THE SHOPS
by Steve Braunias and Peter Black
(Luncheon Sausage Books, $44)

Essayist Steve Braunias and photographer Peter Black are both (in Shakespeare's great phrase) "pickers-up of unconsidered trifles", so the idea (Braunias is publisher as well as author) of putting them together in a book was inspired, while Katrina Duncan's clean unfussy design makes the most of their encounter. Photographer and writer worked independently of each other. Braunias' essay makes no reference to Black or his images and in choosing what to photograph, Black followed his own instincts entirely, yet the two complement each other perfectly. Braunias' essay about his childhood fascination with small-town shops and their messy back doorways is also a moving chapter of autobiography, while Black's photographs of shop windows, signs and shabby exteriors are poignant and curiously uplifting; his use of colour - sometimes sparing, sometimes blatant - is extraordinary.

GOTTFRIED LINDAUER'S NEW ZEALAND: THE MAORI PORTRAITS
edited by Ngahiraka Mason and Zara Stanhope
(Auckland University Press, $75)

Gottfried Lindauer's portraits of late 19th century and early 20th century Maori leaders, most with facial moko and wearing traditional costume, have long been among the most esteemed treasures of Auckland Art Gallery. This lavish publication, superbly designed and presented by Auckland University Press, makes a perfect complement to the outstanding exhibition showing at the gallery. The collaboration between the Bohemian painter, who came to New Zealand in 1873 and made the documenting of Maori his life's mission, and his greatest collector, Queen St tobacconist Henry Partridge, is a remarkable story. Partridge's great collection, supplemented with a handful of works from Auckland Museum and the Turnbull Library, is central to the book. The 67 portraits and seven genre paintings of aspects of Maori life are brilliantly reproduced, each with its own informative text by Ngahiraka Mason and Nigel Borrell. A dozen thoroughly researched essays by gallery staff and other experts contribute to making this a definitive publication.


FIONA PARDINGTON: A BEAUTIFUL HESITATION
edited by Kriselle Baker and Aaron Lister
(Victoria University Press in association with City Gallery, Wellington and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, $70)

This book fully, indeed sumptuously, documents the retrospective exhibition of Fiona Pardington's photography originated by Wellington's City Gallery and later seen in Auckland and Christchurch. Pardington's 35-year photographic journey, from the intimate black-and-white portraits of her grandmother (Premonition) of the early 1980s, to the dazzling colour photographs (My Pact with Light) of extended bird wings in recent years, is richly various. Her photographs are sometimes gorgeous, sometimes poignant, sometimes painful, often challenging, always fascinating. While the images themselves - wonderfully reproduced - are the chief glory of the book; Pardington has been well-served by a raft of expert commentators. The book's design, by her brother, Neil Pardington, is exceptional.

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CHESTER NEALIE: ETCHED IN FIRE
edited by Damian Skinner
(Ron Sang Publications, $95)

Chester Nealie, one of the giants of the New Zealand ceramic movement since the 1970s, has lived in Australia for years but regularly returns to New Zealand for exhibitions such as Alchemy at Masterworks recently. Nealie's work is strong and varied enough to justify the "big bang" treatment favoured by publisher Ron Sang, who cut his publishing teeth with a similarly expansive presentation of Len Castle's pottery. The ubiquitous Damian Skinner as editor has divided the book into four big sections: Making, Firing, Exhibiting, Owning, with written contributions from 10 authorities and extensive back-page documentation by Jan Irvine-Nealie. The colour photography (pots, kilns, people) is outstanding.

John Parker, Cause and Effect.
John Parker, Cause and Effect.

JOHN PARKER: CAUSE AND EFFECT
Edited by Mary Barr
(Te Uru Waitakare Contemporary Gallery, $85)

This beautiful book, designed by Derek West and with photographs mostly by Haru Sameshima, fully documents John Parker's survey exhibition of the same name shown at Te Uru Waitakare Contemporary Gallery. Parker's pots, with their sleek, industrial-looking shapes, smooth, shiny glazes and modernist aesthetic are yin to the yang of Chester Nealie's rough-looking wood-fired pieces, but are just as admirable. A key group of a dozen grooved vessels:

Still Life for Keith, Ernie and Ewald

(2002-15) spread across two pages, acknowledges Parker's debt to Wedgwood's Keith Murray, Crown Lynn's Ernie Shufflebotham, and the Swede Ewald Dahlskog - a ceramic genealogy alternative to the Leach/Hamada line favoured by most New Zealand potters. There are good essays and documentation, too.