Sunday, October 31, 2010
No deep thinking, no intense philosophies.
Just visual delight in the world around me.
No continuing visual themes - just snaps of whatever caught my attention
And so it was that I tagged this Japanese couple around Cathedral Square Japanese weddings are a common sight in Christchurch and I always enjoy watching the way they approach compiling their photographic record of the event. It often involves a team of half a dozen, as they rush about various (predictable) landmarks, arranging themselves in smiling poses, before moving on to the next. There's often a shallow, business-like quality to the whole business, as if they've read that this is how it's done in the West, so this is what must be done - preferably in record time with minimum fuss.
But if you hang about on the edges, you sometimes see small, poignant moments, subdued gestures of love, telling looks, the lean of one body into another. They're the moments many photographers, so caught up in the big event, the frenetic gallop between locations and the arrangement of silks and veils, seem to miss. Overt, public expressions of love of course, are not the Japanese way. But sometimes, a smile, a respectful bow, a shy kiss on the forehead say far more.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Auckland's Langham Hotel is one of my favourites.
There's an extravagance about the place that suits my self-indulgent nature.
Rooms are intimate and richly decorated. Barolo Italian Restaurant is a culinary heaven. A Langham afternoon tea pays homage to tradition Chuan Spa is a roof-top shrine to pampering And service throughout is impeccable http://www.langhamhotels.com/
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Hilton Lake Taupo has recently been named Best New Hotel in the World - a wonderful accolade for a terrific hotel that blends old and new.
Large, amazingly well-priced, modern apartments have sprung up beside the original heritage building, which began life as the Terraces Hotel in 1889. It's had a number of revamps in recent years but it reaches maturity under Hilton management. That unmistakeable 'Hilton chic' now hovers over every space and suites and apartments have big balconies and either wide lake views, or more intimate views over the thermal valley and Taupo Hot Springs Spa below and to the rear of the hotel. It's located to the south of Taupo township on the Napier-Taupo Highway and as an aside, the bathrooms are divine. www.laketaupohilton.com
All photographs courtesy of Hilton Lake Taupo.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I physically file my digital images by subject and/or location. But in my head they seem to group themselves according to colour.
If I see these shots of the boat sheds on Lake Tarawera, near Rotorua, I immediately think of the glass bowl I photographed at Heritage Hotel's City Life in Auckland, or perhaps a summer dress suspended in a fashion store. I like the randomness of that. It makes every day a rich visual soup.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19th was the official beginning of the demolition of Manchester Courts in Christchurch. The sun shone, the skies were blue and city nerves were on edge, just hours after another after-shock measuring 5 on the Richter scale - shallow and close to the city, which made it seem all the stronger. But that didn't stop people gathering to watch the first stages of this unique heritage building's demolition. Some had even set up their folding deck chairs on Manchester Street - a little early as far as I could see because there wasn't a lot happening.
For the better part of the last week, a continuous stream of lorries has been dumping dirt on the road to create the 8-metre high bund necessary to give the cranes the height they'll need to access the top levels of the building. Streets are fenced off for at least a block , complete with barbed wire to keep sticky-beaks, protesters and other sundry opportunists out; and police are making regular on-foot patrols. Shipping containers have been stacked three and four high along a part of Hereford Street to protect other buildings and pedestrians from any falling debris and even yesterday, the truck loads of dirt continue to pile in.
The demolition is expected to take around six weeks, although once started, I suspect things will move quickly - not that you'd guess that from the relaxed approach being taken by demolition workers yesterday afternoon (see below).
I spoke with a young German tourist who was also watching proceedings. She hadn't been thrilled by the big after-shock earlier but she did think Manchester Courts had "architectural merit." "But if they are demolishing it, why not a bomb?" she asked - with a perfectly straight face. "It would be quicker and maybe not so many people would hang around."
Such a practical people the Germans, I find.
Another older woman joined us. She stood a minute looking completely bemused and then asked what everyone was looking at. That too, seemed a perfectly logical question. When I told her the workers were beginning the demolition of the big brick building on the corner, she looked at me as if I was joking. "It looks perfectly fine to me," she stated, pushing her glasses up her nose and stalking off.
Needless to say her sentiments will echo loudly in many quarters of the city and beyond for the demoliton is not without controversy. All ten engineers who have inspected the building say it cannot be saved and at the end of the day, I'm prepared to believe them. That a local council (none of them engineers I would guess) has the power to decide the fate of a heritage building of national significance is another matter entirely. Obviously, given that Christchurch continues to be pounded with after-shocks six and a half weeks after the big one - we've now had in excess of 1,900 of them - a speedy decision was imported but I do wonder if much of that haste has not come about because of pressure from surrounding business owners, who cannot operate for as long as Manchester Courts stands in its current perilous state.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Years (and years) ago, when I was working as a journalist for the Wairarapa Times Age in Masterton, I had a huge rural beat that covered every corner of the Wairarapa province. One of my early jobs there, was to travel down to Wharekauhau Lodge and interview the Shaw family who established it. That was way back before it became what it is today. The lodge was then located in the family homestead and still had a number of years to run before it brought in partners and developed into the luxury retreat (above) it is now.
I stayed at Wharekauhau in July (this was my room, photographed before I messed it up) during my Frommer's travel guide road trip and, coming at the tail end of my journey, it was a very welcome slump into total indolence and self-indulgence. Quite apart from the oh-so comfortable suites and the on-call treats, the landscape lends itself to rest and recuperation.
