What I do

Fiona Clark is one of New Zealand’s best known art photographers.
She works in a social documentary style. Her work was included in The Active Eye exhibition in the mid 1970’s. This was New Zealand’s first major survey of photography. The inclusion of two of her prints of transvestites brought such controversy to the show that it was forced to close at several venues including Auckland.

Since then she has continued to work at the cutting edge of documentary, art photography. She exhibited a series of work on bodybuilding when public opinion was still struggling to accept this as a viable sport.

Fiona has always been able to sift through the layers of the ordinary to expose the extraordinary in whatever community she has lived in. This happened in her town of Waitara Taranaki when her work was included by local Maori in the first ever land claim through the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal. Local Maori used her images to show the magnificence of the area and its value as natural heritage conservation sites.

She has had major exhibitions of work involving the lesbian community of Taranaki with her show of Club 47.

Fiona recorded the impact of living with HIV, AIDS when she documented the lives of three HIV positive men and one woman. This was in the 1980’s before good understanding of the disease and way before life prolonging drugs were developed. All subjects have since died but these diaries leave behind a haunting, beautiful and tragic legacy.

Fiona’s work has been published widely and she has traveled overseas on arts council grants. Her works are held in most major public collections in New Zealand. She continues to be one of the best artists in the Taranaki region and one of the most important photographers in the country.

In May of 1997 she was awarded a major arts development grant from Creative New Zealand to undertake new work for the next two years. The other Half draws from Fiona’s medical records – her “Medical My Story”

In 2002 Go Girl opened at the Govett Brewster Gallery. Go Girl is the culmination of thirty years work. Fiona Clark has worked on the project intensely over the past five years. Go Girl had it’s beginnings in the Active Eye exhibition with photographs from the Dance Party Series. The work is now seen in its entirety with a contemporary update. Also in the show are piercing video interviews with surviving subjects from the Dance Party Series. They are raw testimonials of hard-lived lives. Sometimes they are a celebration and sometimes the now calm reminisces tell how friends died and fell off into a world of brutality and drug drenched death.

A comprehensive catalogue accompanies Go Girl. This is a quality publication produced by the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. Included are three text pieces. A critical essay by Blair French, a revealing and in depth interview with Fiona Clark and thirdly a moving and beautifully composed piece by David Lyndon Brown.

Fiona Clark is an interesting case of a photographer almost impossible to categorise. At one level she works in the mainstream Documentary tradition, but at other levels she is an extraordinary innovator in terms of her subject-matter and approach. Possessed of a single-minded independence, she has a continuous 20-year record of photographing particular groups in society that were socially marginalised, and it could be said that through her work she has assisted the breaking-down of prejudice and social disdain. A notable aspect of her approach is the degree to which she works in co-operation with her subjects, and another remarkable factor is that since her days at art school in Auckland in the early 1970’s she has worked almost exclusively in colour.
At art school she intrepidly photographed Queen Street’s transvestites, and in the late 1970’s turned her attention to professional wrestling, which lead in 1980 to a project photographing body-builders here and in Australia. Based in Taranaki, she became involved in environmental issues, leading to her ground-breaking project Kai Moana of 1979/81. This related to traditional Maori fishing grounds in North Taranaki and the threats posed to them by sewage and the synthetic petrol plant at Motunui. In the late 1980’s she was involved in an AIDS project, a remarkable series of self-portraits, and has been photographing the lives of those around her. Not only has she worked at the social margins, she has pushed the boundaries of the Documentary idiom and has ceaselessly maintained its relevance to the practice of photography and the pulse of our culture.”

Peter Ireland – curator of Some of its Parts (1997)
Exhibition: Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui. – 1997


Fiona Clark (born 1954) received a Diploma in Fine Arts (Hons) from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 1975, focusing on performance and sculpture, though photography became her favoured medium. She has developed her practice from this time, undertaking in-depth, long-term photographic projects documenting specific social groups including transgender, gay and lesbian communities, body-builders, AIDS sufferers, and local Māori. Significant projects she has undertaken include Kai Moana (1979/81); Body Building (1982); He Taura Tangata (1986); Living with AIDS (1989); The Other Half (1997), and Go Girl (2002). Her work was included in, but subsequently removed from the first survey of contemporary photography, The Active Eye, organised and toured by the Manawatu Art Gallery in 1975–6, a problematic act of censorship in response to public outcry at her photographs’ subject matter. Since then, her works have been included in exhibitions at public galleries including Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth; Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt; Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North; Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui; National Art Gallery, Wellington; City Gallery, Wellington, and other spaces such as Real Pictures; Photoforum Gallery; Raven Row, London; Artspace, Auckland, and Michael Lett, Auckland. Clark lives and works in Tikorangi, where she presents her work in a gallery she has created in a part of the old dairy factory she owns and where she maintains and develops her extensive archives. She is represented by Michael Lett, Auckland.

