Photographer Fiona Clark shocked 1970s New Zealand with her documentary images of Auckland’s burgeoning queer scene. The pictures they tried to ban were just the beginning for one of Aotearoa's photography greats.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Fiona Clark is one of Aotearoa’s most notable photographers but, thanks to the repressive environment of 1970s New Zealand, her career was almost stubbed out before it began.
The artist’s early images captured the heady local excitement of gay liberation that mainstream society was not ready to accept; her negatives were censored, images were pulled from exhibition, and art dealers refused to work with her.
Four decades later, Fiona Clark: Unafraid recounts how the photographer overcame censorship, homophobia, sexism and debilitating physical injuries to become one of our most respected social documentarians.
The film invites audiences inside the decommissioned Taranaki dairy factory that Fiona calls her home and office, an abandoned milking shed converted into a darkroom and powered by its own natural gas well, repaired by the photographer herself. Through a series of candid interviews, the documentary paints a picture of the artist as an eclectic, staunchly independent force of nature.
Although Fiona is best known for documenting Auckland’s nascent queer scene (of which she was an active participant), the film also affords rich reflection on her diverse portfolio, including collaborating with tangata whenua to fight environmental degradation and documenting a burgeoning Kiwi bodybuilding community.
Fiona has been instrumental in ensuring the history of marginalised communities in Aotearoa is documented and preserved, even when society at large preferred them forgotten. Fiona Clark: Unafraid returns the favour, ensuring the photographer’s legacy lives to capture another day. — Adrian Hatwell