Monday, February 28, 2011

Life in the Suburbs After a 6.3 Earthquake

Life in suburban Christchurch after the 6.3 earthquake that struck on Tuesday, February 22 is much changed. While those to the north and west of the city suffered less in a physical sense this time, the east side, including the beach suburbs of New Brighton and Sumner and the port town of Lyttelton have taken a real hammering. We go to bed wondering about after-shocks and we wake up wondering if the power is on; if there will be water coming out of the taps and if not, where we will get it. We wonder if the toilet will flush and if not, if a Port-a-Loo has been delivered to the neighbourhood so we no longer have to worry about the best and most hygenic way of carrying out personal ablutions. Many worry about the reliability of fuel, gas and food supplies and in their panic, they clog the streets with unnecessary traffic, inhibiting the work of rescue services. Everything is a wee bit topsy-turvy.
And as you wander around the eastern suburban streets you're faced with both the sadness of ruined homes and the generosity of strangers. In normal times, I might make rude remarks about the brown velour lounge suite cast out on the roadside (above) but in the circumstances I felt huge sympathy for the owners, who had removed it from their broken home and left it for all and sundry to plunder - or sit on. And imagine the anguish of the Shirley owner's of this swimming pool (above), waking up to find it 'open to the world' and about to collapse into the street.
Avonside Drive was severely affected by September 2010's 7.1 earthquake and many homes there have been red-stickered and abandoned. Many parts of the area look forlorn and gardens are overgrown. Back in September I saw people loading their lives into removal trucks just a few days after that devastating earthquake. How hard must that be? This time, many people in the hill suburbs were given only ten minutes to gather what they deemed most significant before being evacuated from their homes - homes that many people have spent their entire adult lives in, or spent their entire life savings creating. As I sit here thinking about that - and about what I might grab in ten minutes to encapsulate my life, I can't think past my wallet and my camera. I have a house filled with stuff but after sitting through six month's of after-shocks, my regard for 'stuff' is much diminished.
Then there is that other suburban Christchurch phenomenon driving everyone crazy - liquefaction. The two shots above were taken right outside my gate after everyone had started digging and carting this ungodly crap off their properties to the roadside, to be picked up by council workers and taken - we all hope - far, far away. When it's wet, it's like the contents of a Rotorua mudpool - grey, slimy, gluggy - and it weighs a ton on the spade. When it's dry, it's lighter and easier to dig but when it gets really dry, it's creates huge clouds of dust with every car that passes. It's clogged up stormwater drains all over the east side of Christchurch and the water stuck in the curbs is, six days on, starting to stink - or maybe that's the broken sewerage pipes?
Drive down just about any street now and you'll be faced with little mountains of grey sludge - and signs imploring drivers to slow down to keep dust to a minimum.
Other new suburban fixtures now include generators - padlocked in place to thwart the evil actions of petty thieves - and water stations. It's all just a little bit surreal really.
For more coverage of both the September 4, 2010 and February 22, 2011 earthquakes, click on Christchurch Earthquake in the label line below.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Six Days After - Christchurch Earthquake 2011

I went out for a bike ride this morning - early - before the queues of cars started clogging the Christchurch streets, kicking up the giant clouds of dust from drying liquefaction now piled high throughout the city's eastern suburbs. Residents - myself included - have been working hard since the 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch on February 22, six months and around 5,000 aftershocks after the first big 7.1 quake struck on September 4th last year. This time, the damage has been much more severe and much more localised and, as most people now know, the loss of life in the central business district has been significant, with the death toll still climbing.
As I cycled around the broken streets of Avonside - many of them freshly repaired from the the September 4 quake and once again destroyed, I was overwhelmed with sadness. We've all seen the news coverage - the crumpled inner city, the tireless rescue teams at work - but even so, there's a sense of disbelief and incomprehension that this could happen in New Zealand. Why I'm not sure because we've all been raised to know that we live on an earthquake faultline. But everything about the series of events that have occupied Christchurch hearts and minds for the last six months, seem inexplicable.
In the last 6 days I have received dozens of emails, phone calls and text messages asking 'Are you ok?'
"I'm fine," I invariably answer.
Mostly because, physically, I am. But also because I just don't know what else to say. How can you explain the psychological impact of six months of thousands of after-shocks and the turmoil of the big quakes and the hideous destruction they've brought to our city? How do you explain the uncertainty - about everything, the fear, the insecurity and in many cases the utter despair of loss - of life and possessions - and the reality that nothing about your life will ever be the same again. That, I hasten to add, is not about feeling sorry for yourself; it's just the way it is.
The media of course, home in on the big events. As a journalist myself I understand that. But out in the suburbs there's a different level of suffering. It may seem 'less spectacular but it is insideous and ever-creeping. You see it in the small things - the piles of filthy liquefaction stacked up on roadsides that I know, from personal experience, take hours of back-breaking labour to shift. You see it in the piles of sodden, torn-out carpet and furniture left on the roadside for collection. You see it in the rickety, hurriedly formed signs pleading for Port-a-Loos or offering free well water. It's there, in the red-stickered houses, the crumpled houses, the abandoned houses with grass now tickling the windowsills. And most of all it's in the people - most of whom hide their personal suffering and brush away their fears and uncertainties with humour and acts of goodwill and kindness to others.
The photographs that you see here were all taken on one small stretch of Avonside Drive, except for the top two, which show a weird contortion on Fitzgerald Avenue beside the Avon River. Magnify this sort of destruction at least twenty times - out across the whole eastern side of the city and you get an idea of why I worry how Christchurch will ever come back from this. How long will it take to repair the roads alone much less the bridges, the water, phone and sewerage lines, the schools, the homes and, of course, that mangled inner city business district? And that's before we even get to the despairing, dispossessed people who mourn the loss of so much - especially their sense of surety and certainty. Life without those, amid so much destruction is a fragile thing.

