• Alistair Guthrie

Alistair Guthrie (b. 1858) was born in Taranaki “under the mountain” and raised in New Plymouth, a place with great light, soul and surf. With a father who was a commercial photographer and co-owner of a distinctly avant garde photography studio in New Plymouth, it was perhaps unsurprising that Guthrie would pick up a camera and find he was quite good with it. When they say to keep it in the family, they’re not kidding. Beloved Dad encouraged young Guthrie to work at his studio after school, where he went about learning the dark arts of film and the mysteries of the camera–that is, the many technical skills of the profession to be “diligently learned and quickly forgotten” as they became second nature. Through the studio’s many magazine subscriptions and library of photographic art books, Guthrie also learned that photography could be something more than studio-based and commercial. It could be expressive, abstract, observational–the camera could become a passport, a conduit for access, an extension of his own eye.

After leaving school in sixth form, Guthrie headed to the Wellington Polytechnic School of Design for further awakening. Jobs as a photographer’s assistant followed in Wellington and Auckland. In the early-1980s, his career took an atypical turn after he accepted a post processing and printing the photos shot by inspection divers aboard a dive ship, working off the coast of Taranaki. While the divers documented the life of welds on the structure below the waves, Guthrie documented life above it, the ship’s crew, and their habits, rituals and interactions. These images would eventually form the content of his first exhibition The Ship in 1984, held in New Plymouth with friend & sculptor Richard Mathieson. Since then, Guthrie has worked as a freelance photographer for local and global advertising agencies and design studios, accumulating various awards and accolades along the way (including, last year, Purple & Gold Pins for the survey of New Zealand landscapes that would form part of the exhibition, There is no such thing as a New Zealand typeface).

Perpetual, curated by daughter Augustine Morgan Guthrie, is a long-awaited compilation of photos from self-directed projects. Even then, it’s just a taste of the Guthrie archive. Wandering through this room, you begin to understand the sheer expanse of subject matter that has captured Guthrie’s eye through three seminal decades in his life. There’s an enduring sense of clarity in Guthrie’s work–the gleam in someone’s eye as he catches them off guard, between takes, or pausing for a cuppa. Laughing at him, laughing with him. Guthrie on set is a force of wit, energy and expertise, it’s how he always gets the shot. Off set, he finds moments of breathtaking stillness, or vigour. He rides the line of spontaneous and considered. He takes honest, dynamic photographs, rooted in experience and an undying love for the medium. Perpetual is a room filled with these moments.

Show opens Friday 18 October, 6-8pm, at The Tuesday Club.

Opening Hours

  • 19-27 October, 11am-4pm


  • 42 Airedale St
  • Auckland CBD, 1010