Gordon (In the Shadow of the Cape, 2004) documents century-old woolsheds of New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay in this photography book.
This is an earnest work for readers interested in the particular beauty of a cultivated landscape. The area on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand is known today for its wine, food, and pleasant weather, but in the previous century, the wealth of Hawkes Bay was built on sheep’s wool. Gordon offers an in-depth look at the physical monuments of that era: the farms where flocks were raised and especially the woolsheds where fleece was stored. Each of the sheds pictured here is at least 100 years old. It’s primarily for their charm and bygone craftsmanship that Gordon sought them out and included them in this work, and he celebrates their architecture and aesthetics more than their function. He photographed the sheds over the course of a journey of thousands of miles, and in an introduction, he describes the trek as doing “what I love best, noseying around a part of the world which goes mostly un-noticed these days, but which, as far as I am concerned, is one of the most beautiful places in the world.” In simple, informative prose, Gordon introduces each property, giving a bit of commentary on its owners and history. The choice of material may seem dry, even by the standards of a coffee-table photography book, but these curious, barnlike sheds will grow on readers as they observe page after page of them. There’s something about the way they sit, weathered and demure against the fairy-tale New Zealand landscape—and the guileless way that Gordon shoots them—that’s inherently calming. By the end, even readers who’ve never thought about the New Zealand wool industry before will consider themselves not only woolshed fans, but connoisseurs.
An idiosyncratic but lovely collection of shed photographs.