Aotearoa New Zealand born 1941

Datura 2002 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph Edition: 15/15

Dimensions: 41.0 h x 30.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.850
  • This image, an exquisitely observed image of the seed capsule of a datura plant, illustrates Peter Peryer's continuing interest in formal qualities in his photographs. Comparing it to an image of a tomato made in 2006, one with very similar composition, Peryer commented: 'What interests me most is that they are in terms of their shapes, identical images. It seems that I have templates that I try to fit over existing subject matter.' During the 1980s in particular, Peryer's interest in photographing plants was intense, in terms of formal considerations as well as focusing on those species unique to New Zealand. Peryer's oeuvre has developed that way; areas of interest often continuing to evolve over many years. It does have a quality of being like a very unusual, very personal photo album of his life. As Peryer has observed: 'My photographs are self-portraits. The photographs are somehow related to my past. I don't know why or how'. There is certainly little doubt that they are manifestations of his subconscious, of memories and feelings explored intuitively.

    Other images by Peryer may have a greater sense of foreboding and immediate strangeness than this image and yet Datura represents his photographic style well, seemingly straightforward and displaying a precise balance of content and form. And yet onto this, as with everything he photographs, Peryer unexpectedly and unobtrusively overlays himself: idiosyncratic, sometimes humorous, often melancholic. You could almost say that his photographs are emotionally time-bombed.

    It may seem like a contradiction but there is a quality that you find in the work of the great modernist photographer Edward Weston as well, a photographer Peryer admires greatly: a detached and yet at the same time a powerfully passionate view of the world. Peryer imbues talismanic weight and significance into everything he photographs. This strange, enigmatic and otherworldly intensity of his vision that has been distilled through contemplation makes careful observation of his imagery a rewarding and often surprising experience.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra