Showing posts with label The Unauthorized Version. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Unauthorized Version. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ian F. Grant Interview

Ian F. Grant has contributed immeasurably to the recording and preservation of New Zealand's cartooning history with the publication of his books The Unauthorized Version: A Cartoon History of New Zealand (1980, revised edition 1987) and Between The Lines: A Cartoon Century of New Zealand (2005) and foremostly the establishment of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive Trust initially run independently but now fully absorbed into the Alexander Turnbull Library . The collection includes the work of over 60 New Zealand and expatriate New Zealand cartoonists and over 25,000 cartoons. The New Zealand Cartoon Archive is comprised of publications, clippings, original artwork and material in digital form and has also published a series of books and monographs on New Zealand cartooning which are available here.

 Ian F. Grant, Chairman of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive Trust, Mr Peter Cartwright, H.E. The Hon. Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor General of New Zealand, and Rachel Macfarlane, Cartoon Archive Trust Administrator, at the hand-over to the Alexander Turnbull Library at the National Library and the launch of Between the Lines on 27 October 2005.

Find more information on the New Zealand Cartoon Archive here.

Below is an excerpt of a longer interview with Grant currently in preparation for the 2012 PIkitia Press Book.

Did you have an interest in cartoons prior to being commissioned to write The Unauthorized Version: A Cartoon History of New Zealand ?

Yes, in a variety of ways. I had my first practical brush with cartoonists when I edited Victoria University of Wellington’s student newspaper, Salient, in 1960 and 1963 and the capping magazine, Cappicade in, I think 1961. I was one of the founding directors of National Business Review, with editorial and marketing roles over 13 or so years from late 1970. Prior to that I’d been a copywriter and creative director in Wellington advertising agencies in the mid-1960s, tutored part-time at the School of Design at Wellington Polytechnic and studied politics at Victoria University. So by the time NBR started I had a reasonable background in design and politics. I signed up Bob Brockie as NBR cartoonist in 1975 NBR’s market was senior management in the corporate sector and government and I was aware of the famous and relevant UK example of UK press baron Lord Beaverbrook who hired NZ cartoonist David Low, an avowed socialist, to infuriate the readers of the Evening Standard  – and sell more newspapers. Bob was a socialist, politicised by the Vietnam War, and his unflinching cartoons distressed our readers – and sold more newspapers! So, one way or another, by the time I was asked to write The Unauthorized Version I had a considerable, but very unspecialised, interest in political or editorial cartooning.

1961 Victoria University capping magazine Cappicade

What were the first cartoonists or cartoons that interested you in the medium and when was this?
I certainly wasn’t an early reader of comics; my parents did not approve of them. Instead I read magazines like Boy’s Own Paper and The Champion, which a bit of a hybrid,but mainly text. I was interested in history from a young age and I suppose the first cartoons I saw regularly were in the history texts we had at secondary school – in the, as they were then called, Form v, V1 and Upper Sixth. They were all English and often illustrated with the work of leading Punch cartoonists. This would have been in the mid-1950s. Being keen on sport, I used to enjoy the front page cartoons in Wellington’s Sports Post in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with Neville Colvin and then Nevile Lodge the cartoonists. I got to know them both decades later.

When you began initial research for The Unauthorized Version was there interest in the preservation of New Zealand cartoons by any professional institutions or private individuals?  

No, I don’t think it had occurred to anyone. I agreed to the project before finding out how many editorial cartoons were in the Alexander Turnbull Library and other research libraries in NZ – I did know the Mitchell in Sydney had a very good collection. It turned out there were no collections at all – just a few cartoons that had been deposited as parts of collections of papers, etc. Of course, there were runs of the magazines and newspapers that had carried cartoons but they were in bound volumes in various places. Once the Cartoon Archive was launched a few people emerged with clippings of the work of their favourite cartoonists. I remember once receiving at home, without even a covering letter, a large box of hundreds of Sid Scales’ cartoons carefully cut out of the Otago Daily Times.  New Zealanders were accustomed to seeing cartoons in magazines and newspapers but very little had been written about them. Pat Lawlor, a journalist who edited the NZ Artists’ Annual between 1926-32 and an NZ section in Aussie knew all the cartoonists and wrote a little about them, but not always very accurately. Even David Low, our most famous cartoonist, was little more than a name.

Prior to establishing the New Zealand Cartoon Archive I've read that your house was used to store many boxes of cartoons. How did you manage to source these? And when did you realise there was an importance to ensuring the preservation of this material?

There were two aspects to researching The Unauthorized Version. The most satisfying was the detective work, before aids like ‘Papers Past’ existed, digging out information about cartoonists who had had very little, if anything, written about them previously. Less pleasant was the grinding labour of going through many hundreds of bound volumes in the bowels of the Parliamentary Library and at the Turnbull Library then in the old Free Lance Building on the Terrace in Wellington. At the Parliamentary Library, once I had found the cartoons I wanted, I’d go up a spiral staircase to an area put aside for me where I held open the heavy bound volumes with one hand while operating the microfilm camera with the other. Not too much later most of these bound volumes were dismantled for page-by-page microfilming and then disposed of. The interest was primarily in keeping a record of the text on pages and it transpired that a number of the cartoons were not able to be reproduced satisfactorily.

I suppose, before I began working on the project, I realised that political cartoons had the ability to encapsulate and crystalise issues in a way that had a special clarity and insightfulness about it – and a close association with thousands of cartoons over several years simply reinforced this. Also, it soon became obvious that NZ had a long a particularly honourable cartooning tradition going back over a century and there were scores of unknown but very good cartoonists. And I also came to see that cartoonists had shown the depth of feeling about various issues – like the high levels of racial prejudice in the country – that had been glossed over, or missed entirely, in the general histories by people like Sinclair and Oliver. Cartoons were, and are, very good at showing prevailing gut feelings and reactions at any given time.

I came to see that it was important for the country to have a cartoon archive to honour all those cartoonists but also because of the importance of cartoons as historical sources that should take their place alongside the official records and documents that our historians have relied on for so long. Interestingly, this is a view that is increasingly accepted by historians in a number of countries.

Acknowledgement:Thanks to Chris Slane for putting me in touch with Ian F. Grant, Source: