June 6, 2013
Athfield house, Wellington, New Zealand (Architect: Ian Athfield)
Only 1,000 copies will be printed with 100 special edition copies that will include one of five photographic prints.
At 140 pages, uncoated paper, an exposed, section sewn binding and cardboard case, this will be a true collector’s item for those interested in New Zealand history, architecture, design and photography.
Portrait of a House is a photo book by photographer Simon Devitt in collaboration with graphic designer Arch MacDonnell (Inhouse Design). This is Devitt’s first foray in the photo book genre. His book explores the Athfield House - the ‘village on the hill’ - an architectural experiment that Ian Athfield started in 1965 on the Khandallah hillside in Wellington, and which he is still altering and extending today.
The house is renowned in bohemian and academic circles for its many colourful dinner parties and occasions, and is infamous with neighbours past and present for the antics of its free-range livestock and frequent run-ins with Council. Roosters have been shot, construction shut down and architectural pilgrimages made.
This is an extraordinary story told though Devitt’s sensitive eye, blended with historic photographs, paintings and drawings from the Athfield archive. Clare Athfield’s contribution of her own recipes (dating from the 1960s until now) complements a selection of personal letters by family, friends, colleagues and clients which are insightful and often very funny - memories that make Simon’s photographs all the more potent in their beauty and silence.
The idea for the book came from Devitt’s admiration of Robin Morrison’s work and in particular Morrison’s 1978 photo book Images of a House about a William Gummer-designed house built in 1916. “A house is a pretty refined subject to make a book about,” explains Devitt. “It is not market driven, it is content driven and born out of passion. Life has happened there like in no other house, and the ‘living’ leaves its evidence, time has played out on its surface. There is a lot to be said about sitting still and how that looks. The Athfield house is a wonderful example of this. An accessible counterpoint to a largely asset based living that pervades New Zealand.”
Author Simon Devitt
Published by Balasoglou Books May 2013
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