Farewell Marti Friedlander — 14.11.16

So much love and generosity. Such enthusiasm for life. We will always remember her.

Arts Foundation Icon Award recipient Marti Friedlander has died. Born in the United Kingdom in 1928, Marti moved to New Zealand in 1958. She was an exceptional photographer. Many of her works are considered quintessential images of New Zealanders.

The Arts Foundation sends its heartfelt condolences to Marti's husband, Gerrard Friedlander, and all who knew her. 

 To know her was to love her because there was a good chance she loved you. She had a deep love of people and expressed this through her photography. The excitement that Marti felt for people was captured in her camera as a timeless moment for us all to share. She specialised in photographing artists with some of New Zealand's most important artist portraits taken by her.

Patrons to the Icons, Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar, were close to Marti and Gerrard. Marti and Gerrard spent two days with Eion and Jan in Queenstown photographing them for a wedding anniversary.  Sir Eion said "she was a talented photographer with an enthusiasm for life that never ceased". 

Marti spent her childhood in a Jewish orphanage. She won a trade scholarship at age 14 and studied photography.  From 1946-57, she worked as a photographic assistant in a portrait and fashion studio in Kensington.  She married Gerrard, a Kiwi, in 1957 and came to live in New Zealand in 1958.

The first New Zealand photo Marti took was in 1960 at Auckland's Myers Park during a protest meeting opposing the All Blacks going to South Africa, featuring the banner 'I'm all white Jack'. The print was bought by the BBC for their series on Rugby.


Marti found settling in New Zealand very difficult and missed the excitement of living and working in central London. She was aware however, that New Zealand was on the edge of change, and made it her commitment to record this change. She began working as a freelance photographer in 1964 and travelled throughout New Zealand. 

She is well known for her work in the books: Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century (1972) with Michael King; Larks in a Paradise (1974) with James McNeish;  Contemporary New Zealand Painters A-M (1980) with Jim and Mary Barr;  Pioneers of New Zealand Wine (2002) with Dick Scott and Marti Friedlander: Photographs (2001) with Ron Brownson and Marti Friedlander with Prof. Leonard Bell  (2009).

In 1999, Marti was awarded the Companion of NZ Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to photography.  Her book Marti Friedlander: Photographs (with Ron Brownson) was shortlisted at the 2001 Montana Book Awards.

Her work has been exhibited at the Photographers' Gallery in London, the Waikato Art Museum, and in a large and celebrated retrospective at the Auckland Art Gallery in 2001, which was a comprehensive survey exhibition of Marti's's work. The exhibition toured New Zealand galleries in 2002.  This show brought together an extensive range of photographs created over a period of 40 years. 

In 2004, Marti was specifically requested to shoot the publicity photos and the album cover for the new CD by the Finn brothers.  In the same year she was the subject of a documentary film Marti: The Passionate Eye documentary directed by Shirley Horrocks, that screened throughout New Zealand in the 2004 International Film Festival, and was shown Internationally.

Supported by the Arts Foundation, the Marti Friedlander Photographic Award was launched in 2007.  The Award is presented every two years to an established photographer with a record of excellence and potential to continue working at high levels. The Award includes a $25,000 donation for the photographer to help further their career.

In 2010, Marti generously gifted her photographs from The Moko Suite, to Te Papa - New Zealand's national museum.  The collection consists of 47 portrait photographs of Maori kuia (female elders) with chin moko or traditional tattoos. Marti contributed images to historian Michael King's 1972 book Moko - Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century. They toured New Zealand to capture these kuia at a time it was thought the art of moko might be lost to future generations.

Marti Friedlander received an Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2011.