"While an appreciation of the importance of observation and metaphor underpin my current practice—of equal interest to me is the personal experience viewers bring to the act of looking. In simple terms, when making these images, I try to look past the obvious—the fact of what is in front of me-to how the image will fit into other lives and other stories. Part of the strength of these images is the way they tap into personal experiences, and this will be different for each viewer. This again reinforces the photograph's ability to function as a symbol, rather than a mere representation of what is in front of the camera, or subsequently, the viewer."

Neil Pardington's practice has been described as ‘straight photography with a twist'. He works in the space between documentary photography - where the defining principle is to capture the truth about the world - and conceptual photography, which contends that such a truth can never really be depicted.

Neil was born Neil Alexander Cameron in Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand in 1962. In 1966 his mother remarried and his surname was changed to Pardington.

While at University, Neil was a founding member of the artist collective City Group. During this time he made a series of experimental films and photographic installations including Pier, Tracking Dirt, Flight Crowds, Ditch, Valvegrind and North-South Project, which was selected for the National Art Gallery's 1986 survey exhibition Content/Context.

In 1986 he moved to Whanganui and began working with a large format camera, completing the series Local Anxieties, documenting buildings in a city affected by the recession.

A move to Wellington in the late 1980s saw his work in film and photography merge into installations and photographic series that used multiple images to explore ideas of narrative.

Throughout the 1990s he focused on narrative filmmaking with his partners in MAP Film Productions. In 1994 his short film The Dig was selected for Un Certain Regard, Cannes International Film Festival. In 2002 he produced the feature film For Good.

In the mid 1990s he began working with a 35mm camera and moved from staging and constructing his photographs to a more direct, responsive approach - leaving the studio to find his imagery in the outside world and combining his interests in documentary and conceptual photography.

In 2003 he returned to large format photography, immersing himself in the world of hospitals and medical museums. The work that resulted from this, The Clinic, was featured in two major survey exhibitions of New Zealand art the following year - The 2nd Auckland Triennial, Auckland Art Gallery and Telecom Prospect 2004, City Gallery Wellington.

While still working on The Clinic, he began shooting The Vault in museum and art gallery storerooms. The series was developed into a major touring exhibition and publication with Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Works from the series also featured in Mortality at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. The Vault tours nationally until 2012.

 Land and Marine Mammal Store (Triptych), Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongrewa, 2006

Neil studied at Elam School of Fine Arts and has a BFA from the University of Auckland. He is of Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Kati Waewae and Pakeha descent. Neil lives in Wellington with his wife Amelia Minty and daughter Billie. Neil's career as a photographer has developed alongside his work as a graphic and exhibition designer. He is considered one of New Zealand's foremost designers and is the recipient of numerous national awards. He currently divides his time between his art practice and his role as a creative director of the design agency Base Two.

Read commentary by Ewen McDonald from the publication Contemporary New Zealand Photography


Neil Pardington was selected as theMarti Friedlander Photographic Award recipient, presented by the Arts Foundation in 2011. This video was produced in a partnership between the Arts Foundation and TVNZ 7.


The idea of the camera being a storehouse of ideas and images is central to 'The Vault'
The hospital is a stage for life and death. It is the parenthesis marking the beginning and the end of our lives.
This selection opens with images from the series 'Local Anxieties' - shot just after graduating from art school - and closes with works from 'The Abattoir' shot in 2010. The images are arranged chronologically.
Born, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand
BA Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University; Forms City Group collective with Ron Brownson & Vivienne Smith
City Group selected for Content/Context, the National Art Gallery's survey exhibition of New Zealand Art; Shoots the series Local Anxieties for first solo exhibition at 33 1/3 Gallery, Wellington
Forms MAP Film Productions with Stuart McKenzie & Miranda Harcourt
Short film The Mouth & the Truth wins ‘Best Short Film', New Zealand Film Awards
Short Film The Dig (with Elizabeth Knox) selected for Un Certain Regard at Cannes International Film Festival
Begins working on the series Elsewhere
Elsewhere, City Gallery, Wellington
Produces feature film For Good (with Stuart McKenzie)
Receives Te Waka Toi grant for photographic series The Clinic
Works from The Clinic selected for Public Private/ Tumatanui Tumataiti The 2nd Auckland Triennial, (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tämaki) and Telecom Prospect 2004, (City Gallery Wellington); Begins shooting The Vault
The Vault: Neil Pardington Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch (major exhibition and publication. Tours nationally to 6 venues over 4 years); Receives major grants from Te Waka Toi and Ngai Tahu Fund
Works from The Vault selected for Mortality, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia
Recipient, Marti Friedlander Photographic Award