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Harry culy artist portrait 1

Harry Culy’s Biography

Last Updated:
30/08/2022, 9:31 am
Arts Foundation Laureate 2021
Harry Culy is a Te Whanganui-a-Tara based photographer working within the expanded documentary photography tradition, challenging us to re-examine our understanding of people, place and home.

"Harry’s photographs are outstanding. And alongside that, his press company Bad News Books cements him as a wonderful advocate for high quality photography and the arts." - 2021 Selection Panel

Arts Foundation Laureate receiving the Marti Friedlander Photographic Award

Harry Culy’s practice comes from an urgent desire to record the world around him. He often works on long term projects that span a number of years, frequently returning to places and communities that he has a personal connection to. He uses this process to examine everyday contemporary life in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand through photography.

Harry Culy works predominantly with large-format film photographs, and within the expanded documentary photography tradition. However his approach is not journalistic, rather it is lyrical and personal, embracing the ambiguity inherent within the medium, allowing gaps for our own reading.

Each image Culy takes is a pause amid an intensive, wandering process. This process produces enigmatic photographs found within daily life, often including vacant interiors, stark portraits, and landscapes — which may hint at narratives beyond the picture plane. His work is influenced by the Antipodean Gothic art movement.

He says of this movement, “I don’t exactly know why I’m interested in this type of work… I think I was subconsciously drawn to it. It’s difficult to describe but it draws on Freud’s notion of the ‘Uncanny’. I have spent a lot of time going down the rabbit hole, researching, reading books, watching films, looking at ‘gothic’ painting and art – looking at ideas behind the gothic ­– like the post-colonial discourse, and the way it works on a psychological level. I guess I’m drawn to the feeling it gives me, especially with everyday life... More than anything it’s a feeling of being unsettled, of uneasiness, of anxiety. That feeling seems to echo my relationship to Aotearoa and my own sense of ‘home’.”

Culy completed his Master of Fine Arts at Toi Rauwhārangi College of Creative Arts, Massey University Wellington. He has frequently exhibited across New Zealand and Australia over the last 5 years. In 2018 he was the recipient of the Peter Turner Scholarship in Photography, and received the RT Emerging Artists Award in 2016.

His recent exhibitions include News From The Sun at City Gallery Wellington 2019-2020, Mirror City at Jhana Millers Gallery in 2020, The Gap at Parlour Projects 2018, I can see for miles at the Contemporary Centre for Photography Melbourne, 2018, and Rose Hill as part of Projects 2018 at the Auckland Art Fair.

Alongside his photography work, Culy runs a small press photobook company called Bad News Books. He lives and works in Wellington. He is represented by Jhana Millers Gallery Wellington.

Milestones & Awards