A Few Of The Legends
Back in 1983, Australian photographer Peter Adams set out on a lifelong journey. An outstanding photographer in his own right, he went on a mission to interview and photograph as many of the world’s most exceptional living photographers as he could and make a book which would collect as many of them as possible. It all began over a long liquid lunch when someone suggested he should make a book which contained as many of the great names as possible.
There is little doubt that, had he known what was ahead of them, he might well never have begun. His 608-page treasure, A Few of the Legends would end up taking more than thirty-five years to complete, cost close to $500,000 to produce, involve around 250,000 km of travel (much of it overseas) and generate 42,000 film negatives (plus countless digital files).
My involvement with the book, and eventual inclusion in it, began in 1990 when Matheson Beaumont (one of New Zealand’s photographic icons) invited me to submit a body of work for the Dunedin Photographic Society’s Centennial exhibition. If my memory serves me correctly, Peter was the keynote speaker at the event. Somewhere around that time, he invited me to sit for him as part of the project. Of course, I agreed. And forgot about it. From time to time, I would wonder whether he had ever completed the book.
The decades went by, and then one day about two years ago, Peter suddenly popped up, pushed some text in front of me and asked me to supply a couple of pictures for the book. After photographing more than 500 photographers, he had reduced those included down to 280. I scurried to comply.
Perhaps a year ago, when I was talking to him, I asked him how come he had picked me. As Peter tells it, he was walking around the exhibition with New Zealand photographic icon, Brian Brake, and they stopped to look at my work. It was Brian who pointed me out and suggested to him that I should include me in the project, that I was one to watch for the future.
“The final choice was entirely mine based on four criteria,” Peter explains. These were photographers who have taken a great historic or interesting photograph, those who represent a cross-section of nationalities and modi operandi, those I liked and respected as human beings, and those who have contributed to photography as promoters, educators or inventors.”
“All the best artists have a philosophy, and you just can’t go down to the camera store and get a philosophy. You get it out of living for a while and, out of that philosophy, comes an idea. And all great art – all great art, not just photography – has, as its central theme, an idea. It’s that connection between the two that fascinates me and, to some extent, this book is about the ideas. They’re not necessarily all well-known photographers – although many of them are – but there’s always an idea behind their pictures.”