GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 12, 2013

John James Fields, 75


Guyra, NSW, Australia — John James Fields sadly passed away in the small town of Guyra, New South Wales, Australia. He endured a sudden and short battle with pancreatic cancer. John succumbed to this illness on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, with wife, Patricia, by his side

John James Fields was born on Jan. 18, 1938, in Rockport, Mass., son to Charles Ludwig Fields and his wife, Sarah Mae (nee McDonald). John’s older brother, Charles, and his wife, Julia, live in Gloucester and Sun City West, Ariz.

On Dec. 29, 1966, John married Australian born Patricia Hazelton (known professionally as the singer, Kerry Bryant) in the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross Australia. On May 7, 1968, John and Patricia welcomed their first born daughter, Kerry, to their lives, soon to be followed on the Sept. 21, 1969, by their second daughter, Helvi.

John Fields was a consummate photographer and he used his talents to move around the world. From his birthplace in Massachusetts, he went to New Zealand, then on to Australia. From Sydney he moved to Armidale, then Guyra - a small town on the Northern Tablelands of NSW Australia, where he settled, enjoying the sweeping vistas and the small pleasures of its spare countryside.

John trained as a documentary filmmaker and photographer after service in the US Navy. He exhibited in Massachusetts and his work was sent on travelling exhibitions around the country. He also held several exhibitions in Boston before he moved to New Zealand in the 1960's to be a specialist electron microscope photographer in the cell biology department at Auckland University.

John and his wife, Patricia, became part of the rich cultural scene in New Zealand, where John flourished as a photographer of the natural scene and the built environment. Their friends included many of the brilliant and emerging generation of New Zealand painters and photographers as well as teachers, potters, printmakers, boat builders, architects, ecologists, mechanics, filmmakers, librarians and gallery curators.

A series in the early 1970’s that John called "Signatures," composed of photographs of intimate home interiors and workspaces of fellow artists and craft workers, included his most distinctive work. Many of the photographs were bought by regional and national art galleries, establishing him as a significant figure in the New Zealand photographic scene.

In 1971, his work set a New Zealand record when his photographs were the first to sell for the then extraordinary sum of $100 each. Many of his images were reproduced in the catalogue of the 1973 exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery. John also worked with architect and historian, John Stacpoole, to produce "Victorian Auckland," a photographic record of historic buildings worth preserving.

In 1975, John was one of the first recipients of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Grant for photography for his study of the colonial architectural gold mining town of Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula (North Island of New Zealand).

John had at first employed 35-millimeter cameras to record documentary and pictorial images, before adopting large format cameras to make more candid and tender images of individuals and their homes. A strikingly delicate photograph of his daughter, Helvi, is among those held in the collection of Te Papa, the New Zealand national art gallery.

In 1976 John and his family moved to Sydney, Australia, to work at The Australian Museum where he continued to photograph his surroundings. In the late 1980’s, John moved to Armidale on the NSW Northern Tablelands, where he worked as a photographer at the University of New England until his retirement. His images of the New England countryside, which John also compared the similarities to New England on the East Coast of the U.S., are among the most spectacular ever made in the region.

As in New Zealand, John encouraged and actively supported fellow artists and craft workers, attending exhibitions and recording events. He taught photography at Armidale TAFE and mentored notable young photographers. It is not an understatement to say everyone who came into contact with him professionally in three countries will feel his loss.

In Armidale, his community activities were wide-ranging and included voluntary work for service organizations and associations. John also participated in university common room life.

John is survived by his wife, Patricia; daughters, Helvi and Kerry; older brother, Charles; and grandchildren, Erin, Cullenn, Jack, Corie and Adam.

John’s warmth, humor and generous, loving nature will be sadly missed by all that knew him. By coincidence, a soon to be published book by author Charles L. Fields involves a fictional brother in Australia and is dedicated to the much loved and respected “real brother.”

ARRANGEMENTS: A private Memorial Service will be announced this summer.