‘A Movement’ is the name of a set of 10 books chronicling recent, (mostly) Kiwi music history through photographs. But that’s not all. Gary Steel explains.
IAN JORGENSEN IS the kind of guy that makes me really envious. Why? Because he’s so damn industrious, and so creative with it, and does everything he touches his way that he makes most of us seem like slugs. Lazy slugs at that.
Jorgensen was the guy behind what was probably the most critically revered NZ music festival, Camp A Low Hum. The fact that relatively few attended those events, and the greater populace has still probably never heard of them, is beside the point: they were reputedly the kind of experience that every musician, band member and punter wants. Not celebrity or adulation but a genuine connection with the music, performer and audience on a level playing field, experiencing something wild, unpredictable, and unforgettable.
When I interviewed Liam Finn early last year, he had just performed at the last one, and was still buzzing from the experience. “I played at 2.30am on the last night and we did an improvised set, jamming away, and it was really kind of magical, because everyone there was in this completely new state of like, no inhibition.”
Jorgensen made that festival happen, but he’s given up on that, and his work running Wellington music venues. Instead of slinking off into the undergrowth however, it seems his productivity has gone into overdrive.
Firstly, there’s the series of 10 (!) books that (more or less) document the underground rock music scene in NZ, covering the first 15 years of the 21st century, A Movement: The Music Photographs Of Ian Jorgensen 2000-2015. There’s no text to speak of, just brief captions, but each book is roughly thematic. For instance, one covers “garage” bands like the D4 and The Datsuns, another the bratty post-punk of The Mint Chicks, and another looks at Shihad and other Wellington rockers. It’s not all specific bands: one book looks at events and festivals, while another is all about touring, and yet another pokes its lens at international visitors.
What’s great about these books is the sense that Jorgensen wasn’t just observing dispassionately, but right there on the stage, or in the rehearsal room, or at the party. It’s not that they’re great photographs per se – I’m no judge of the artistic merit of a photograph, in any case – but that they provide such a pungent insight on the subject matter. There are lots of photos of sweating musicians, and many shades of unguarded moments that are rare in these times of touched-up, publicity machine promo shots. The rare lapses (with some of the international bands playing on large stages, for instance) are only lesser shots because they’re a photographer being given a photo-op shot at a gig, a conventional cog, an observer rather than someone who is intricately involved in the scene. But most of the time, there’s a fly-on-the-wall quality that keeps you slowly thumbing through the books, even if (like me) there are many band names that you don’t even recognise.
It’s easy for old blighters for me to groan on about the good old days of the late 20th century as if time stopped in 1999, but the books are also a tribute to what Jorgensen names as a Kiwi music renaissance that occurred over the past 15 years, and looking at the many names here – Jakob, Die! Die! Die!, The Phoenix Foundation, Connan Mockasin to name just a few – it’s hard to deny that he’s documented, and been part of, an enthralling rock subculture.
Nicely timed to coincide with the book release is a 25-date, multi-artist tour rolling through New Zealand from mid-March. (See dates, venues and band lists below). It starts with a variety of gigs in Wellington from the 12th, and makes its way to a similar run of events in Auckland from the 19th.
The third surprising thing that Jorgensen has done is made a companion movie, Movement: A Film About Touring, which uses footage shot on tours, and is described as a visual essay. The film will be screened as part of A Movement: The Tour: A 25 Event Tour Of New Zealand.
The books will be available individually, and as a boxed set, and available from selected book and record shops.
An updated list of the tour is found here.