Monday, May 12, 2014

Four Houses, Four Families, Four Stories

I have hundreds of photographs of abandoned red zone houses in Christchurch.
I only have forty or so recorded stories from some of the earthquake-battered people who once lived in them - people who then, in the thick of thousands of after-shocks, were only too willing to talk about one of the most shattering and damaging experiences of their lives.
I often wonder now, as I walk or cycle through these sad, sad abandoned residential areas, what has become of all of the people - not only the ones I interviewed but all the others too. The thousands who have made off to other places.  I wonder what they have taken with them - what memories, what dreams and aspirations, what physical treasures that were too important to leave behind
With every passing week, more and more of these abandoned red-zoned homes are being demolished.
What were once busy suburban communities filled with spinning clothes lines, screaming kids, yelling parents, loud stereos and idling cars, have been reduced to flat, barren tracts of land scraped bare of their suburban histories. Every gone. The few saved trees and the freshly sown grass no replacement for family life.
It's a good thing that so many people have gathered these family stories.
Because before long, we will need to be reminded of them - reminded of the families who once made up the once-vibrant communities of east Christchurch; reminded of the merciless power of Nature to wreck and reshape the human spirit.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The City Revisited

I haven't spent much time in inner city Christchurch over the last six months.
I've been trying to ignore our earthquake ravaged city.
I've been trying to ignore the fact that, after three and a half years, my house is still not fixed.
I've been trying to ignore everything to do with the earthquakes - the slow progress, the sad stories, the outrage, the anger, the despair, the very futility of it all.
I've just been trying to get on with my life.
Now my house *is* about to get fixed and I'm elated.
It feels like a new beginning. It feels like I can finally leave the earthquakes behind.
But then I see this wall and it seems like an ugly metaphor for all the people still waiting, all the people whose voices still haven't been heard.
And I pick up my camera again to illustrate that, despite positive stories of new buildings, flourishing street art and quirky temporary projects, inner city Christchurch still has a VERY long way to go before it regains even a glimmer of its former charm.
See for yourself.

The demise of the Christchurch City Council chambers
Tuam Street
The end of an era
When was your last moment of wonder?
When was the last time you felt 'all right'?
Under control, buoyant, excited, inspired?
The Bridge of Remembrance
Not how most people remember it

The interior of Starbucks.
The daily newspaper open, unread
A tiny capsule of broken history
Shopfront City Mall
Skinny Jeans
The shiny and new
Reflecting the broken and barren
A Havana-esque moment
Oddly endearing

Once a hotel
Now an ugly pool
A languishing corner

Three old beauties in various stages of ruin
The Post-it notes of memory
Fading fast

Ruptured retail
Would you feel 'all right'
If you lived here
With this?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Spring in North Canterbury

In Pink

In White

"Spring is sooner recognised by plants than men."
Chinese proverb

"Of course everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colours, there would be an unbelievable shrieking in the heart of the night."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Welcome to Christchurch

Welcome to Christchurch - the Copthorne Hotel, welcoming guests since ages ago

Advancing like an ancient dinosaur

Ninja - Ready for anything in Christchurch

History in the Making

Barbie - and the night out that went very, very wrong

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Way Things Used to Be

Every so often, in an idle moment, I scan through my digital photo files peering at old photos of Christchurch.
Old being pre-September 2010, before the 7.1 earthquake struck that is.
I'm always amazed by how much I have already forgotten, just three years on.
I took these photographs inside Christchurch Cathedral in the Square.
And as we all know, the Cathedral now sits in ruins - towers broken, steeple gone, roof collapsing, mould growing over the stone exterior, pigeons pooping through the interior.
It's a pale, sad shadow of what it used to be, of what you see here.
I'm not a religious person but I am very fond of church architecture and I often went into this cathedral - and, to my mind, the even more spectacular Catholic Basilica -  just to sit and watch and listen and contemplate.
Some of my favourite views are those minus people, or, as in this case, just a hint, a shadow of others.
(I've noticed that most of my photographs are either of people, or places - seldom both in one shot).
The famous rose window.
In storage somewhere now  (I think).
And with the choristers practising for the annual Christmas performance.
This year I guess they'll give us a tune in Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Cathedral - a very nice temporary replacement.
Same view, different day, different year and fewer people.
And the exterior view that dons a thousand (at least) tourist books.
I used to take this view so much for granted.
I take very little for granted any more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Christchurch in Eight Verticals

Spring Green

Memorial Stones

Unauthorised Vehicles

Bart Simpson

Empty Shell

Danger Construction

Bird Roost

Afternoon Light

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Under the Umbrella

Something about this image has haunted me since I took it in central Christchurch last week.
I watched this old couple walk up to the wire cordon, their faces bleak and pressed against the wire.
I wondered about the memories they had of their city and how they saw it now, post-earthquakes.

It was a grey day, filled with drizzle and cloud. 
The sort of day that always stirs my thoughts.
"Come along my dear, we must get out of this weather," he said to her.
She looked at him with a sad smile and together, they turned away from the fence
And walked toward another.
Umbrella raised.


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