My body of work for 2016

It’s scary to think that I’m now in the final two months of my degree, with it all wrapping up with a graduate exhibition at Pataka in November.

I started the third year in February after an eight year break and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I wanted to immerse myself in photography this year to re-focus before establishing my career as a photographer, achieve a degree to open up the possibility of tutoring in future and also with a goal of discovering myself as a photographic artist.

For the third year, all students within the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Visual Arts & Design) do a body of work project which lasts the full academic year. I knew before I started that I wanted to do my project about something really close to my heart. Late last year the idea came to mind to find out more about my great-great grandmother, Joanna MacKinnon, who was New Zealand’s first Plunket nurse. Here she is receiving her medal from early Plunket ambassador Lady Plunket in 1908.

Joanna receives the first Plunket nurse medal in 1908
Image credit: Otago Witness/Otago Daily Times

Even though this might make me sound crazy, I still wonder until this day if it was my calling to showcase Joanna’s pioneering efforts. I feel a huge sense of pride to be telling her story this year but also a huge sense of duty to do her justice as her great-great granddaughter.

Not only did I want to find out who Joanna was as a person but how she influenced Plunket. My line of enquiry became ‘How can one person influence an organisation?’ For the first half of the year I researched both Joanna and Plunket founder, Sir. Frederick Truby King, as I wanted to find out if Joanna agreed with Truby’s beliefs and how he influenced her as the first Plunket nurse. Joanna was the only nurse to receive one-on-one training from him.

The works to follow are what I produced between February and July and they showed in my mid-year exhibition.

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Truby King Recreational Reserve, Seacliff. This is the original site of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum where Truby King was medical superintendant for around 30 years. Joanna was recommended to Truby by a matron when she was employed as an attendant there.
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Kingscliff, Karitane. This is Truby King’s old holiday home and it is significant because some of the first Plunket babies were cared for here by Joanna in 1907.
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There were two vinyl wall decal quotes in my exhibition. This is from Truby King’s book ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ which was commissioned by Plunket and first published in 1913.
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The controversial 24-hour clock from Truby King’s book ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ is said to still be in use today.
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A page from ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ which I cross-stitched for my exhibition. I’ll show you the work on the wall in my next blog post.
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The weight chart from a Plunket book and a collaged photograph from ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ where I question Truby King’s ideologies.
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The weight chart from a Plunket book and a collaged photograph from ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ where I question Truby King’s ideologies.
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A page from ‘Feeding and Care of Baby’ which I cross-stitched.
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Cross-stitching photographic paper was a great experience.
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Because I felt Joanna was under-recognised for her pioneering efforts, I depicted her with repetition and scale. This is the same photo as above of her receiving her medal, alongside an old Plunket logo in an attempt to show her importance. There are only five known photos of Joanna in my family today. Three of which featured in my exhibition. Image credit: Otago Witness/Otago Daily Times.
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As quoted by Joanna on Plunket Founders Day on the same year as her passing. The font emulates the one on her medal.
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I wanted to depict Joanna as a caring and nurturing person. Unfortunately, there are no photos of her as a mother in my family today. Ironically and sadly, she survived her two sons. I’ve used repetition to emphasise her pioneering efforts alongside an old Plunket logo. Image credit: Otago Witness/Otago Daily Times.
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The medal which was presented to Joanna in 1908 is still in our family today. It reads ‘7. 04. 08. Love, Pity & Sympathy for Gods sake & His little ones. J MacKinnon’
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The remarkable woman herself pictured wearing her medal. Image credit: Otago Witness/Otago Daily Times.
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A very special letter which was sent to my grandfather on news of Joanna’s passing in 1966 by Plunket. Another treasure which is still in our family today.
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My final piece in the exhibition which again questions Truby King’s ideologies and asks a question of Plunket’s role in modern day society.

Next time I’ll show you some photos from my mid-year exhibition. After the exhibition we presented to tutors and external guests about how we felt we did in the show and where we’re wanting to take the project next. Now with their feedback on board, I’ve decided to focus on Joanna for the final phase and am exploring collage and projection.

If you’ve got any questions or comments about my work, I’d love to hear from you.

Please seek my written permission before re-producing any of the above works.

Bye for now,
Elyse.

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