Adam Art Gallery Te Pataka Toi Wellington – 2020


Happy Clients


Hours of Work


Photos Taken


Completed Projects

Selected One Person Exhibitions

2006 GO GIRL -Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin.
2005 GO GIRL –  Southland Museum and Art Gallery, Invercargill.
GO GIRL – Whangarei Art Museum, Whangarei.
2003 GO GIRL under took self touring show – Whakatane Art Gallery, Whakatane.
GO GIRL – Mori Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
2002 GO GIRL – Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
2001 Club 47, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
1997 final days of Club 47, Escalante Gallery, Auckland
1996 The Face of Law, commissioned by the Taranaki Law Society, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
1989 Living with AIDS, album and installation, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, ARX ’89 Perth, Australia.
1987 Necessary Protection, Exposure Gallery, Wellington, Artspace, Auckland, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui
1986 He Taura Tangata, binding people and places together, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, and subsequent tour of New Zealand
1982 Body Building, 40 colour photographs, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, and susquent tour of New Zealand Dowse Art Museum
1979 Fiona Clark, Tikorangi Factory Gallery, Taranaki

Selected Group Exhibition

2009 Balclutha Art Centre & South Otago Museum, Balclutha, South Otago. “R.S.V.P”. Amy Maud Bock – Centennial of the Marriage of Amy and Agnes Ottaway. Joint exhibition with Lynne Johnson – Bock descendant, Australian Fibre Artist.
Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth – “AM I Scared, Boy” (EH) – works from the collection.
Re builtfionaclark.com web site.
SCANZ 2009 New Plymouth – assisted as artist on various projects.
2008 Pukeariki – New Plymouth “Taranaki Whenua Life-Blood-Legacy”.
Percy Thomson Gallery Stratford – “Taranaki Gate”. DVD of my Cows.
2007 The Rhyton Project – established live web camera and web site of Mount Taranaki.
Percy Thomson Gallery Stratford – “Wai – water”. DVD time lapse of a days tide, North Taranaki Coast.
2006 Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth “Viewfinder”.
SCANZ 2006, New Plymouth. – assisted as artist on various projects.
2005 Matakana Pictures, Matakana – “Solstice”.
Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth – “From mini-FM to hacktivists: a guide to art and activism”
2004 Pukeariki, New Plymouth “Parihaka – the Struggle for Peace”.
Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth – “Lights>camera>action” – works from the collection.
Treaty of Waitangi forum – Pukeariki, New Plymouth.
Dowse Foundation art auction, Lower Hutt.
Lake Taupo Arts festival – “Crossings” – An invited Artist.
2003 Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth – “Locals Only; checking out the Neighbourhood”.
2002 McNamara Gallery, Wanganui. “In the pursuit of Beauty and Perfection”. With archival prints by Gordon H Burt.
2001 Te Maunga Taranaki: views of a mountain Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
2000 Parihaka: the art of passive resistance City Gallery, Wellington.update/the active eeye: contemporary New Zealand photography at www.photoforum.nz.org/update.
Art Waikato National Art Award, Runnerup.SPARC Waikato Polytechnic Dept of Media Arts, Hamilton. A Guest artist.
1998 Leap of Faith: contemporary New Zealand art Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
1994 One hundred and fifty was of Loving Artspace, Auckland
1992 Implicated and Immune: artists’ responses to AIDS Fisher Gallery, Auckland
Whatu Aho Rua Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui; and Adelaide Arts Festival
1991 Art and organised labour Wellington City Art Gallery, Wellington
1990 Histories: seams of a culture National Library Gallery, Wellington
1989 Constructed intimacies Moet et Chandon New Zealand Art Award, Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui. Toured to Robert McDougall Art Annex, Christchurch, National Art Gallery, Wellington: Auckland City Art Gallery
1988 Rear Vision; a history of PhotoForum/Wellington to 1988 Wellington City Art Gallery Turnbull Library Post Office Project, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
1987 When Art Hits The Headlines: a survey of controversial art in New Zealand Shed 11, National Art Gallery, Wellington
Visa Gold Art Award Finalist.
1986 Frauen photorafieren Frauen, Munchen Volkshochshule, Germany
The Trained Eye, National Art Gallery, Wellington
1985 Women view Women, Real pictures, Auckland. Toured to Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, Govett Brewster Art Gallery; National Art Gallery, Wellington; Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui
1982 Views/Exposures; Ten contemporary New Zealand photographers National Art Gallery, Wellington
1981 Parihaka, centennial exhibition and art auction Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
1980 Illusions, Fantasies, and Lies PhotoForum Gallery, Wellington
1979 Three New Zealand photographers: Fiona Clark, Laurence Aberhart, Peter Peryer Auckland City Art Gallery. Toured to National Art Gallery, Wellington; Govett-Brewster Art Gallery; Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North; Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui; Waikato Art Museum, Hamilton; Gisborne Art Gallery and Museum; Rotorua Art Gallery; Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterton; Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson
‘Women by Women’, Snaps Gallery, Auckland.
1977 The Active Eye; contemporary New Zealand photography Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North. Toured to Govett-Brewster Art Gallery; Waikato Art Museum, Hamilton; McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch; Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui; Aigantighe Gallery, Timaru; Anderson Park Art Gallery, Invercargill; Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Wairarapa Arts Centre, Masterton; Auckland City Art Gallery; Hawkes Bay Art Gallery and Museum, Napier; Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt.
‘Five Taranaki Photographers’, Clearwater Gallery, New Plymouth.

