a better person.
Sticking with your career, you have so much to be proud of. What stands out for you?
I’m funny; I don’t attach myself too easily to those types of feelings. It’s a little bit superstitious, I suppose. I think it’s better to practise being grateful for what you’ve got and grateful for what you’ve achieved and being happy for other people’s successes, which takes us back to envy. It’s easier said than done, really, because it is easier to fall into pride than to stand outside it. In a small country where there’s only so much attention and funding to go around, it can get awkward can’t it, trying to be happy for other people?
Well that’s the thing, not to feel that you’re subject to that. Artists pull their creativity out of thin air anyway, so they’re walking a fine line. Why should they suddenly feel they are grasping after this money or this success? They can create their own. And they’re not taking it off anybody else. You’re not actually removing or stealing other people’s success or money in order to achieve your own. It’s all about you doing the best you possibly can with what you have and what accomplishments you are capable of achieving. Your daughter, Akura Makea-pardington, is also a photographer. How does that make you feel?
It makes your heart well up when your kids do something great or they have this natural ability. That’s how I feel about it; it’s a welling-up of love.
Not many people choose lust for this interview.
People think, “Oh hell, we’re just going to have to talk about people we’ve really wanted to sleep with or have cheated on” — but lust is not that banal. It is that — but it’s not just that. It’s more that it affects your judgment and affects your ability to perceive what’s going on — the truth of your actions is lost.
Did you grow up in a religious household?
No, my parents were not religious but they did send me to Sunday School, probably just to get rid of me for a little while. There’s so much that’s bad about Christianity, you have to know a bit about it to have an opinion. I always loved the Catholic Church because they have the best churches and they wear the best clothes and have got the most bling and the statuary is just beautiful. I love all of their ritual. If I go to a city I always find the biggest and blingiest Catholic church and take photos.
Your grandmother was one of your first photographic subjects. What was she like? Well, she was religious. She was psychic. She had problems with spirits keeping her up at night, visiting her when she was supposed to be sleeping, so I did learn a very simple manner of faith through her. She had died on an operating table and done the whole tunnel of light business, met some kind of entity that told her she had to go back to her children, she couldn’t stay. She had an unshakeable faith in this experience and what came after.
TIKI: Orphans of Maoriland by Fiona Pardington is at Auckland’s Starkwhite gallery until Saturday, July 20.