Artist Profile

Peter Peryer

Born 1941

Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1941, Peter Chanel Peryer is of English, Irish and Welsh extraction. On his maternal side his family have been in New Zealand for several generations. The name Peryer (rhymes with merrier) is an old English name meaning dweller by the pear tree. In his early twenties he chose Chanel as his middle name reflecting the rigorous Catholic upbringing that he received. By his mid-twenties, Peryer had turned his back on Christianity, and has never returned.

Raised mainly in the Far North of his country, in a sparsely populated, predominantly Maori area, his parents owned small hotels and dairy farms. Being the days before the proliferation of a tourist industry in New Zealand, these hotels always had guests, many of whom were a major influence on Peryer's life. For example, a troupe of travelling entertainers who regularly used the hotel as their base and with whom he formed a deep personal connection. Judges, priests, commercial travellers, school inspectors, these were some of the colourful individuals who peopled his early years.

A hill near one of his homes was the site of a New Zealand equivalent of Little Big Horn. Here, at Ohaeawai, in 1845, the British suffered a major loss. Right behind his school was a large rock, Taiamai, upon which the souls of dead Maori were said to rest during their journey to the Underworld. Surrounding Ohaeawai are a number of exquisite extinct volcano cones. These cones, the site of hundreds of years of human occupation, were visited by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. A photograph of one of these, Pouerua (1988) appears in the catalogue Second Nature, the accompanying publication to the significant exhibition held at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 1995.

Guns and tractors, deep pools, ocean shores, thermal lakes, dogs, horses, birds and fish, American movies, swamps lakes, milking sheds, wool sheds and the Mass; all of these are sources from which so many of his images are drawn. After studying both science and humanities at University, Peryer spent several years teaching at Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels until, at the fore, decided that photography was his vocation. He swiftly taught himself all the craft that he needed to know in order to get started and his images immediately found a small but appreciative audience.

Peter Peryer now lives in New Plymouth and continues his photography, which is collected and exhibited throughout many of New Zealand's most significant Galleries and represented in the most prestigious collections of this country.

N. B. This biography is an updated version of that which can be found in the Second Nature (1995) catalogue.

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