Selected Bibliography

2003 Peter Wells, “Incandescent Moment, Fiona Clark’s GO Girl”, Art New Zealand #106
Te Maunga Taranaki; views of a mountain Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
2001 Bridie Lonie, “Genes and archives: Fiona Clark mines the unimaginable” Art New
2000 Zealand #95
Parihaka; the art of passive resistance Victoria University Press with Parihaka Pa Trustees
David Brown” Breathing space; Club 47 photographed by Fiona Clark” Art New Zealand #80 Leon Narbey, Trevor Haysom Visible evidence; eight documentary photographers
1996 (video), Trevor Haysom
One hundred and fifty ways of loving Artspace, Auckland
1994 Anne Kirker, New Zealand women artists; a survey of 150 years Craftsman House William Main, John B Turner New Zealand photography from the 1840’s to the present,
1993 PhotoForum, Auckland
Bridie Lonie, “Fiona Clark’ images of the land and people” Art New Zealand #53 putting the land on the map; art and cartography in New Zealand since 1840 Govett-Brewster Art
1989 Gallery
Gregory Burke, Athol McCredie Rear vision; a history of PhotoForum Wellington to 1988 Wellington City Art Gallery
1988 Peter Aagard “Fiona Clark; Necessary protection”
PhotoForum #35
A women’s picture book; 25 artists of Aotearoa New Zealand Wellington, GP Books
Jim and Mary Barr When art hits the headlines; a survey of controversial art in New Zealand National Art Gallery, Wellington
1987 Stacey Gwen “Women view women; photographs by Fiona Clark, Gill Hanly, Ans Westra, Jane Zusters” Art New Zealand #38
He Taura Tangata; binding people and places together Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
1986 The trained eye, National Art Gallery, Wellington
Women view women Wellington, Diane Quinn and Real Pictures
Nga whaea o te moana Taranaki 1983 (calendar) Fiona Clark
Views/exposures; ten contemporary New Zealand photographers National Art Gallery, Wellington
1985 Parihaka centennial exhibition and art auction Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
1982 Three New Zealand photographers; Fiona Clark, Laurence Aberhart, Peter Peryer Auckland City Art Gallery
The Active Eye; contemporary New Zealand photography Manawatu Art Gallery.

Grants & Awards

1980 $2,274, Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, for photographing ‘Big Time Wrestling’ and later bodybuilding. $500.00 Queen Elizabeth Arts Council, to attend ‘Mr. Olympia’ international body building competition in Sydney as official photographer with the New Zealand Body Building Federation.
1983 $3,850, Maori and South Pacific Arts Council and $1,500 Advisory Committee on Women’s Affairs, (joint grants with two others) to photograph and document weaving of Te Atiawa.
1985 $10,000, Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, major study grant to travel to USA, UK and Europe to look at contemporary and historical photography.
1987 $10,000 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, Project Grant to stabilize and re-house early 1974 – 80 colour negative work
1988 $500 Taranaki Floral Society for Illuminated Transparencies
1989 $11,250 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Project Grant to undertake project work.
1997  $29,500 Creative NZ grant – Major Project Grant – The Other Half.
1998 $350 to assist setting up website N.T.C. Arts Council.
1999 $150 assist with publishing a website card. N.T.C. Arts Council.
2000  $5,000 towards purchase for Video equipment Taranaki Electricity Trust
$12,000 Screen Innovation Production Fund Creative N.Z. Go Girl project
2003 $2,200 GABA – towards the GO GIRL exhibition – the book and the DVD’s produced.
2009 $500.00 North Taranaki Community Arts Council – to travel to Balclutha for the Amy Maud Bock Centennial and exhibition