NELSON NOW AND THEN
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book can be ordered from new zealand.
‘Fortune’ said Louis Pasteur ‘favours the prepared mind’.
Peter Lukas arrived in Nelson with his wife Maria from their home in Norway in January 2016. Lukas had already produced 10 photographic books on northern European townscapes of the ‘then and now’ format. He had no intention of making such a work when visiting New Zealand.
However he makes a point of perusing archives of the cities he visits, and was so impressed by the photographic collection in the Nelson provincial museum that he decided there was a book to be made. Though this collection has often been mind before, i has, so far as i know, not been used in this way before.
Lukas’ vision is to study an old picture, research, almost obsessively, to find so far as possible the precise location used by the original photographer, then repeat the performance using similar lighting, lens type, time of day to take that leap in time, usually well over a century, into our own twenty first century.
I have been delighted to accompany them both on some of these expeditions, and also, magnifying glass in hand, to scrutinize images, to locate these vantage points so as to reenact, as it were, the scene of the crime. Whereas many (myself included) would be tempted to step a few paces to right or left to get a ‘prettier’ view, Lukas is adamont to the point of stubborness, that this would be betraying his purpose.
So the pages merit very close scrutiny. There will usually, but not always, be a clue: a window, a gable, a spire, a fragment of Nelson’s hilly backdrop to give orientation. The lighthouse too has provided an anchor.
These pictures, the recent ones all taken in January 2016, exemplify Frank Lloyd right’s famous quote ‘Doctors can burry his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines’. The old views hint at a much richer townscape than we now usually see, blank faces presenting a blend stare, so it is not all together tragic that many are decently veiled in kindly greenery. Ruskin observed that a nation unwittingly writes its own autobiography in its deeds, words and art (for which read buildings).
Sadly i think our legacy will be, ironically for such a wealthy age, is one of architectual poverty, nasty, brutish and, perhaps fortunately, short lived.
This almost serendipidous collection is the happy result of Pasteur’s ‘prepared mind’ finding the right time and place to assemble an album which will, i believe, intrigue, puzzle and delight its viewers as much as it has done for me.
Christopher B. Vine
Nelson, January 2016