Of Maori (Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Scottish (Clan Cameron) descent, Fiona Pardington explores how photography challenges the notion and logic of time. She explained, “Time is everything to a photographer—how we situate ourselves and others in time, and how the past is served up in the present, how we take the present into the future when we take or own a photograph. Death, life and the likeness—that is a photograph.”
Her Language of Skulls series examines the phrenological casts made by the French explorers Dumont d’Urville and Pierre-Marie Dumoutier during their 1837-1840 expedition to the South Pacific. These include life casts made of the Ngai Tahu chiefs, Tangatahara and Piuraki. They are part of the Enlightenment-era attempts to catalogue the world and human psyche but reveal the underlining racial and social biases in the conception and rationality of that project. Pardington’s work is both a critique of the Enlightenment and a reimagining of the lives of her ancestors on a grand scale.
Pardington studied photography at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, receiving a BFA in 1984, a MFA in 2003, and a Doctorate of Fine Arts in 2013. She was made a Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letter in 2016 and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2017. Her work has been collected and shown internationally, including at the 2010 Bienniale of Sydney (Australia), the 2012 Kiev International Biennale (Ukraine) and 2017 Honolulu Biennial.