Wharekauhau nestles into a sheltered spot on a grassy plateau above the pounding seas of Palliser Bay, at the bottom of the North Island. When you travel down Western Lake Road passed Lake Wairarapa, it feels like you're heading for the bottom of the world - that's as it should be for a retreat but I often wonder what foreign guests think as the roads get skinnier and the landscape wilder the further south they go. It's part of a 5,500 acre working farm - one of the oldest Romney studs in New Zealand in fact, dating back to the mid-1800s; and guests willing to pay a bit extra, can get a guided tour of the property - that's especially popular in spring when 16,000-20,000 new lambs appear in the pastures, or in autumn, when the entire flock is mustered in for shearing.
The lodge itself is a sublime spot. There's the main lodge building, built along the lines of a fine Edwardian country mansion, where you can dine in style and throw yourself down into mountains of cushions in the grand living rooms. There's a stunning heated pool complex, tennis courts and clusters of 'cottages' set apart from the central building, giving guests fabulous views over the bay - and privacy from each other.
Wharepapa Cottage is further away - a private three bedroom holiday house; and Chateau Wellington sits just above the main lodge - a sumptuous 4,500 square foot, 3-bedroomed retreat that offers the ultimate in privacy and luxury for those who crave an escape with benefits. It was occupied by a group from Wellington when I was there - they'd all come over for a friend's 60th birthday party, hosted in the main dining room of the lodge and they all slipped quietly into the rural silence in the late afternoon, never to be seen again by other guests.
I'm often asked (in my travel guide writer capacity) what my favourite place to stay in New Zealand is. That's a tough question and one I always find extremely difficult to answer. New Zealand's top lodges at this uppermost level of accommodation are all outstanding. They're all located in spectacular landscapes and each one has a distinct character as a result of that and if I was forced to choose, I'd be hard-pressed to come to a decision. That said, I have always had a soft spot for the Wairarapa. It's vast spread of diverse landscapes is always an attraction - nowhere more so that at this southern tip around Cape Palliser. And Wharekauhau hospitality has an easy warmth to it, a quiet, assurance that's very easy to embrace. Set your foot across the threshold and you very quickly realise you don't have to worry about a thing. www.wharekauhau.co.nz
Monday, October 18, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
is a fitting title for this voluptuous collection of bottles and vases by Dunedin ceramic artist, Liz Fea, now on show at Dunedin's Quadrant Gallery. For Fea, endangered refers to the very essence of ceramic making, to its treachery throughout the production process. Submitting handmade works to the heat of the kiln is unpredictable; the pot is endangered at all stages and until it is safely fired, we cannot know how it will turn out. Equally, it may refer to the art itself - at least in modern western society, where the 'bigger' more glamorous arts of painting and sculpture get all the glory.
For endangered, Fea continues on from a major body of work she completed in 2009 - work that referred to the fragile nature of much of the New Zealand landscape. Now her vessels also allude to the endangered flora and fauna that inhabits that fragile and threatened landscape.
The bottle form is an ancient one developed over many millennia and Fea's "slightly over-the-top" contemporary vessels have captured something of that history. They have the look of an archaeological find, bottles produced for ceremony in some indulgent, ancient civilisation - each one a 'jewelled landscape' dripping the colours of the natural world. Fea gives free expression to colour and texture, light and shade in works that are influenced not only by the paintings of Colin McCahon (and his similar use of dense greens), but also to the rich, textural, early bamboo prints of Stanley Palmer.
Liz Fea is relatively new to the ancient joys and caprices of ceramics. She graduated from the Otago Polytechnic School of Art just last year with a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Diploma in Ceramic Art and says the works in this exhibition are "highly experimental" and made to convey a sense of fun, at the same time drawing attention to the fragility of our land. The show continues at Quadrant gallery in Dunedin until october 30, 2010. All images supplied.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
(with camera in hand)
Especially if said tree is enshrouded in mist.
I took these photographs one misty morning in South Wairarapa on my recent trip around New Zealand researching the 1st edition of the all-new, full colour Frommers New Zealand Day by Day 1st Edition, which will be published in 2011. I'd been staying in the far south and left early, to take the winding drive around Lake Wairarapa on my way to Wellington. I'm not quite sure what it is about trees that evokes such a strong emotion and aesthetic response in me. It's always been that way regardless of the creative medium I choose - some element of the tree is invariably present. It's as if my creative psyche is somehow entangled in the branches and leaves. I always feel them 'almost human' somehow, imbued with a presence. I don't suppose I'm alone in that, after all, many ancient civilisations worshipped trees and for many, Maori for instance, the tree is still culturally important. And then there are the literary greats and their passion for trees: "I never knew how soothing trees are - many trees and patches of open sunlight, and tree-presences - it is almost like having another being." D.H. Lawrence.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
"One for the Mother - Allsorts" - 2010.
It seems more than a little fitting that this bright, playful work by Wayne Youle (Ngapuhi, Ngati Whakaeke), has delivered a colourful new surface to the usually staid, grey car park bunker in the forecourt of Christchurch Art Gallery. Youle, after all, is a man known for his attention to surface detail and for slick, 'pop-art-style' works that playfully challenge bicultural stereotypes. For me personally, this work is less challenging, more fun. It's as if some giant licorice allsort has fallen from the sky and landed on the tiny patch of green in front of the gallery. It reminds me of some of his earlier tiki works - brightly coloured tikis that had the look of lickable lollipops. The work is part of the gallery's excellent OUTER SPACES progamme that promotes art works outside the main gallery building - a concept I'm right behind. www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz