Art & creativity  |  17 Feb 2021

Larence Shustak’s gritty images of New York City in the 1960s and a Christchurch that no longer exists will come into focus at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū in February.

A new exhibition  air gun?  captures the vivid portrait and street photography of the American photographer.

Shustak left the United States for Christchurch in the 1970s, bringing along his ability to spotlight the urban landscape, as well as his portraits of famous musicians.

In a career spanning the late-1950s to the 1990s, Shustak created an impressive photographic catalogue, including jazz legend Thelonious Monk and blues great John Lee Hooker.

The exhibition, which opens on Saturday, 20 February, includes more than 40 of his works.

Air gun? features significant portraits of major musical figures, and a street-level view of the New York they inhabited at that time. It’s a unique experience to be able to see them alongside snapshots of Christchurch in the 1990s. Two very different worlds captured by the same eye and giving them the same flavour,” Christchurch Art Gallery curator Peter Vangioni says.

“Shustak made Christchurch his home. The images he captured here include street scenes from the central city and the suburbs, with close-up details of graffiti and advertising, and shots of the city’s inhabitants going about their daily lives.

“When he arrived in Christchurch in 1973, he found a city full of eccentrics, and, for that reason, he felt quite at home here, and established the photography department at the University of Canterbury’s School of Fine Arts.”

Stuart Page  one of the photographer’s students and producer/director of the award-winning 2009 documentary Shustak  has co-curated the exhibtion.

His documentary will screen at the gallery at 3pm on Saturday, 20 March.

Larence Shustak: John Lee Hooker in studio, Riverside Records, NYC 1960. Photograph. © Estate of L N Shustak