Capturing Light - review by Pat Craddock

The colour of light is….

There is probably a church close by… where you may sit in a pew and marvel at sunlight as it enters to dance in a stained glass window. There are over 100 churches in NZ with 300 stained windows created by Roy Miller of Dunedin and the three designers who worked with him. Many of these windows are reproduced in “Capturing Light – Roy Miller – New Zealand stained glass Artist” written by Brian Miller. The greater part of the book represents the work of Roy Miller, born in Dunedin 1915. He started work as a sign writer in the family business when he was a boy of 14. During the Second World War he was in the NZ Air Force. Soon after the war ended he began making his first stained glass window. For the next 30 years he was the foremost stained glass artist in New Zealand.

These stained glass windows by Roy Miller and his colleagues are reproduced in full colour with full or half page photographs that frequently include a picture of the church or building where they can be seen. Both interior and exterior photographs of buildings are provided.

Yes – the book has numerous stained glass pictures of saints, warrior angels and warrior kings such as Richard, the Lion Heart. But, to use the cliché, there is more. One of the more modern and delightful stained windows reproduced on a two-page spread is “The Rainbow’, which in my ignorance I had never heard about. It decorates the Westfield Manukau Shopping Mall in Auckland and has been there since the 1970s. It is a huge art work measuring four by twelve metres designed by Shona McFarlane, executed by Roy Miller and then leaded by another artist Ken Thomson.

The layout of the book and the notes accompanying the excellent photographs give locations of stained windows, dates of installation and details of the team of artists who worked on the windows. All the photographs are by Brian Miller who travelled throughout the country taking photographs that illustrate the craftsmanship of the originals. I looked for touched up “Photoshop” work and found none. Miller himself was aware of the temptation and comments about ‘remaining faithful to the artist’s choice of colours’.

What can be found is a thorough index that easily refers the reader to the page where a stained window can be found. A second and more interesting index called ‘windows list” gives the town suburb, name of church and other information. It is classified under districts. If for example you live in Taranaki you will find details of five churches covered in the book.

The reader will sense and then discover information on conservation, and restoration and the historian in Brian Miller shows his face as he writes about the making of stained glass windows and it’s long history.

This book is an obvious gift for a friend or relative interested in a part of New Zealand history that to my knowledge is not well documented. I hope every library buys a copy. It is also a coffee table book, but it is a damn sight more than just that.

Pat Craddock

Media Educator – Greytown