StreetscapeNZ - 110

Lambton Quay
Nov. 2010. Ajr

Friday, February 25, 2011

City Scene - 16

There's always something happening in Christchurch's Hagley Park.
I visit regularly and I'm always surprised by something new.
This bright, inflatible clown propped against one of the giant pines was no exception.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sightseeing in Australia - 4

I'd hate to count the number of hours I've spent walking the streets of inner city Melbourne with my camera. I visit at least once a year and regardless of the weather, I find endless inspiration in the people, the buildings, the colour, the movement - it never stops. It's easy, it;s familiar - yet at the same time, different enough from New Zealand to be endlessly interesting to me. I usually stay at the small commuter town of Woodend, an hour north of Melbourne on the main train commute. From there, I either train into the city, or I leap in the car and drive for miles and miles and miles, around rural Victoria, exploring the many small towns and villages along the way. Some days, when Victoria winds up the temperature, it can be an arduous business - but nothing air conditioning or a wound-down car window can't fix These Aboriginal shields were part of a stunning display at the Museum of South Australia in Adelaide. I spent a long time here and had time permitted, I would have made a return visit.
I photographed this local couple outside the Eulo Queen, an old hotel in the tiny town of Eulo in the southwest Queensland outback. I was on my way to the opal mines at Yowah and stopped off for a short sprint around town, a natter with a few of the locals and a peek inside this historic hotel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 125

"Cross Pollination"
A new work from one of New Zealand's top printmakers.
For more in this ever-changing ongoing series, click on Cleavin in the label line below this post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seeing the Light

It's a while since I've photographed this now famous David Trubridge lighting design, Coral/Floral. But here it is en masse in a Christchurch store. To see the many other ways I've photographed this design, click on Trubridge in the label line below.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

City Scene - 15

Like most cities, Auckland is ever-changing. Many of its old buildings have been demolished to make way for the new. This is one old beauty that I always smile at - just off Karangahape Road.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sightseeing in Australia - 3

This, people, is the famous Hanging Rock of the book and movie fame, "Picnic at Hanging Rock." It's located close to the Victorian town of Woodend, about an hour north of Melbourne, that I visit every year to see family. While the story in 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is fictional, there is definitely something about this place - or maybe it's because I found it hard to separate the fiction from the fact. Either way, the first time I visited, I kept walking around and up the mysterious rocky outcrop half expecting to see the ghosts of schoolgirls. The school that features in the story by the way, is based on a real school not too far from the rock. Today there's a large domain here - and a racecourse - and it's a popular family picnic spot, complete with numerous quite tame kangaroos that hang about. Back in 2008, I took part in a camel wagon trek in the Southeast Queensland Outback area, in and around the tiny outback town of Cunnamulla. It was the beginning of one of my best trips to Australia. I've written about the trek several times already on this blog (put Cunnamulla, outback or camels into the search box for more) so I won't prattle on about it again - other than to say, if you ever get the chance to get into the Outback don't miss it. It's where you get to meet the 'real' Australians, the ones who have taken that vast, ruthless land and tried to tame it for their own - and their country's ends. It's an endless battle of wits, stamina and hard labour that breeds a special kind of crazy, raw, hilarious bunch of people that I loved.
When I visited Brisbane last - also 2008 - I was stunned to see how the city had grown since my previous visit. Construction was in full swing and there were cranes at work all over the city. There was a very positive vibe about the place that I found quite energising - and fresh out of the Outback, I was a little dazed and awestruck by both the vast numbers of people and dwellings. I can't imagine how the city must look now, after the recent devastating Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi's aftermath, but hopefully, the resilience of those Queenslanders will have the place looking bright and sparkly again soon. It's not as though they're strangers to the tyranny of weather after all.
Adelaide 2007 - another terrific trip. I'd heard so much about Adelaide for so many years, I never knew what to expect. But I adored the place. It's such an easy city to get around. It's small and very very cosmopolitan. Factor in its proximity to vast wine regions, the Adelaide Hills and the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula and there's every reason to put it near the top of your Australian Must-Visit list.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

