Murray Cammick

Murray Cammick: Keri and Violet platform shoes 1975.
Murray Cammick: Keri and friend combs hair.


After the success of the 2016 Flash Cars show, Murray Cammick returns to Black Asterisk gallery with a selection of music images with AK•75-85. Once again Cammick is exhibiting limited edition, silver-gelatin prints derived directly from his negatives. Cammick has not strayed far from the Queen Street of Flash Cars, as the music of the day revolved around inner city venues.

When Cammick co-founded the seminal music magazine RipItUp in 1977, he was not aware of how radical the changes in New Zealand music culture would over the next decade. Foreign punk/new wave acts like The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Blondie visited and locals like The Suburban Reptiles, The Scavengers and Toy Love put visceral energy into the scene. In a time of cultural change, Cammick documented important cultural events such as Bob Marley’s 1979 visit to New Zealand and suburban cultural events like The Screaming Meemees playing in a packed suburban hall. Seedy local venues were the place to worship raw music and Zwines and Mainstreet were where alienated youth gathered to enjoy the company of kindred-souls. Cammick’s camera captures the tribal audience and sweaty musicians who commanded the scene.

Cammick studied photography at Elam School of Fine Arts 1973 to 1975 with lecturers John B. Turner and Tom Hutchins who encouraged him to take socio-political photos for the student newspaper Craccum. Cammick took the first photos of the Flash Cars series at Elam and learnt a respect for the documentary tradition. Reflecting on his work for the Capture blog, Cammick wrote:

             “I tried to document the music and the scene as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary photographer. You either contribute to the myths/bullshit of rock n roll or you try and show some of the reality of the grind of touring and promotion…. Shooting un-rock ‘n’ roll photos became something to aspire to, so I was pleased to get Iggy Pop in his clunky reading glasses laughing … I sneaked a shot but he heard the camera and made it clear, “No photos in my pyjamas.””

AK•75-85 shines a light on a seminal ten years of popular cultural history - while our music scene was growing up in the backyard of Muldoon, the Springbok tour and much other political tumult, New Zealand was becoming firmly established on the international touring map. For stars, big and small, the entertainment and inspiration was often mutual. Many of these visitors still had the hard work ahead of them - so too did our local musicians, but with stars shown as people just like them, their increased confidence could also take on the world.

                   “For years I've regretted that I did not capture the beauty of Debbie Harry in my 1977 photos, but now I am starting to appreciate that they show a tired young woman who briefly leaves an international flight to do a day's promo…Debbie Harry arrived from the USA at dawn – a day of interviews in Auckland, then on a plane to Melbourne for a TV interview that night. That’s life.”

Flash Cars

“Take our photo!” -Anonymous

In 1974, while still a student at Elam School of Fine Art, Cammick began photographing people and their V8 cars as they congregated late at night in Auckland’s Queen Street. When the theatre patrons went home, the city’s main street was their place to park-up or cruise.

Cammick spent many weekend nights from 1974 to 1981 photographing the scene. While he documented the V8s, his mode of transport was a diminutive Morris Minor that he hid in a side street. Cammick was a shy and naïve 20 year old when he started this series and revellers would see his SLR camera and hassle him to – “take our photo!” – unaware that they were giving the quiet photographer the opportunity (and images) he was looking for.

In 1977 Cammick and long-time friend Alastair Dougal established RipItUp music magazine. After he photographed concerts for RipItUp he headed for Queen Street – but as the eighties got underway – the Queen Street V8 scene faded. A later photo might be a single car moving through the bleak environment, looking for a scene that is no longer there. The dark, empty street has a character of its own and starts to takeover the images.

When he ended his involvement with RipItUp magazine in 1998, he set out to do a series of photographic exhibitions but was thwarted by the digital takeover of photography and the realisation that key images from his Flash Cars series were missing – last seen in the 1980s. In mid-2014, the missing negatives were found, allowing a comprehensive exhibition to be undertaken. Jenny Tomlin,

a specialist in the field of silver gelatin printing has made the new prints for the show. Cammick’s Queen Street photographs are represented in the Te Papa National Gallery & Museum, Wellington. His photographs have been published in Art Of Te Papa (2009), NZ Photography Collected (2015, Te Papa Press) and Into The Light: A History Art Of NZ Photography (2006, Craig Potten Press).

Selections from ‘Flash Cars’ have been seen in exhibitions at Snaps Gallery, Auckland in 1976 and 1977 and have also in group exhibitions including The Active Eye (Manawatu Art Gallery 1975), Drive (Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth 2000) and 40 Years of Photo-Forum (2014). ‘Flash Cars’ Makes a long awaited return to Ponsonby, Auckland in August 2016 with a full exhibition at Black Asterisk.