KT: How did you get into photography? When/what was your first encounter with Art & Activism together?
FC: I attended Elam School of Art, Auckland University, New Zealand and I was a sculpture student from 1972 – 1973. In 1972 I started recording performance and installation works in video. I enjoyed the image sequencing and recording of work. I discovered that I was regarded as a technician and my records were not on their merit as an art practitioner. I did make several short films and also had some performances but they were not recognized. I moved to the photography department in late 1973 until the end of 1975, as there was no other film or video course and I wanted my work to be seen as more than recording personnel. There was a distinctive NZ male dominance of early performance and installation work.
For me, my activism started early. When I was 14, the local council wanted to demolish a Victorian band rotunda built by my great Uncle. The place was used by Local Salvation Army preach and sing. It also had a political history as a ‘soapbox’ site. My friends and I had the campaign to save and restore the Victoria Rotunda.
KT: You published a very special and powerful artist book – ‘Go Girl’ which focused on the gay, lesbian and transgender community scene in New Zealand in 1970’s. Why did you wait for 27 long years to publish this groundbreaking book? What do you like about the medium of photography in book format?
FC: Homosexuality was illegal in NZ until 1986. So, I had to wait as that work was not seen with any ‘validity’ or in need of being shown in the public place. I had to raise funds and also ensure that the work would not be seen as ‘vile’ and showing images of ‘degenerates’ – This was said about the work then in 1976. I wanted to publish a book that contains all the images from the exhibition. It was a glimpse into the hidden visual history.
KT: In 1975, you had faced a moral outrage regarding your ‘Go Girl’ project which was also part of New Zealand’s first major photographic survey, and your exhibition never opened in Auckland and two of your images were removed from the exhibition at many venues. What led to this moral outrage in the first place?
FC: As Homosexuality was illegal in NZ until 1986 hence there was a moral law binding on all forms of homosexual books and all its content. People didn’t see the need to appreciate or to have images of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. It was also not seen as an ‘art.’
KT: What are your views on the morality and censorship within the press and society at large then and now?
FC: It has changed with new generations and also, it is now legal. But, I still feel people get overwhelmed by the content. We are so used to seeing images of this particular demography. The change is somewhat slow.
KT: “Mayor shocked by dancing pictures” announced the headline of a daily newspaper in context of your travelling exhibition in mid-70’s. You think there has been a bias if a woman works on projects related to intimacy/lifestyle as compared to men? What were the repercussions of working on such an intimate subject of gender and sexuality?
FC: I think there was a bias. I had a humble background; I was from small farming community, where it was believed that as a woman, I was not expected to rock a boat.
There is still resentment as I returned to live in a small rural community. I think that gender equality in the ‘arts’ is still a huge issue. I plan to live and see as it changes.
KT: You have been an activist more than a photographer who has given voice to people who were not seen as acceptable in the society by documenting their visual history. Do you always like to work on subjects which have social-impact on the society? What do you do you want to achieve with your photography in the end?.
FC: I photograph and work within the communities I live in. NZ has a brutal colonial history and so, I enjoy working within that history and all that occurs around it. I hope that in some way people will interact and are ‘sparked’ by my images.