Phibbs' photographs were published in the Herald, and seen by many thousands of Kiwis. The exhibition that Gordon-Smith curated was viewed by a far smaller number of people, some of whom walked out of the gallery when they were confronted by images of Pacific Islanders driving forklifts or lying in Aotea Square.
Over at the online arts journal EyeContact, I've contrasted the photographs that Phibbs took at Pukekohe with some of the art that Gordon-Smith brought together in the town's gallery, and asked what Phibbs' images tell us about the way New Zealand sees migrant workers and Pacific Islanders. I've argued that Salome Tanuvasa's two screen video work Expensive Movements, which was shot at a brewery on Auckland's Great South Road and a hotel somewhere in the east of the city, can be seen as an implicit reply to Phibbs' photographs.
Unfortunately, the New Zealand has refused to let EyeContact reproduce Brett Phibbs' photographs without paying an unreasonably high fee. The paper's stance is disappointing, because New Zealand's galleries and museums have always allowed EyeContact to reproduce images of the works they hold for free. I'm hoping that Brett Phibbs will respond to my comments on his work by posting the photographs he took at Pukekohe online, so that everyone can see them.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]