City Scene - 14

Few things get my (photographic) attention faster than a mass of words and graphics and you can always rely on a busy New Zealand dairy to deliver a crazy visual mix. I photographed this one in Christchurch. It's from my ever-expanding series on NZ dairies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sightseeing in Australia - 2

Interior: The Eulo Queen, Eulo, Outback, Southwest Queensland, 2008.
One of my best Aussie adventures yet, took me to the Outback region of Southwest Queensland - ten days of unbridled madness and fun. Outback life is raw, rugged and rough - a fantastic place where people pitch together in their battle against the trying forces of nature. Snake-handler. Kyneton, Victoria, 2008. For New Zealanders, there is a wonderful familiarity about a lot of Australia, yet that's always offset by significant differences - like snakes for instance! I took this shot at the annual Kyneton Country Fair, the equivalent of our A&P Shows I expect.
Bendigo, Victoria, 2009 I drove up to Bendigo one day when I was staying just north of Melbourne. It was - or is normally - a two-hour trip but I stopped at every little town and village I passed along the way. And the closer I got to Bendigo, the hotter it got, so that when I finally arrived around midday, it was 39-degrees and I was sweltering. But I adored Bendigo. It was one of Australia's richest cities during the gold rush and that early wealth is reflected in much of the astonishing architecture.
Adelaide Hills, Adelaide, South Australia, 2007.
I flew over to Adelaide with a photographer in 2007, on a writing mission for Air New Zealand's magazine, Kia Ora. It was a brilliant 5-6 days spent exploring the city, nearby Adelaide Hills and the magnificent Fleurieu Peninsula. I'd heard a great deal about Adelaide in the year's prior, mostly that the city was designed by the same urban planner who designed the layout for Christchurch; and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. I'd move there in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 123

"The Purpose of War is........"
Comments on Conflict
From one of New Zealand's top printmakers.
Click on Cleavin in the label line below to see more in this series.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Taking to the Air

Tickets have gone on sale for the 14th Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow 2012 at Wanaka Airport. Both the flying and ground programmes are currently being drawn up and aviation lovers are in for all sorts of action over Easter 2012. It's also the 75th Anniversary of the RNZAF and their work over the past decades will be celebrated at the Warbirds show.
Check the websit for further updates as they come to hand.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

City Scene - 13

I was very drawn to this Auckland shop window - for all sorts of reasons - the graphics, the retro furniture, the colours, the mix of forms and colours. I can't remember which suburb Zeitgeist was in - Grey Lynn I think - but if you're in Auckland and have an interest in retro furniture and household accessories, it's a must-visit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sightseeing in Australia

Brisbane, Queensland. 2008
I Love Australia!
Every part of it.
Everything about it.
Castlemaine, Victoria , 2009.

Tired of long haul flights to Europe and North Asia, I have, these past four or five years, devoted at least one trip a year to some part of Australia. I've visited many times prior to that of course, but I see it differently now - not just as a quick jaunt across the Tasman to something familiar but as a vast country that most New Zealanders (and many Australians) never see anything but a minute portion of. So I have been making it my business to move beyond the obvious east coast cities and venture out into the wider country. Suffice to say, that in the last five years, I have already amassed thousands of photographs taken in various parts of Australia - there are even more thousands on slide film that I have yet to digitise.

Cunnamulla, Outback, Southwest Queensland, 2008. Melbourne, Victoria. 2009. So, rather than leaving them tucked away in my computer files, I've decided to give some of them an airing in a new blog series "Sightseeing in Australia." It's going to be a mixed bag. People, places, the weird and the wonderful. Consider it a mini sightseeing trip. And it begins here. And if anything interests you, click on the location in the index line below the blog, because I guarantee you'll find more.


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