Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This week on the Adventures of the Coffee Bar Kid - "Selling the Dream; The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism" by Peter Alsop, Gary Stewart and Dave Bamford. $79.95

This week we review: "Selling the Dream; The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism" by Peter Alsop, Gary Stewart and Dave Bamford. $79.95 Not only is this a visually stunning book, but the accompanying essays also provide great value. Senior executive, Peter Alsop is a keen collector of New Zealand art and tourism publicity - especially, hand-coloured photography and mid-century New Zealand landscape paintings. His commitment to this is very evident here in a collection that would have to be the most comprehensive in print to date, I suspect. I was not aware of the Government's early commitment to getting overseas punters into New Zealand, and behind the scenes there was a huge mechanism for doing this. Art studios and entire specialist departments produced campaigns for getting locals and foreigners out of the house and into cars, planes and automobiles. In fact, in 1901 the first government tourist office in the world institution The Department of Tourist and Health Resorts was established. So we were the first to give women the vote, first to freeze and sell our wares overseas and the first to tell every one how great it is here. Yet some how the tyranny of distance still thwarted us. Thank goodness, lest we be overrun and over populated. Interestingly, Kiwis' come of age overseas wanderlust may not just be the pull of the apron strings from the mother country but also the push from our own big brother. If Kiwis were attracting people from far away to come here then we were also firing our own desire to go there, too. Resplendent are the beautiful images, many far too good for a measly poster. Throughout the book has a number of essays. Margaret McClure talks about the establishment of tourism here from Rotorua to state ownership of assets and publicity. She's a public historian well known for The Wonder Country, a definitive history of New Zealand tourism, so she knows her stuff. . "Shaping New Zealand’s Identity: The Role of Tourism Publicity" is by Richard Wolfe, who writes on New Zealand’s social history, including most recently In the Post, a history of New Zealand stamps. His latter work is, in a way, quite similar to his topics. Stamps were mini posters, also conveying images and dreams just like the larger counterparts. The essay "Against the Odds: Attracting Visitors in the Golden Age of Travel Posters" by David Pollack touches on that tyranny of distance subject again, and looks more closely at the psychology behind the images. David is a highly regarded vintage poster dealer in the United States (www.dpvintageposters.com) and past President of the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association. The essay "Happy Marriage: Aligning Tourism and Publicity", also by Wolfe, looks at the national strategies and how they followed national trends and the identity of the Kiwi, as we evolved. Interestingly none of our posters ever consider particular races (outside Maori) the images don’t specifically feature white people or black. Because of the stylised imagery the viewer can visualize themselves at the intended scene no matter their own race or upbringing. Radical for a time when, at home, as in many countries were we still quite xenophobic, especially to Chinese, Japanese and Germans. It isn't mentioned here perhaps because of the time range but common in the 1970's at least was the observation that those were the very people we fought a war to keep out and here they were coming in armed with cameras and travellers cheques. . "Selling Maoriland: Māori at the Centre of Tourism Publicity", by Mark Derby, who works at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and has a deep knowledge of Māori history brings in some of our earliest attempts to establish identity and a point of difference. Maori in Rororua, especially were early pioneers of tourism, sharing their thermal wonderland with visitors for a few pennies. Early poets like Thomas Bracken, who wrote our National Anthem, coined the phrase Maoriland to establish a handle on the fledgling nation. They wanted a label to hang their hat on, stand apart from the European roots and grow separately. Maori culture was unique and exotic, but in the hands of a state run publicity machine doomed to become kitsch and cheap. The plastic tiki syndrome was establish early by the assumptions and blundering of ignorant and indignant officials, who had little time for digging and delving into the images they exploited. The dusky Maori maiden was a common theme, as it had been for early artists on the Heemskerk, the Zeehan and the Endeavour. It would take years for Maori to unshackle the stereo types and take ownership of their culture and once again re-brand it as their own. . Lee Davidson in "Publicizing Peaks: Early Promotion of Mountain Tourism". looks at another aspect, one were are still proud of: adventure tourism. As a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington with a specialist focus on tourism, leisure and cultural heritage, and the significance of mountains in particular, Davidson likes to focus on how our fauna and flora was sold - the unique approach of distinguishing Mitre peak from Westminster Abbey or Big Ben. Although I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the drivers behind why the people of the mountains wanted to visit the cities of Europe while the people of ancient crumbling cities need to be in the clean open air of our bush and mountains. . if you were wondering about the men, and they were mostly men, who produced all this great imagery then the chapter "Apprentice Dream Makers: Teenage Commercial Artists" by Gail Ross, who's also an art historian , is the best place to look. It was fascinating to look into the well planned lives of young New Zealanders who were changed into art colleges as young as 12, destined to be the commercial artists of tomorrow. If only our schools were like that now! The remaining chapters lt these posters in the context of high art, as lasting images, the roll and connection of stamps and the roll of our tourism posters in the Naturalist movement and early conservation. Behind the scenes on that one is the respect and connectivity between the Department of Conservation and the opportunities for trade and cultural value add that became greatly recognized as a viable tourism opportunity. All in all, this book is not only fascinating but enlightening. At school, my daughter is studying the art of persuasion in advertising and creating of tribes and cultural thinking portrayed through those images. Young Kiwis are fascinated by what makes them Kiwis. There is no doubt that New Zealand's own understanding of itself came from the promotion of itself, and that is self evident in the artefacts in this book.

For more information Check out : http://www.sellingthedream.co.nz/

And also Peter's own essay on Public Address: http://publicaddress.net/speaker/selling-the-dream-the-art-of-early-new-zealand/

Images provided in association with Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism


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