'He was the best': Renowned Kiwi photographer's exhibition his last after fatal heart attack

The last photos taken by renowned Kiwi photographer Peter Peryer are going on display in Wellington - but they weren't supposed to be his last.

That's because Peryer passed away while the exhibition was being put together.

He'd been working on the exhibition with Suite Gallery in Wellington, before his sudden passing from a heart attack in November.

"Our minds met on what we would show - I just wish that Peter really was here to see it," says Suite Gallery owner David Alsop.

Peryer attracted international notoriety with his photo Dead Steer. He was the recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1997, and was one of the inaugural Arts Foundation laureates in 2000.

"He was the best. He was a major artist and has made a significant contribution to photography in New Zealand," says Alsop.

Running until March 12, the exhibition displays his works between 2010 and 2018 - a prolific period, and one showing his move to colour photography.

"He was curious about a lot of different things, and what's lovely about these works is it's a good representation of a number of different interests," says Peryer's son, Clovis.

Clovis has flown in from Tokyo for the exhibition's opening, and says his father had been looking forward to the day.

"It's a bit of a bummer that he can't be here, because this is an exhibition that he arranged, and he was really excited for it because A) it would've been a chance to get back to Wellington, but B) because most of the works in here are works that actually haven't been seen too much," he says.

Clovis says his father was taking photos at the same rate he always had, but felt more of them were keepers, and says he feels lucky his father's left behind a body of work.

"For many people that pass away, they might not have something which can continue to live. We can continue to enjoy and experience and be with Peter, through his work."

The 18 works on display include a photo of Peryer's favourite plant Tradescantia Zebrina - the very last photo he took.

"It's a lovely touch to have something that I know was so close to his heart being such an important part of the exhibition now," says Alsop.

Alsop says Peryer was meticulous and often wouldn't settle with an image for some time.

"He would've tried to gather a perfect image of that plant many, many times before he settled on the image that's been printed and exhibited."

An exhibited photo of calla lilies was even put to use at Peryer's funeral.

"We were looking all these coffins and all the types of wood and going 'oh my god, can't decide', but actually we took that image and they can wrap a coffin nowadays," says Clovis.

And in an unusual way of preserving his father's legacy, Clovis plans on using the coffin lid as a coffee table.