Tangible Media


Nature photographer Olaf Petersen dedicated his life to documenting and protecting wilderness areas. Now his archive demonstrates the vital role that artists can have in bearing witness and supporting the environmental movement, says Shaun Higgins, curator, pictorial at Auckland Museum. Nature Boy: Photography of Olaf Petersen, is the first exhibition dedicated solely to the work of Petersen, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most talented, understated nature photographers of the 20th century, whose work has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa NZ National Register in recognition of its significance for documentary heritage. Petersen photographed the landscape around him for 50 years, from when he got his first camera aged 18 in 1933 until the 1980s. His career as a freelance photographer and camera artist yielded more than 50,000 images. This exhibition comprises approximately 60 of Petersen’s original prints from the 1930s to 1980s, and represent what Petersen considered his best work. These often-signed prints show not only his skill with a camera, but also his darkroom printing practice. They also evidence the changes that have taken place over the past 70 years and as such are significant historic documents, says Higgins. Petersen gifted his archive to Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira in 1988. Nature Boy: Photography of Olaf Petersen opens at Auckland Museum on April 7 and runs until March 2023. Entry free.