Marti Friedlander

Pearls of wisdom from a kiwi icon.

Written by      

Lottie Hedley

I had come to interview and photograph Marti (with my trusty Rolleiflex Magic II) but, true to form for a woman who is as engaged with life through a viewfinder as she is when the camera is not in her hand, the conversation became became as much about me as it was about her; about life as much as it was about photography. By the end of our meeting Marti had made more photographs of me than I had made of her.

Let me see your camera. It’s in such good shape. I’ve never seen a Rollei Magic. It’s lovely to be holding it. Just sit down; turn your body. It’s a beautiful photograph. As I have always said, one day we’ll all be a photograph; it might as well be memorable because that is the one thing that will last long after we have gone. Anyway, come on, let’s talk…

Every time I take someone’s photo it’s a challenge. We’re all vain. What I loved about photographing [the Moko Suite] was that none of these women had any vanity. If you are comfortable with yourself it makes all the difference to your life. If you are depending on others to make you feel good about yourself you never will. Don’t ever be in awe of anyone.

Einstein said you can look on every day as if it’s a miracle, or not. It’s a matter of how you view life. My photography is a bit like that. It is saying something to me and that is imperative. I am not doing a job—I am working for myself. Photography is like my own personal diary; it’s my relationship to the world. I take the photograph in order to explain what I am seeing.

I love human relationships and interconnections. For me, people matter, I didn’t care who they were, whether they were Maori or Pakeha, black or white. It’s people. Being Jewish myself, obviously I’m not going to make a special issue of minority groups because I know what it is as a minority group to be sought out, so I never did that.

It’s marvellous sometimes to be a stranger, provided you are aware that you are and that you’re seeing things that other people are not seeing.

Every photograph is a thinking photograph otherwise I’d be photographing all the time. I prefer to see life without the viewfinder.

I am saddened by this generation of young people taking photos all the time because there is no tactile connection with each other. I would hate to think that they’d never know what it was like to hold a person. But I don’t want to be like those old people from when I was young that say, “Oh, you’re that generation!” With every generation it changes and even though as an older person my view is that it not for the best, you live with it, not me, so who knows whether it is for the best or not.

You’re still a child. Your generation’s average lifespan will be 100 so you’ve got to find something that you are passionately involved with. Otherwise, what do you do to fill in this life? Longevity is not a gift unless it is lived well. What’s the point of it if you’re not engaged?