A series of still lifes composed by writer Margaret Egan and photographer Bridgit Anderson to create a portrait of Margaret’s grandfather Cecil Wallace, a Kaikoura dentist, and his wife Stella. The book consists of images of the things that made up their lives, and that have survived in the many nooks and crannies of this place.
Available from the publisher (not in shops).
Reviewed by Paul Little, North&South March 2021:
At 43 Beach Road, Kaikoura is a house that has been in the Wallace family for more than 100 years. For the first 40 it was home to dentist Cecil and his wife Stella, Egan’s grandparents. For most of those years it was also Cecil’s surgery. In these pages, the building is paid tribute in a series of lovingly composed photographic still lifes. They showcase both everyday domestic items and antique paraphernalia of the dentist’s trade. The latter inspire macabre fascination, the former evoke nostalgia for days when home cooks first took advantage of the new plastic technology for their kitchenware. The book’s format inspires comparison to some familiar genres, such as those children’s books without words where the reader is encouraged to construct a narrative from visual clues; or the memory game where the player tries to recall a collection of objects that is revealed briefly before being covered up again. The poetic captions make much use of Egan’s childhood memories: “the scent of gifted flowers mingling with exotic chemicals” “here, in this seaward place, a feeding place, a growing place” “a memory place”. Some might question the emphasis on pieces of fruit which have been inserted, often incongruously, into many of the compositions. Just what is that pomegranate doing there? The half pumpkin balanced on a cabbage will leave the reader distractedly wondering how it is kept in place. The subjects are often shot in bright light against a black background, which imbues them with an air of glamour. These are everyday household or dental items, but they are made mysterious by this treatment. When it comes to the tools of the dentist’s trade, such instruments of terror have seldom been presented so lovingly.
64pp, full colour throughout