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May 2022 Issue
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Photographer at home on wild west coast

Usual Spot by Olaf Petersen shows Te Henga/Bethells Beach in 1968.

Auckland’s west coast is front and centre in a new exhibition celebrating the work of photographer Olaf Petersen (1915-94).

“Petersen found inspiration all over the country, but of course his local favourites occur frequently in his work,” said Shaun Higgins, pictorial curator at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The favourites included Te Henga/Bethells Beach, near Swanson, Petersen’s lifelong home.

On the cliffs at Te Henga in the 1950s, Petersen would lower himself down by rope to photograph spotted shags living on the rock face.

His portfolio of 50,000 images spans 50 years, from the 1930s to 1980s, charting changes in the landscape over time.

Higgins said he wanted to bring Petersen’s work into the spotlight since discovering it in the museum’s collection more than two decades ago.

The exhibition, which opened on April 7, runs until March 2023.