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Lupins versus tussock

McKenzie Country’s now-famous lupins are the controversial subject of a fascinating exhibition showing at Allpress Studio from June 1 to 18.

Auckland-based photographer Mark Smith and plant enthusiast Felicity Jones have chosen lupins to demonstrate the tensions that even beautiful flowers can cause as a result of botanical globalism.

Lupin seeds were innocently sprinkled around Mackenzie Country in the 19th century by Connie Scott who wanted to bring some colour to the landscape. Now, many people hate them because they are taking over the native tussock grasses while farmers like them because they’re good for fixing nitrogen in the soil and are nutritious for cattle.

The lupins are beloved by tourists (local and foreign) but alleged to have caused traffic accidents when people stop to take photos of them.

Case Studies South is the second collab between Smith and Jones.

Like their first botanical photographic show ‘Case Studies’ in 2019, it focuses on people’s connection with plants and the ongoing tensions between economic, social, and environmental needs.

Smith and Jones were planning to go to the United Kingdom last year to continue their exploration of botanical globalisation but Covid put paid to that. So, in November 2020, they hit the South Island for a road trip to time in with the world-famous lupin season.

The exhibition also touches on plant mania, including the current craze for tropical indoor plants, which has led to plant thefts from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Central to their first series was the fascinating story of the Wardian Case, the humble wood and glass terrarium that was instrumental in shaping our global environment today. During the 19th century, these cases carried thousands of plants on ships to New Zealand and made the return journey filled with New Zealand native species, many destined for Kew Gardens.

A fascinating exhibition with beautiful imagery for sure.

CASE STUDIES SOUTH, Allpress Studio, 8 Drake St, Freemans Bay, Auckland: June 1 – 18, 2021.

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