Girl’s identity poses mystery for museum

He Waka Tuia visual curator Gemma Baldock with a portrait of an unknown young girl which was taken by Owen Allison.

A NEW exhibition at He Waka Tuia in Invercargill honours the life of Southland photographer Owen Allison.

Southland Museum & Art Gallery manager Wayne Marriott said Allison passed away unexpectedly in Auckland in 2019 and the exhibition was the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to him by displaying his works.

‘‘In the late 1980s he emerged as a force in photography for fashion and beauty in Invercargill and Southland.

“The whole exhibition captures Owen’s eye for fashion and beauty through his commercial and freelance works.”

He knew Allison as a friend, he said.

“He was a photographer but he was also a camp leader metaphorically and literally.

“He was the one who would create, make and capture the party — and by doing that it created a different underground atmosphere in Invercargill in the late ’80s to ’90s.”

He Waka Tuia manager Sarah Brown said the gallery inherited about 1000 of his works but only had 150 on display.

“We are hoping this will be the beginning of a series of his work which we will feature at the gallery.”

Visual curator Gemma Baldock said a lot of his photographs did not have dates, names or locations recorded.

‘‘Most of the labels beside the photos are blank, so we want people who were a part of the photo or know some information to come in and fill it out.”

Staff members were particularly curious about a portrait of a young girl who was aged about 4 or 5.

“We don’t have any information on her but we are desperate for her to turn up and say, ‘that was me’.”

They had plans to create a photographic visitor’s book for Allison’s family.

“We’ve got a polaroid camera and we hope it encourages visitors to take a photo and leave a comment on the white space of the polaroid.

“At the end of the show we will compile the photos into a visitors’ show book for the family.”

The exhibition will be at the gallery, on the corner of Don and Kelvin Sts, until December 12.