Folio: Stuart Clook

Folio: Stuart Clook

Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere – a liminal landscape

Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere is a broad, shallow coastal lake or waituna, in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand. One of New Zealand’s most important wetland ecosystems and of significant cultural importance to Ngāi Tahu, being a major source of mahinga kai (food gathering), and an important source of mana (prestige & spiritual power)

This work aims to chronicle the intrinsic beauty of these surroundings while also spotlighting the crucial importance of continuing the work in restoring and safeguarding the lake against the dual threats of human activity and climate change.

Photographs were made using large format and pinhole cameras and printed using the platinum palladium process onto vellum that is gilding on the reverse side with silver leaf. The print process used helps highlight the poignant juxtaposition between the infinite longevity of platinum prints and the ephemeral existence of the landscape they depict. The last three prints in the series have employed the use of the Mordancage process on the camera film negative to recognise the hidden environmental damage already inflicted but that is not always obvious.

Lake grasses 42 x 26 cm
Maimai II. 26 x 42 cm.
Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere 26 x 42 cm.
Yarrs Flat. 26 x 42 cm.
Nursery spider nest. 26 x 42 cm.
Grey Willows. 26 x 42 cm.
LII River tributary. 26 x 42 cm.
Lake level. 26 x 42 cm.
LII River tributary II. 26 x42 cm.
Flood plain. 26 x42 cm.
Selwyn River. 42 x 26 cm.

Stuart Clook is a photographer and printmaker who finds inspiration in the aesthetic traditions of the late 19th-century Pictorial and Tonalism movements for his artistic work. His commitment to using time-honoured printing processes such as platinum, carbon transfer, cyanotype, and gum bichromate reflects his deep passion and dedication to capturing the essence and drama of the New Zealand landscape and its flora.

For Stuart, these techniques are not just tools; they are the very medium through which he interprets the natural world. Each project reflects a delicate balance between control and serendipity, resulting in prints that are both unique and an invitation for viewers to escape the rapid pace of modern life.

Cameras: 4×5 Lensless, RealitySoSubtle 4x5Z and 1 photograph with my Chamonix 45f2

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Stuart Clook is a New Zealand fine art photographer.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:49 am

    Hi Stuart,
    When I grew up in Christchurch I would often travel between ChCh and Duvauchelle Bay (Kaitouna) and Akaroa ( Kāi Tahu Māori) on Banks Peninsula (Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū) initially by pushbike and then car for my summer holidays I would often stop and walk around Lake Ellsmere. (Te Waihora ). It drew me to it but I never walked around it extensively nor did I think of it as a liminal space.

    But you are dead right — it is an inbetween or transitional place and seeing these photos brings back memories of feeling it as a liminal space –I never had the word for those feelings about being in the presence of a space of “in-between-ness”. So thankyou for sharing your wonderfully sensitive and poignant photos.They mean a lot to me.

    On another note, though I grew up in ChCh in the 1960s and early 1970s and got a degree in economics and politics at Canterbury University I never realized that Lake Ellsmere (Te Waihora ) was one of New Zealand’s most important wetland ecosystems. Nor did I realize that it was of significant cultural importance to Ngāi Tahu, as it was a major source of mahinga kai (food gathering), and an important source of mana (prestige & spiritual power). I did not even know that the Ngāi Tahu, or Kāi Tahu, were the principal Māori iwi (tribe) of the South Island. Did they, the Ngāi Tahu, have sacred sites at Te Waihora?

    I do hope that the plans to restore Te Waihora to its former glory succeed.

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