Marti Friedlander

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Self-portrait, c. 1984

Martha "Marti" Friedlander CNZM (née Gordon; 19 February 1928 – 14 November 2016) was a New Zealand photographer who emigrated from England in 1958. She was known for photographing and documenting New Zealand's people, places and events, and was considered one of the country's best photographers.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Friedlander was born on 19 February 1928[3] in the East End of London to Jewish immigrants from Kiev, Russia.[4] From the age of three she grew up in a Jewish orphanage in London with her sister Anne.[4][5] She won a scholarship at the age of 14 and attended Camberwell School of Art, where she studied photography.[6] From 1946 to 1957 she worked as an assistant to fashion photographers Douglas Glass, an expatriate New Zealander, and Gordon Crocker.[1][7][8] She married Gerrard Friedlander, a New Zealander of German Jewish origin, in 1957 and emigrated to New Zealand with him in 1958.[5][9] She became a naturalised New Zealander in 1977.[3]


Friedlander's first impressions of New Zealand were of a strange country with different land, people and social customs from her previous experience. She felt constrained by what she saw as New Zealand's conservatism compared to the lifestyle she had enjoyed in London, and she began taking photographs to document and understand the country and people around her.[10] She was particularly interested in people and social movements, especially protests and activism – one of the first photographs she took in New Zealand was in Auckland in 1960, of people protesting the New Zealand rugby team's tour of South Africa.[11] The photograph was later purchased by the BBC and used in a television series on rugby.[6]

Initially, the couple lived in Te Atatu South, and Friedlander worked as a dental assistant in her husband's dental practice.[7][10] In 1964 she began working as a freelance photographer, and in 1972 her work became well known through her collaboration with social historian Michael King, photographing Maori women and their traditional moko tattoos.[12] Friedlander considered this project the highlight of her career, and in 2010 she donated the series of 47 portraits to the national museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.[1]

Friedlander's photography career lasted over 40 years, during which time she photographed a diverse range of subjects, including famous and ordinary people, and rural and urban landscapes. Her work was published in books, magazines and newspapers such as Wine Review, New Zealand Listener and the British Journal of Photography.[2] She held exhibitions at a number of galleries, including the Photographers' Gallery in London, the Wynyard Tavern in Auckland (1966) and the Waikato Art Museum (1975). In 2001, a retrospective exhibition of 150 of her photographs from 1957 to 1986 was held at the Auckland Art Gallery, followed by a tour of New Zealand galleries the following year.[2][6][13] In 2006, Friedlander's work was included in an exhibition of contemporary New Zealand photography for the Festival Internazionale di Roma [it], which was subsequently also shown at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China.[14]


Friedlander's work was featured in the books Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century (1972) with Michael King; Larks in a Paradise (1974) with James McNeish; Contemporary New Zealand Painters A–M (1980) with Jim and Mary Barr; Pioneers of New Zealand Wine (2002) with Dick Scott; Marti Friedlander: Photographs (2001) with Ron Brownson and Marti Friedlander with Prof. Leonard Bell (2009).[6] The book Marti Friedlander: Photographs was shortlisted at the 2001 Montana Book Awards.[6]

In 2013 Friedlander published an autobiography, Self-Portrait, written with oral historian Hugo Manson.[7]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Friedlander was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to photography in the 1999 New Year Honours,[15] and in 2004 she was the subject of a documentary by Shirley Horrocks entitled Marti: the Passionate Eye.[16] In 2007 the Arts Foundation of New Zealand launched the Marti Friedlander Photographic Award, presented every two years to an experienced photographer. In 2011 she received an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award.[7] She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of Auckland in 2016.[10]

Personal life[edit]

In October 2016, Friedlander revealed that she was suffering from late-stage breast cancer.[10] She died at her home in Auckland on 14 November 2016 aged 88.[17] She was a member of the New Zealand Labour Party and photographed Prime Minister Norman Kirk in 1969.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Photographer Marti Friedlander dies". Radio New Zealand. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Art New Zealand". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b "New Zealand, naturalisations". Operations. 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b Naomi Gryn (21 December 2009). "Marti Friedlander". Jewish Quarterly. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b Self Portrait by Marti Friedlander, Auckland University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-86940-785-8
  6. ^ a b c d e "Marti Friedlander". The Arts Foundation. 26 September 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d "Marti Friedlander: 'A collector of raw evidence'". New Zealand Listener. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Marti Friedlander receives honorary doctorate". Scoop News. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  9. ^ Michele Hewitson (1 December 2007). "Marti Friedlander, modern woman". Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Duddong, A., "Marti Friedlander: 'At this time of your life, everything is courage'",, 22 October 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Twelve questions with Marti Friedlander". New Zealand Herald. 25 October 2012. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  12. ^ John Daly-Peoples (12 October 2009). "Marti Friedlander, a closely observed photographer". National Business Review. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  13. ^ "Marti Friedlander". Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 2010 – Programme. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  14. ^ "Wonder-land". Eventfinda. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  15. ^ "New Year honours list 1999". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 1998. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Marti: The Passionate Eye". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Acclaimed New Zealand photographer Marti Friedlander dies". New Zealand Herald. 14 November 2016. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  18. ^

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