Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christchurch - The Long Road Back

It's three months since I uploaded any earthquake-related photographs here.
I didn't think I had anything else to say about the situation.
I still don't - I've run out of words that can fully express the astonishment and sadness you feel as the relentless demolition of the city you live in.

But that doesn't stop me photographing - recording this bewildering time in Christchurch's history.
I now have many thousands of images, every one of them an attempt to make sense of it all.

I return to the inner city every week - sometimes several times a week - and I prowl the streets with my camera. I return to demolitions-in-progress; or I wander the 'brushed-clean' sites where some landmark building stood a few weeks earlier and I scratch my head, trying to remember just which building that had been.

I never tire of the visual disarray of it all - the dismantling of architecture, the outlandish juxtapositions of beauty and 'baldness', of chaos and emptiness.

Some days I feel a huge sadness and I wonder why I stay here, in this dysfunctional place.
Other days I am enlivened by the constant change, by the visual madness of it all and by the possibilities inherent in the birth of a new inner city.

And then yesterday, I wondered what I would photograph when all the city demolitions are complete, when the damaged and the irreparable are gone. There are always the new buildings of course - the ones just sprouting from the ground now.. But somehow, they don't attract me in the same way. That's nothing to do with their design - there will always be good and bad examples of that; it's more about the fact that I revel in disorder and decay (photographically speaking).
I find a haunting beauty in the barren streets and the stacks of coloured containers
I'm drawn to that last little shop in the street
(High Street)
And to the eerie emptiness of what was once one of the city's key entertainment areas
(Poplar Lane)
And to the dereliction of shopping blocks that now, wouldn't look out of place in the slums of a third world country.
I read this morning, that a survey has shown some Christchurch residents have felt the earthquakes have 'lifted them out of their old lives' and given them new direction. I would have thought that was a given myself. You cannot experience what the people of Canterbury have experienced over the last two years and not be altered in some way.  Quite apart from the personal hardships faced by many - the deaths, the injuries, the loss of homes, the battles with insurance companies, the waiting for repairs, the negotiating of a city on ruptured roads - you simply cannot watch the core of your home place being torn down by natural disaster and then, by machines, and not be changed.

1 comment:

afraid said...

Oh my God, I had forgotten all about Poplar Lane. I only hung out there a few times before I left the city but I loved the vibe at the time. That photo gives me a new sadness; thanks for sharing.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin