Press Photographer and Photojournalist

Commissioned Works

Mark Gilbert – Sky Sports magazine

I was recently given my first assignment by Sky Sports magazine NZ (sadly it was for their last issue) to produce a portrait of Mark Gilbert, the US Ambassador to New Zealand. When I first got the assignment I was a little apprehensive, knowing that it would be quite a pressured assignment. But simultaneously I was also quietly excited about the possibilities for a great portrait. The US Ambassador is an ex-White Sox baseball player and the crux of the story, at least as far as my part was concerned, was to tell the amalgamated tale of a sportsman-turned-ambassador.

I had two weeks to arrange a suitable time for the shoot and plan details for the portrait. It is very easy for your imagination to run wild with ideas for portraits (or photo ideas in general for that matter), and this assignment was no exception. The embassy’s press officer and I discussed possibilities of how to visually tell this story. Based on these conversations and further discussions I had with the journalist writing the article and the magazine’s editor and art director, I imagined myriad such scenarios including:

Mark standing, resting against a large, plush desk in his office at the embassy, while gently leaning forwards resting both hands on top of a baseball bat. A shelf lined with books in the background, and dappled, golden afternoon sunlight streaming through a window.

Or

At his home standing sideways-on to the camera, in front of a large mosaic of President Obama, a baseball bat resting on one shoulder, a catcher’s mitt resting in the other hand; cross-lit but with light shadows to create a subtle sense of drama.

Email conversations with the writer and the magazines editor and art director yielded more useful ideas for the theme of the shoot: Rolled-up sleeves CHECK. Casually leaning against desk CHECK. Pretending to take a swing at an invisible ball NO WAY (if you Google baseball portraits, this is probably one of the most common poses). Draping the American flag over one shoulder, or have it hanging in the back ground. CLICHÉ ALERT (or so I thought!).

To prepare for the assignment, I created a shot list of 4-5 variations of the shots I would like to use; from full-length shots to tight close-ups. I even tested the simple two-light set-up. When the day of the shoot arrived, I was nervous but prepared. All equipment was packed and ready. I’d taken the day off work so no time pressure there.

It took me ten minutes to have my equipment X-rayed at the security gate, handed over my iPhone (no phones or cameras allowed – at least they didn’t take this rule too seriously!). I then met the press officer and we entered the foyer of the main embassy building.

There we were confronted with an impenetrable wall of glass, with a US marine barely visible through all of that semi-transparent protection. Here I handed over my NZ drivers license (as a form of photo ID) in return for a clip-on ID badge. The marine, in all of his well-drilled-robot-like fashion, proceeded to instruct the press officer of the rules I MUST follow, all the while referring to me in the third person. I guess I was invisible through all of that toughened glass (must have been unable to see me due to internal reflection or something).

With a roll of her eyes, the press officer escorted me into their media briefing room where I was informed that this would be the sole location for the shoot. It was a featureless room of approximately four metres by four metres, stuffed with chairs, a lectern, tables, audio-visual equipment and other non-descript items for all your media briefing needs. Initially I was a bit panicked when I was told that this was it. More so when I was told that the Ambassador had an important guest arriving imminently and I would only have 20 minutes to do the portrait.

Luckily for me the media room had several backdrops (black/blue curtains were my background of choice), four LED panel lights and a spotlight mounted on rails attached to the ceiling, and most importantly, an AV tech that knew how to use them. They also had an American flag I could use as part of the background! All of this enabled me to mimic a studio-look to the portrait, and to hide the fact that we were in a featureless media briefing room.

With a handshake firm enough to cause a temporary disability in my trigger finger, the Ambassador greeted me, and we ‘shot the shit,’ as they say, and proceeded with the shoot. Mark had fun toying with me, pointing out the irony of an Englishman using imperial measurements to give directions……..can you just step back with your left foot a couple of inches……..

Explaining to the AV tech the look I was after and the lighting style I wanted to use (contrasty, cross/back-lighting on the subject, with a spotlight on the background) I managed to come away from this shoot with some reasonable portraits under the circumstances. Not quite what I had in mind originally, but the moral of this story is to always expect (and if you can plan for it) the unexpected!

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Sky Sports Scan 1Sky Sports Scan 2Sky Sports Scan 3


Unlimited magazine – Linc Gasking of 8i

I was commissioned by Unlimited magazine to create a portrait of CEO Linc Gasking of New Zealand tech start-up 8i, who develop virtual reality systems and 3D technology. The assignment came in on a Friday and the shoot was scheduled for first thing on Monday, giving me the weekend to organise props for the shoot. As we were not permitted to photograph any of the actual technology, to visualise the story we decided to shoot the portrait in Wellington’s Opera House to create the impression of somebody watching a 3D movie at the cinema.

I managed to collect 10 pairs of 3D glasses from a film junky friend, and managed to blag some empty popcorn cartons and drinks containers from the kind folks at Reading Cinema for the other props. I glued a cardboard baffle into the popcorn carton to give the impression that the cartons were full of popcorn.

I was aware that I would only have a total of twenty minutes to shoot the images for the story as Linc had to rush off to a meeting at 9am. As the Opera House is a darkly lit environment, I had already visualised how I would light the image, so when I arrived it was just a question of quickly setting up the key light, and have a second light back-lighting the subject and the Opera House seating.

Sadly this was my last shoot for Unlimited magazine as they have now been absorbed by Fairfax Media’s Stuff website, who use staff photographers rather than commissioning freelancers. Shame really as I love doing this work as it can be very fun and challenging.

Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited_Mag_Linc_Gasking_8i_feature_Page_1 Unlimited_Mag_Linc_Gasking_8i_feature_Page_4


Unlimited magazine – Glenn Milnes, Ike GPS

Several months ago I was commissioned to photograph Glenn Milnes of New Zealand software company Ike GPS. The company creates software that allows the accurate measurement of geographic features within a photograph taken from any smart phone. As the company had recently launched onto the New Zealand stock exchange, the angle for the story was floatation.

The magazine’s art director had arrange for the shoot to go ahead at Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie, and luckily for me, Glenn was pretty flexible time-wise meaning I could schedule this shoot in the evening after work. Below are some of the images from the shoot:

Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineGlenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineGlenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineUnlimited Cover - Glenn Milnes Unlimited - Glenn Milnes feature_Page_3 Unlimited - Glenn Milnes feature_Page_2


Unlimited magazine – Richard Francis, Spotlight Reporting

It’s been a while since I posted any of my recent freelance work, so it’s about time I caught up. Spotlight Reporting is a company specialising in software analytics for business, based in Petone, Wellington. I was commissioned by Unlimited to photograph CEO Richard Francis. These assignments can be tough when it comes to creating successful portraits as often there is very limited time with the sitter (as generally they are busy, working people) and generally there is little opportunity to plan ahead with the photographs you intend to make, and you never know what the location looks like before you walk into it. Thinking on your feet and using any available elements to enhance the portrait are the order of the day.

Luckily for me on  this day, the afternoon sun was shinning brightly and when I arrived I noticed that the sun was shining through a slat-wood fence and would be perfect for creating a star-burst which would help illustrate the story of a company called Spotlight Reporting.

Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited MagazineRichard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine


12 Hours with New Zealand Police

At Christmas I was given an exciting reportage/photojournalism assignment in New Zealand by a Swedish trade magazine, Polisförbundet, the Swedish Police Union magazine. Working with Swedish journalist Ossian Grahn, I was commissioned to photograph a story on the use of non-lethal weapons (tasers) by New Zealand Police. Ossian was in Wellington for one week interviewing members of the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Police Association, as well as organising permission for us to go on a ride-a-long.

We arrived at Wellington police station at 4pm on Saturday afternoon. We met the two officers who we would be shadowing for the next 12 hours, and followed them into the station carpark to get into the police car. At that moment, a high-ranking cop materialised and brashly told us we were not allowed to take pictures while out on the ride-a-long.  Arrangements for the ride-a-long had been negotiated between both the Swedish and New Zealand Police Associations and New Zealand Police in the months prior to our visit and getting pictures to illustrate the story was the main purpose of the assignment (for me anyway!).

So for the first three hours, I followed the police around on their duties while surreptitiously trying to snap images from the hip using the camera’s silent shutter function. All the while Ossian was frantically calling his contacts at the Police Association to find out what the misunderstanding was and to try to get permission to photograph as was previously arranged. Three hours later the confusion was over with, and I could take the memory card out of my sock and openly take pictures to my heart’s content. Luckily for us, the more interesting events occurred after the photo ban was lifted.

It was an eye-opening experience traveling around with the police and getting to experience how they operate and view the city. It gave me view of Wellington’s seedy underbelly that I hadn’t seen before!

Having the opportunity to create this reportage and meeting and working with Ossian was also a great experience. Hopefully we will be able to work together on another assignment if the opportunity presents itself.

A portrait of New Zealand police constables Richard Briscoe (left) and Anthony Davidson (right), who Ossian and myself shadowed for their 12 hour shift.

A portrait of New Zealand police constables Richard Briscoe (left) and Anthony Davidson (right), who Ossian and myself shadowed for their 12 hour shift.

Marque of Excellence: A New Zealand Police vehicle.

Marque of Excellence: A New Zealand Police vehicle.

Constable Richard Briscoe places the suspect white powder into an evidence bag.

Constable Richard Briscoe places suspect white powder into an evidence bag. The powder was found on the floor of a furniture workshop.

Richard Briscoe on Blair Street in Wellington for disorderly behaviour. The man was caught urinating in the entrance of a retail store after drinking too much alcohol.

Constable Richard Briscoe arrests a young man on Blair Street in Wellington for disorderly behaviour. The man was allegedly caught urinating in the entrance of a retail store after consuming too much alcohol.

Constable Richard Briscoe completes paperwork in the holding cells of Wellington Central police station after arresting a young man for disorderly behaviour for urinating in the entrance of a retail store.

Constable Richard Briscoe completes paperwork in the holding cells of Wellington Central police station after arresting a young man for disorderly behaviour for urinating in the entrance of a retail store. Patience is a necessity of the job for Police when dealing with intoxicated people.

A police car parked at the entrance to the holding cells in Wellington Central police station.

A police car parked at the entrance to the holding cells in Wellington Central police station.

Constables Richard Briscoe (left) and Anthony Davidson complete paperwork at Wellington Central police station.

Constables Richard Briscoe (left) and Anthony Davidson complete paperwork at Wellington Central police station.

A man who is known to police as a persistent offender and is in breach of his bail conditions is spotted on Wellington's Manners Street by police CCTV operators and is subsequently arrested.

A man who is known to police as a persistent offender and is in alleged breach of his bail conditions is spotted on Wellington’s Manners Street by police CCTV operators and is subsequently arrested.

Reportage: on the streets with Wellington Police. Reportage: on the streets with Wellington Police. Reportage: on the streets with Wellington Police.

Police constables Richard Briscoe (right) and Anthony Davidson (left) investigate a report of a domestic disturbance in a block of flats in Berhampore, a Wellington suburb.

Police constables Richard Briscoe (right) and Anthony Davidson (left) investigate a report of a domestic disturbance in a block of flats in Berhampore, a Wellington suburb.

Constables Richard Briscoe (far right) and Anthony Davidson (front right) chat with a couple who have  a record of historic domestic violence.

Constables Richard Briscoe (far right) and Anthony Davidson (front right) talk with a young couple who are known to have a record of historic domestic violence.

The Taser X26: Non-lethal weapons are routinely carried by New Zealand police to reports of domestic disturbances.

The young couple are interviewed separately by Richard and Anthony. It was fantastic to see the negotiating and mediating skills the police have when dealing with delicate and sensitive situations, and in this case, it was handled exceptionally well.

The Taser X26: Non-lethal weapons are routinely carried by New Zealand police to reports of domestic disturbances.

The Taser X26: Non-lethal weapons are routinely carried by New Zealand police to reports of domestic disturbances.

Anthony Davidson performs a routine traffic stop on a vehicle  with defective rear lights.

Constable Anthony Davidson performs a routine traffic stop on a vehicle with defective rear lights. Ossian is just visible in the back of the car, writing on his iPad.

Anthony Davidson sits inside the police car during a routine traffic stop.

Constable Anthony Davidson sits inside the police car during a routine traffic stop and is illuminated by the vehicles interior light.

Richard Briscoe performs a routine traffic stop on a vehicle  with defective rear lights.

Constable Richard Briscoe performs a routine traffic stop on a vehicle with defective rear lights.

Patrolling the streets of Wellington's entertainment district on Courtenay Place.

Patrolling the streets of Wellington’s entertainment district on Courtenay Place. An air of intoxicated animosity followed Richard and Anthony as they patrolled Wellington’s entertainment district in the early hours of the morning.

Patrolling the streets of Wellington's entertainment district on Courtenay Place.

Patrolling the streets of Wellington’s entertainment district on Courtenay Place.

Richard Briscoe talks to a woman regarding a domestic disturbance outside Wellington City Library. It is alledged that the woman attempted to stab her partner in the neck with a plastic fork.

Constable Richard Briscoe talks to a woman regarding a domestic disturbance outside Wellington City Library during the final minutes of his shift at 2am. It is alleged that the woman attempted to stab her partner in the neck with a plastic fork.

Reportage: on the streets with Wellington Police.

The woman begins to have a seizure and constables Richard Briscoe and Anthony Davidson place the woman into the recovery position while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Reportage: on the streets with Wellington Police.

A mixture of alcohol and anti-depressant medication are believed to have caused the woman to have a seizure.

Paramedics attend to the woman who is believed to be having a seizure as a side effect of mixing anti-depressant medication with alcohol.

Below are the tearsheets for the printed article:

 

Swedish Police Union Magazine-1Swedish Police Union Magazine-2Swedish Police Union Magazine-3Swedish Police Union Magazine-4


James Bond

When I’m not masquerading as a photographer, I work full-time for a government department. On the odd occasion, my photographic services a called upon. The shot below was a quick 20 minute job in the basement car park, using some simple cross lighting techniques to give the seedy, noir look. We were aiming for a James Bond/secret agent theme group portrait (not entirely sure why to be honest, maybe just for fun) but the point of the photo is to be used in an internal campaign to help the organisation achieve the goal of becoming one of New Zealand’s top ten places to work.

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Unlimited Magazine – Campbell Gower

A couple of months ago I was commissioned by Unlimited Magazine to produce a portrait of Phil and Ted’s CEO, Campbell Gower. This was for the style of portrait known as The Office, and is predominantly more about environment than the person. Phil and Ted’s is an innovative designer of pushchairs and strollers. As you can see from the images below, this creative flair is fully incorporated into the fun and lively workspace. The assignment took about 1.5 hours, including the 40 minutes of manic driving to and from my work to the offices of Phil and Ted’s in the Wellington suburb of Newtown, during my lunch hour(s).

Portrait of Campbell Gower of Phil and Ted's.

Campbell sits in one of the workplace's more inviting and relaxing environments which is design to help the creative juices flow.

Campbell sits in one of the workplace’s more inviting and relaxing environments which is design to help the creative juices flow.

Campbell demonstrates a slide which employees use for express travel to the kitchen when rabid hunger or the need for the black bean strikes!

Campbell demonstrates a slide which employees use for express travel to the kitchen when rabid hunger or the need for the black bean strikes!

Pop art at Phil and Ted's.

Pop art at Phil and Ted’s.

Inspiring wall art at the offices of Phil and Ted's.

Inspiring wall art at the offices of Phil and Ted’s.

Phil and Ted's employees have a meeting in the fuselage of an old aircraft.

Phil and Ted’s employees have a meeting in the fuselage of an old aircraft.

Tearsheet for the main image used in the magazine article.

Tearsheet for the main image used in the magazine article.


Photographic Exploits and Exploitations: The Mysteriously Delayed Payment………

Freelancing as a photographer can be a competitive business, even more so in a small city like Wellington where the photography market is small, and where several local education institutions churn out photography graduates by the bus-load every year. In Wellington, everyone knows somebody who is a photographer. The recent changes in digital photography and multimedia platforms, combined with the massive quantity of digital imagery available, have cheapened the craft of photography in the view of image consumers. It is this latter point I would like to discuss.

In September I was commissioned by a local magazine called Capital, to produce a portrait of stage actor, Matt Landreth, at the St James theatre. The story was to be a profile piece about an “interesting local doing interesting things”. An excerpt from the original commissioning email is below (click on the image to enlarge):

Shalee Email 1 copyI was given 15 minutes for the shoot, which included using locations on and around the stage, and using props and/or costumes which are part of the actors character. Only having 15 minutes to get the images, you generally have to work pretty fast to get a variety of different shots so the magazine has enough work to choose from when designing the layout for the magazine. This means shooting landscape and portrait formats, in full-body, half-body, head and shoulders, and environmental portraits in different locations around the theatre. Plus using both flash lit and ambient lighting to suit the magazines style. As you can imagine, 15 minutes is a challenging time-frame in which to get all these different shots.

Upon meeting Matt at the theatre, he suggests wearing the only costume piece he had available which was a set of bright red Devil’s horns. The issue at hand here becomes a creative one. Personally I like the horns. Below are some examples of the images I shot for the assignment:

Matt Landreth - St James Theatre Matt Landreth - St James Theatre  Matt Landreth - St James Theatre

The initial assignment brief (see above email excerpt)  explicitly suggests the use of the stage, auditorium and costumes being available for the portrait. Upon reviewing the images, the feedback I received from the art director was: “I’ve got your shots of Matt too, thanks v much. Just wondering if there’s any shots of Matt without those horns? The photos are perfect, it’s just the horns really shattering the shot”.

There was no further communication between myself or the magazine regarding this issue.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however the mention of an unspecific costume is alluded to in the email. Whether the horns “shatter” the image is an aesthetic opinion and has no relation to the technical quality of the images I produced.  If I had submitted technically flawed images (i.e. out of focus, blurred due to camera shake, poor colour balance, poor exposure), I could perhaps understand the response.

Having not liked the images I produced for this assignment due to a cosmetic element, the magazine decided not to publish the images for the article.  Below is a screen shot of how the article was eventually published in the October issue:

Matt Landreth Screen Shot copy

As you can see, the location and style of the image used differs widely from the original brief. Just to make it clear, this isn’t my photo.

When taking on a freelance assignment for a magazine, payment for the work is made either one or two weeks after the assignment deadline, or one month after publication of the images, depending on the size of the magazine or publisher. It took several emails to the art director and editor (from whom I never received a response) and several phone calls over a three-month period to get my payment of NZ$50 (yes it is a substandard rate by magazine standards but sometimes it is the principle that matters) for this assignment. When I finally received a phone call from the editor regarding my payment, it was mentioned that there was a “problem” with the images taken at the theatre. I was eventually paid in early December for this assignment. In my opinion, this behaviour suggests that the magazine decided to withhold my payment because they chose not to use the images for the publication.

This is very poor behaviour for a magazine which relies on freelance contributors for its content and features many creative individuals in its pages. This  kind of treatment shows how the photographic craft has been devalued by a saturated market, and it is exploitative of emerging creative professionals. Every other magazine would simply not employ a freelancer again if the aesthetic style didn’t quite match their taste. Every magazine assignment is  an organic and evolving working relationship, and sometimes a photographer’s personal style won’t always suit the clients requirements – and this is fine and completely acceptable.

I have been hesitant regarding publishing this post. I finally decided to publish it because I believe it is important for other photographers (and other creative freelancers) to understand their rights when producing work, to know the value of your work and experience, and the lesson to be learned is to be persistent when dealing with conflicts such as this. It’s our right to be paid for the work we have produced on assignment – promptly and without having to repeatedly ask for it.

I’m glad that all other magazines I have worked for so far have shown a much more professional attitude in terms of how they deal with freelance contributors. And I’m also happy to say they are all returning clients 🙂

I’d be interested to hear about other photographers experiences and how they deal with these unfortunate issues when they arise.


Sheet Music Archive – Unlimited Magazine

A couple of months ago I was given an assignment by Unlimited magazine to photograph David Dell. The Sheet Music Archive is located at the former site of the National Centre for Biosecurity and Disease Control (which has now move to the site next door) on Ward Street in Upper Hutt. The whole site has the appearance of an abandoned town, with numerous dirty, empty institutional-style buildings, desolate spaces with no human presence (except for myself and David Dell) and vegetation that is gradually asserting its dominance and creeping across and through unused tarmac.

The Sheet Music Archive itself is housed in a small, dark portacabin and is filled with boxes of, and random stacks of sheet music. Being run by volunteers, it might not be the most modern of archives but has its own chaotic charm, which to me suits the idea (at least visually) of an archive. Below are portraits of David Dell, who is the lead volunteer for the Sheet Music Archive.

David Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music ArchiveDavid Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music Archive David Dell - Sheet Music ArchiveUnlimited - David Dell - Sheet music archive


Fishhead Magazine Street Characters Feature

These images were shot a few months ago for an article on Wellington’s popular ‘street characters’.

Wellington Street Characters

Beat box king, King Homeboy on Cuba Street, Wellington. King Homeboy – roughly translated as “to donate mana” and “my area” – uses his beat-boxing skills to act as a voice of the people. Having been beat-boxing for 13 years, King Homeboy competed in the beat-boxing world championships to 2012 and funded his trip to Berlin by raising $5000 through social networks in twenty days.

Wellington Street Characters

Wellington Street Characters

Wellington Street Characters

The Political Busker, aka Benjamin Easton outside the Eagle Technology Building on Victoria Street, which houses the offices of the Ministry of Justice. Ben’s role as the Political Busker is to fight apathy and by challenging the institutions of the crown, he hopes to prove that it’s a vessel of injustice and hopefully provide a remedy.

Wellington Street Characters Wellington Street Characters

Wellington Street Characters

Edward Harcourt is a self-taught magician who started out performing magic tricks in Portland, Oregon in the US seven years ago. Doing something he loves, Edward works hard to cultivate himself as a street entertainer: “the real magic is the laughter” he says.

Wellington Street Characters

Wellington Street Characters

For a total of 43 years, this man (who did not wish to be named) has dedicated himself to spreading the word of God, and is a popular face on Wellington’s Lambton Quay.

Wellington Street Characters


Unlimited Magazine feature – Ben Fulton

Back in November I was commissioned by Unlimited magazine to produce a portrait of Ben Fulton, owner and founder of Red Witch Guitar Pedals. The plan was to give the portrait the look and feel of a music gig. I also liked the idea of having a wall of guitars in the background. Kudos and BIG Thanks to Hayden Okey, manager of The Rockshop Wellington for allowing me to occupy his shop for an hour while shooting these pictures. The shots were reasonably straight forward to set up, due to the fact that I had previously taken an ambient light reading from the shop on a previous visit (ambient light levels not varying greatly on a day-to-day basis) and played with the lighting set-up in my living room on the evening before the shoot. I arrived 15 minutes early to ensure all my equipment was set-up and ready to roll when Ben arrived.

Ben Fulton Ben Fulton Ben Fulton Ben Fulton Ben Fulton Ben Fulton

Ben Fulton Tearsheet


Fishhead Magazine Markets Feature

Here are some of the images from the latest feature article I have worked on for Fishhead magazine. The article was based upon the three main fruit and vegetable markets in Wellington: Harbourside, Victoria Street, and Hill Street Farmers market, and the Turners and Growers wholesalers in Grenada North. The main thrust of the article was regarding food miles and whether the food sold in the markets is grown locally by the stall holders themselves or whether it is bought from a large fruit and veg wholesalers like Turners and Growers.

This was a relatively large assignment and consisted of photographing five different people from the various markets, producing good filler shots to illustrate the story and producing the magazine’s cover image, over a period of four weekends (plus one early morning jaunt to Turners and Growers during the week before work!).

The first person I photographed was the lovely Ania Upstill who runs a stall at the Hill Street farmers marker for the Local Food Network. As well as being snappily dressed and having a cool old-school, recycled Raleigh bicycle, Ania was also very comfortable in front of the camera, thanks to her experience posing as a model for art classes, which made my job so much easier! I convinced Ania to get to the market reasonably early (about 9am after some protesting) to beat the harshness of the late morning sun. Unfortunately it’s not always possible in these situations to guess where the sun will be in the sky at a certain time. The market, being held at the carpark of Wellington’s Cathedral, was still cast in heavy shadow when I arrived. Luckily by the time I had set up, chatted with Ania and positioned her in the tree, sunlight was just starting to peak over the imposing structure, to provide some dappled backlighting.

Ania Upstill, member of the Local Food Network at Hill Street market. Every first and third Saturday of the month, the Local Food Network create a swap table at Hill Street market where local market gardeners can swap food and seeds. For more information: http://www.localfoodstories.co.nz

For editorial work, I always try to arrive at a shoot location armed with prior research of the subject and location, and a couple of ideas of how I would like to shoot the images. As I was to be photographing a number of people at the markets, I wanted to get a variety of different images, if possible. For Fraser Ebett’s picture below, I’d seen portraits using a variety of items to bury people in, so with Fraser, I wanted to bury him in fruits and vegetables. The usual way it works with these assignments, when photographing normal folk, is that you often don’t have much time to get the photo’s.

In Fraser’s case, being the manager of the Harbourside market, he was working on the morning I met him (he starts at 4 am). I arrived at the market prepared with a black sheet and a cardboard boxed large enough to fit head and shoulders, and Fraser was kind enough to introduce me to a stall holder who allowed me to pilfer some of his fruit and veg for 20 minutes. I set-up my cardboard box and cloth in the shade and lay out some of the vegetables, using journalist Max Rashbrooke as a test dummy while Fraser continued to work. I used a small soft box attached to a synch cord and set the flash and exposure. Once I was ready, I grabbed Fraser, laid him in position, and buried him in fruit and veg and snapped away. Ten minutes later, I was finished and Fraser went back to work. Not studio perfect but not bad for a ten minute improv session! Sadly this picture wasn’t used for the finished article which I think is a shame as it is one of the best pictures from this feature.

Harbourside market manager, Fraser Ebbett.

Max and I left the Harbourside market around 10am and headed for Victoria street market to photograph market founder and manager, Graham Hamilton. By this point the ozone-less New Zealand sun was high in the sky and incredibly harsh. Barring a nice shady area, like the back of one of the trucks, I resorted to using on-camera flash to fill the shadows. Also the market was incredibly busy by this time so expecting to have any control over the scene, including setting up flashstands, was an impossibility. Graham was a fantastic character to meet: chain smoking cigarettes while simultaneously reminding us that he’s riddled with cancer, and referring to everyone as “jokers” (Max assured me that this is an old-school New Zealand phrase) while taking us on a who’s-who’s tour of the market.

Market manager Graham Hamilton, who set-up Victoria Street market in 1999.

David Wang, stall holder at Victoria Street market.

As mentioned above, it’s always beneficial to do some background research on the subject and location and to generate some ideas of the types of images you hope to capture, rather than walking-in empty handed. However, remaining open and adaptable is also a great asset to cultivate. One of the stall holders told us about the wholesale warehouse where they purchase their perishable fruits and vegetables from. It was described as an enormous warehouse with crates of produce as far as the I can see. In my mind, I had an image of the warehouse manager, John Crowther, shot from above, lit by a flash, standing beside the crates of produce as they disappeared off into the distance.

Sadly the dream didn’t turn into reality. The warehouse was far smaller than I expected, and when dreaming up pictures, you tend to ignore the fact that this is a working warehouse with hideous sodium vapour lighting and forklift trucks whizzing about. As John was being interviewed by Max, it did give me plenty of time to look for possible locations and set up the flash, which all up, gave me about 15 to 20 minutes to photograph John.

John Crowther, Lower North Island Regional Manager of Turners and Growers Wholesalers, in Genada North.

This shot I saw just as we were leaving and asked John if we could nip back inside and fire off a few shots under the ambient lighting.

The final portrait of this feature was the cover shot for the magazine: photographing model Anica Bura at Harbourside market. I pushed to have the shoot start at 8am as I new it was going to be a bright, clear day with the New Zealand sun on full blast and I would only be able to use a single strobe to kill the shadows. I knew the market was going to be busy, and by 8.30am when we got started, there was a flood of early morning shoppers milling about the market, making the shoot rather difficult to control. Being so busy, it was impossible to use more than one flash, due to the high possibility of people tripping over equipment. As the shoot went on and the sun climbed higher, and shooting at the synch speed of 1/200 at f4, with the flash on full power, you can see how the flash begins to struggle to fully over power the sun.

Model Anica Bura at Wellington’s Harbourside market.

This is the final cover image which was used for the magazine. It’s a blend of two images in order to get the required look while keeping the background reasonably clear of people. Plus associated Mac work!

And last but not least, the page filler shots of the markets………

Wellington’s Harbourside market.

Organic vegetables from local growers at the Hill Street market.


Fishhead Magazine Bureaucrats Feature Blended Images

I’ve been a bit quite on the blog front over the past few weeks. I have been shooting more freelance work for the magazine but as the magazine is not published yet, I cannot post these pics on the blog as yet. I  will also be posting a few more landscape photographs of Wellington’s South Coast (fingers crossed, hopefully this weekend) once I have gotten around to editing them. Sadly my laptop is old and very very slow and struggles to run Photoshop at the best of times. I think you can judge the age of a laptop by its uniform thickness. Mine is a good inch and a half think all the way through, baby. So it’s pretty old! Hopefully in the coming weeks I should be able to afford a laptop upgrade (woohoo!).

In the mean time I have been doggedly pursuing Photoshop tutorials (as and when the laptop allows),  so I thought  I would finally learn how to blend together the images from the Fishhead feature on Bureaucrats and their Hobbies. See the blended images for that assignment below:

 

Twenty-four-year-old Bailey McCormack poses for a portrait in the office where she works as a media broadcast monitor. McCormack, who studied theater and politics and Victoria University, adopts her burlesque persona, Fanciforia Foxglove, when she gives performances at the likes of Carousel Cabaret and Dr Sketchy, at Mighty Mighty.

ACC Insurance Risk manager Shelly Wilton is chairperson of the Richter City Roller Derby league and plays for Wellington-based team, Comic Slams under the pseudonym, Heidi Contagious.

Director of The Office of Ethnic Affairs at the Ministry for Internal Affairs, Mervin Singham, masquerade’s as an expressionist, abstract painter during his spare time.

 

 

 

 


Wellington South Coast Clean Up 2012

Two weeks ago I photographed the Wellington South Coast Clean-up 2012 event. This is a voluntary event where individuals and groups come together and spend an hour combing Wellington’s idyllic beaches and rugged headlands for discarded rubbish deposited by wind, tide, or by hand. The event stretched out along 11 kilometers of coast, from Owhiro Bay in the East, to Breaker Bay in the West.
I decided to shoot mainly portraits and set-up shots rather than candid. An hour is a small amount of time to visit a number of locations and wait for volunteers to find interesting pieces of rubbish, especially considering that not every location I visited had a large number of volunteers to photograph. Here are a few shots from that day:

A volunteer rummages for trash amongst the natural tidal debris on Island Bay beach.

South Coast Clean Up 2012 volunteers Tim Alexander (left), and Jo Lundon, pose for a portrait while collecting rubbish on Island Bay beach.

Fellow photog and volunteer Katrina Ching poses for a photo while collecting rubbish from Lyall Bay during the South Coast Clean Up 2012 event.

Rubbish collect from local beaches is piled by a bin at Dorrie Lesely park, Lyall Bay.

Volunteers are fueled by the quintessential Kiwi sausage sizzle, after the event in Lyall Bay.

South Coast Clean Up 2012 volunteers pose for a group portrait in Lyall Bay with sack-fulls of rubbish collected from Wellington’s south coast.


Unlimited Magazine Chris Parkin Museum Hotel Portrait

Another “back in July” moment. I had planned to post these photos on here weeks ago, but sadly I forgot all about them until now. This was a commission for Unlimited magazine to produce portraits of Museum Hotel owner Chris Parkin. The brief was that the space was to be more prominent or representative in the frame than the sitter. Hence the reason why Chris occupies a small portion of the frame. This series of images were shot about 7am shortly after first light, and a little over an hour before I was due at work! I chose not to use flash for these images (with the exception of one where little ambient light was falling on Chris’s face), as this would have ruined the ambiance created by the lighting within the space. Plus trying to set-up multiple flashes in three locations would have been rather time-consuming. Below are the three different portraits of Chris, along with some of the artworks (to be used as space fillers) which Chris and the Museum Hotel are renowned for.

Chris Parkin, owner of the Museum Hotel in Wellington, sits in the lobby with a portrait of Willie Nelson by Stephen Martyn Welch.

A Peacock with its illustrious feathers; one of the many works on display at the Museum Hotel.

Rosa’s Dad by Stephen Martyn Welch; one of the many works on display at the Museum Hotel.

This is how the image was laid out in the magazine.


Fishhead Magazine Wellington Homelessness Feature

 

Back in July I was commissioned to take portraits of social workers for some of Wellington’s leading NGO’s working  in the field of homelessness and mental health. I was given three days to photograph five people. You may think three days is a long time, but when you combine it with a full-time job, five portraits can be a tight squeeze to arrange in three days! Especially if you don’t want all of your portraits shot at night. Luckily it provided the opportunity to test my new camera’s low light capability by shooting most of the shots in available light. Coupled with a 50mm 1.4 lens, I think the camera did quite an amazing job. The majority of these shots were completed in 20 minutes, having squeezed them in either before or after work, or during my lunch hour.

Manager of the Wellington Night Shelter, Mike Leon, chats to a guest outside the night shelter on Taranaki Street, Wellington. Mike has worked for the shelter for over 17 years and says working with the homeless is an expression of his faith and personality.

Mike displays one of the small cubicles where a night shelter guest will sleep.

Acting chief executive of Wellink Trust, a mental health charity based in Wellington. Shaun has been working in the field of mental health for 25 years and immigrated to Wellington from Scotland for this specific job.

Echo Brooke-White is a volunteer and chairperson of Catacombs social centre on Manners Street, Wellington. Catacombs provides refreshments and a place to relax and stay warm for Wellington’s marginalised communities.

Philippa Meachen, manager of the Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen on Wellington’s Tory Street, poses for a portrait in the waiting room while guest’s wait for breakfast to be served.

Director of Downtown Community Ministry, Stephanie McIntyre.


Fishhead Magazine Bureaucrats Feature

Here is some more work I have recently done for the local, Wellington based magazine Fishhead. Sadly I haven’t had much time lately to work on my own projects but hopefully that’ll be changing very soon. Starting in a few weeks in fact, with a road-trip around New Zealand’s South Island.

This work was commissioned towards the end of May. The article was based around the idea that many people who work mundane and tedious office jobs (bureaucrats), have interesting hobbies or persona’s outside of their working life. The brief was to photograph the chosen subjects in their place of work (sadly this wasn’t possible for all of them as organisational politics got in the way), wearing both their normal working attire, and clothing and props which would be representative of their outside interests. The images would then be split vertically down the middle and blended using Photoshop to produce a composite half-and-half image.

I had never attempted any shots like this before, and after mulling over the technical aspects and logistics of creating these images, I decided to also include a “rescue” shot, just in-case the split composites, for whatever reason, could not be blended to produce a pleasing and convincing image. For the blended split composite photos, the subject had to position his or herself in the exact same position. This is something that masking tape under the shoes and the camera view screen helped to solve. Things I failed to consider however, were the difference in reflectivity of the two different changes of clothing; the subject or subjects relatives moving items which are in the shot between takes; changes of shoes/roller-skates having a large height difference (this was partially solved by using small Lego blocks under the heel!).

The rescue shots involved photographing the subject in their two different outfits, in different positions in the same scene. This is pretty straight forward to do assuming you don’t accidentally knock the tripod.

First up we have the lovely and talented, Bailey McCormack. By day an employee at an unnameable media monitoring firm, by night, the foxy Fanciforia Foxglove, burlesque performer. Have to admit, Bailey was cool to work with and I hope to do some more shoots with her in the future.

Twenty-four-year-old Bailey McCormack poses for a portrait in the office where she works as a media broadcast monitor. McCormack, who studied theatre and politics and Victoria University, adopts her burlesque persona, Fanciforia Foxglove, when she gives performances at the likes of Carousel Cabaret and Dr Sketchy, at Mighty Mighty.

Believe it or not, Bailey had to hold her breath for the full 3 hours that these photographs took. That corset was pretty darn tight.Bailey has to hold her breath fr the full 3 hours that this took. That corset is pretty damn tight. I felt her pain!

Here are Bailey’s photographs which were used to produce the split composite image. Sadly my Photoshop skills do not stretch that far, so the image blending and final editing was completed by the magazine’s designer. Here’s a scan of the blended shot which appeared in the magazine.

Hopefully you get the idea. Below are the split composite images of Bailey, some of which became the image for the magazine cover.

Here is the blended split composite images of Bailey.

Next we have Shelly Wilton who works as a manager at ACC during the week, and plays for Wellington Richter City Roller Derby team Comic Slams, as persona Heidi Contagious at the weekend. This was shot at Shelly’s home as I was not given permission to photograph at her office.

ACC Insurance Risk manager Shelly Wilton is chairperson of the Richter City Roller Derby league and plays for Wellington-based team, Comic Slams.

Here is the blended composite of Shelly.

The final subject is Mervin Signham. Mervin masquerade’s as the Director of The Office of Ethnic Affairs,   but his true passion is expressionist and abstract painting.

Director of The Office of Ethnic Affairs, Mervin Singham, masquerade’s as an expressionist, abstract painter during his spare time.


Unlimited Magazine Portraits

Continuing on from my last post, here are a  couple of images from a commission by Unlimited magazine to create two portraits: one, CEO of Aviation New Zealand, John Nicholson; the other, director of Kiwi Landing Pad, John Holt (not the John Holt of reggae fame!). These two portraits demonstrate opposite ends of the spectrum when completing these kinds of assignments I think. I usually try to schedule between 30 minutes to one hour if possible, just to get a good variation of shots (and just in case the office-space isn’t to photo friendly!)

I had originally arranged to photograph John Nicholson for a period of between 30 minutes to one hour. When I arrived, John told me that he had to collect his car from the mechanic shortly, so I only had twenty minutes! The pressure was on. When time is limited, you are certainly forced to make quick decisions and in this case, I chose to forgo the fluorescent-lit office for the more interesting building lobby which had a number of features which could be used in the composition and for bouncing a flash off of. I think in this respect, having less choice and fewer options, helped to create a better photo.

Whereas when photographing John Holt, the options were endless. Kiwi Landing Pad is an entrepreneurial organisation which helps New Zealand companies break into the US market. As such, they do not have office space in New Zealand. I therefore had ample opportunities for choosing suitable locations with all the right elements to suit the subject. The ideal place to photograph John would definitely have been the helipad on top of the Intercontinental Hotel. The view would have been fantastic, the early morning sun would have helped to highlight John and the surrounding buildings (which would have also given the impression of the corporate or business world) and you also have a landing pad. To me, this would have been the most desirable location for this portrait. However, finding out who I needed to contact about access was a bit of a wild goose chase, and the deadline was closing fast. Even though I was happy with the locations I eventually chose, I think that having so much choice with location narrowed the creative possibility in the portraits some what.

John Nicholson, CEO of Aviation New Zealand. The industry association champions development of New Zealand’s aviation exports internationally.

John Holt, direct of entrepreneurial organisation, Kiwi Landing Pad.

John Holt, direct of entrepreneurial organisation, Kiwi Landing Pad.


Fishhead Magazine Volunteers Feature

These images were shot back at the end of March. I couldn’t publish them here until the magazine had been published. No matter what the difficulties and challenges of doing editorial work, I have to say, I really enjoy it. I get to meet a lot of different, interesting people, and if I’m lucky, get go to some great events.  When you’re photographing for someone else, it can be incredibly difficult knowing whether you are going to come away with a decent selection of shots that fit the brief. It can be very challenging and rewarding to create interesting photographs from what are potentially mundane surroundings, especially in a short space of time.

The photos for this feature were a challenge on two fronts. Firstly at Kaibosh Food Rescue, the sorting of the food is done after 6pm in a barren, windowless environment, lit by fluorescent lights. Not a good start to say the least. The second challenge, as well as doing portraits, is  to photograph the volunteers while they are working. In a confined space with many obstacles and people moving around (especially if it’s an indoor environment and the lighting is bad), getting a decent candid shot can be very difficult. This is where my conflict arises. As someone who sits on the border between photographer and photojournalist. Do you simply take a documentary approach and just photograph whatever happens, with no guarantee that you will get an interesting,  useable shot, or if time is limited (as is often the case), set-up the photograph so there is a good image to fall back on. Or do both.

The soup kitchen was a great example of this, especially as the guests could not be recognisable in the background of any images. Time is a critical feature, especially as the volunteers want work, and not spend ten minutes setting-up and posing for photographs.

Michelle Jackson (left) and Amirah Mujahid sort food donated to Kaibosh Food Rescue which will be distributed amongst charities throughout Wellington. Michelle wanted to make a positive contribution to the local community with her spare time while Amirah was motivated by the values and ideas which are the foundation of Kaibosh Food Rescue.

Volunteer Anthony Cabraal has been with Kaibosh for 10 months. Like many Kaibosh volunteers, wanting to help solve the problem of food waste motivated his venture into volunteering with Kaibosh.

Volunteer Anthony Cabraal has been with Kaibosh for 10 months. Like many Kaibosh volunteers, wanting to help solve the problem of food waste motivated his venture into volunteering with Kaibosh.

One of the many things you encounter on freelance jobs is having to work with what you have. Anthony was not volunteering on the night I photographed him here. It was the only time he had available. I was hoping there would be some rescued food which I could place in the fridge behind him, but alas there was none!

NZQA senior policy analyst, Amanda Burgess volunteers at Kaibosh Food Rescue once every fortnight. Along with other volunteers, she helps sort collected food for distribution to charities the next morning. Amanda has been volunteering at Kaibosh for six months. Hating food wastage, Kaibosh was an easy volunteering choice for Amanda.

Sue Sullivan has been a volunteer at the Compassion Center soup kitchen for over 18 months. For as long as she can remember, Sue has always wanted to volunteer at the soup kitchen. “To provide someone with a meal, it’s so basic. So practical”.

Had to get my photographs in the shot! What can I say.

Diane Hornsby has been volunteering at the Compassion Center soup kitchen on Tory Street for over 6 months. Diane volunteers because she has the time to give. She chose to volunteer at the soup kitchen because she liked the way the volunteering process was set-up, and because there’s plenty of support for new volunteers.


Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre Exhibition Photos

After the last-minute rush trying to get prints organised, blurbs written, and the final few interviews with guests completed, the open-day exhibition at the soup kitchen last Saturday (24th March) went amazingly well. There was a steady stream of people all day, Wellington’s weather wasn’t as crap as was predicted, and even Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown popped by for a visit. Makes me wonder why I was so nervous! The images were well received with many people stating the images and stories were very moving. But must importantly of all, the soup kitchen guests, without whose co-operation this project would not have been a success, were very happy with the results and enjoyed seeing their pictures on the wall. I would just like to say a big thanks to Philippa and Nikki, and the other soup kitchen staff who helped with the organising of the exhibition, and the pain-staking process of aligning the prints on the wall! Here are a few pictures from the big day.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown gives artist Manu a Hongi - a traditional Maori greeting.

Artist Manu and Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown pose with some of Manu's artworks.


Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre Photo Exhibition

The documentary project at the soup kitchen of the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre in Wellington was a natural progression from my 2011 Rugby World Cup project. When the rugby world cup finished, I carried on visiting the soup kitchen two-to-three times per week, gradually building up a rapport and trust amongst some of the soup kitchen guests. The images below are the result of a six month process of relationship building, photographing, interviewing and finally gaining consent for the use of the images. With the final images now chosen, there’s three weeks left to go until the deadline and I still need to nail down the final few consents and interview some of the guests.

The exhibition is to be held at the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre during a community initiative called Neighbours Day on the 24th March. The images will only be on display for just the one day as the Compassion Centre is not usually open to the public. The Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen serves some of the most marginalised people in Wellington, and provides breakfast for up to 50 guests and dinner for up to 90 guests everyday, six days a week.

Staff

Paul

Rusty

Mohammad and Ivan - For Mohammad, the Soup Kitchen and other services for the homeless, help develop a sense of community and belonging amongst service-users.
‘After all we’re all in the same boat. (Street people) form their own bonds and try to support each other in any way they can.’
When asked about the stereotype that streeties “choose” to live on the streets, Mohammad remarks:
‘There’s a form of misplacement in society. Some people encounter more barriers or difficulties in their lives which they struggle to overcome.’
These barriers, often beyond an individual’s control, can take a variety of forms. Difficult circumstances like domestic violence, dysfunctional relationships, or mental health issues can make a person feel isolated and estranged from family, friends, co-workers or society as a whole. In other cases, a single tragic event, like the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, can trigger a downward spiral of joblessness, debt, loneliness and social marginalisation, where living on the street becomes “the choice”.
‘Coupled with limited help and support, and lacking the tools to enable them to deal with their individual circumstances, people then hide behind alcohol and drugs to avoid their problems.’
‘Often their choices are very limited. For example, they can either live on the street or be abused by their family. What would you choose?'

Joe

Michael

Wi - Wi was a regular visitor to the Soup Kitchen while he was living at the Wellington Night Shelter. He now lives with his brother while he is waiting to pick up scaffolding work.
‘I used to work as a forester up the East Coast, and now I work as a scaffolder. I’m waiting for my boss to call when there’s more work available. I can’t wait to get back into work; it gets real boring just hanging around.’
This is the first photo of himself Wi has ever had. When I tracked him down and gave him the photo, he immediately asked: ‘Can I get it printed bigger?’

Patch

Clarke - Clarke lived in Thailand for four years and owned a bar - with an artificial climbing wall - in the resort town of Chang Mai.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, the wall was destroyed in a fire. ‘The climbing wall was the drawcard for visitors; the bar began losing money as the customers fell away.’
Clarke continued to live in Thailand as he was married to a Thai national. However, in 2009, Clarke was falsely arrested for trafficking conspiracy (a minor charge) and spent 13 months on remand at the infamous Bang Kwang prison in Bangkok.
The charges against him were eventually dropped, but legal fees had consumed the majority of his life savings. Clarke was released and placed in a detention centre for several weeks before being deported to New Zealand in 2010, with nothing but the clothes on his back and little funds.
Clarke has been living on the streets of Wellington for two years. Like some other Soup Kitchen guests, he spends his days drinking and doing the circuit of the social agencies which support Wellington’s marginalised communities.
Clarke recently completed a five-week residential detox programme, without touching a drop of alcohol, but within the first hour after completing the programme, he had his first drink in hand. When asked why he said:
‘I prefer the foggy haze of inebriation to the stark reality of sobriety. When drinking, I have nothing to worry about. After being released (from rehab) where else is there for me to go? What else is there for me to do? Nothing changes.’

Trevor

Bernadette

Arama and Sister Louisa

Tim (left) - ‘The best part of coming here is asking: “What is your name? Where do you come from? What did you do?”’ says Tim, whose hands shake uncontrollably from the side effects of the medication he takes to combat manic depression, or bipolar disorder as it’s now known.   ‘The meal is always good value, but it’s after the meal I come here for: the company and the companionship.’  ‘Everyone’s an amateur philosopher. Sometimes we solve all the worlds’ problems.’

Tim (left) - ‘The best part of coming here is asking: “What is your name? Where do you come from? What did you do?”’ says Tim, whose hands shake uncontrollably from the side effects of the medication he takes to combat manic depression, or bipolar disorder as it’s now known. ‘The meal is always good value, but it’s after the meal I come here for: the company and the companionship.’ ‘Everyone’s an amateur philosopher. Sometimes we solve all the worlds’ problems.’

Nicky - Nicky first worked with the Sisters of Compassion 20 years ago at the Home in Island Bay. Last year, when she was training, she had her work placement at the Soup Kitchen, where she’s now a member of the kitchen staff.
‘I wasn’t so overly confident when I first started here. However, I very much enjoy cooking for the guests, and I feel like I’m helping to make a difference.’
Cooking for the 2011Christmas dinner, for over 160 guests, has been the highlight of Nicky’s work so far. Putting the effort in to create healthy and appealing food and seeing the guys enjoying it is really rewarding.

Mokena - When I first met Mokena he had only recently arrived in Wellington, and he carried all his worldly possessions in his back pack. Mokena was running from family difficulties. He had a keen interest in design and was fiercely determined to make his life in Wellington a success. After a couple of weeks of living rough, he began living at the Wellington Night Shelter and secured a job working at McDonalds on Taranaki Street.
Before I was able to speak with him again, Mike Leon, Manager of the Wellington Night Shelter, told me Mokena had become quite unwell and was assisted by health services to move back up north to be with extended Whanau.
‘He's a good kid not seeing a lot of hope at the moment.’ – Mike Leon.

Andy

Mary Gold

Sister Josefa - When she first worked as a Sister of Compassion when she was young, Sister Josefa avoided working at the Soup Kitchen as she didn’t know how to engage with men who had alcohol problems or other social issues.
‘Initially I felt insecure and unsure of how to deal with the Soup Kitchen guests. For me, it was an unknown. I did not know how street people lived or how to meet with them.’
‘Now working at the Soup Kitchen, I find I enjoy it very much. It’s wonderful, being older and more experienced I enjoy the people I encounter while working here. They give me something about life. They teach me a lot.’
After nearly 40 years of service with the Sisters of Compassion, Sr Josefa continues to embrace her work, welcoming the chance to do new things, making the most out of every day. As Sr Josefa says, ‘life is short’.

Andrew - A mature student of psychology who drove trucks to partially fund his studies, Andrew arrived in Wellington in 2008 to look for employment.
Debts started to mount up while he struggled to pay back his student loans. Andrew became increasingly stressed while trying to manage his finances, and voluntarily resigned from his employment. He was unable to pay his rent and loans, and began drinking as a way of coping.
Andrew is now homeless with no fixed address. Until recently he was living at the Occupy camp at Civic Square.
Andrew is quite blunt about his situation: ‘Once you are homeless and living on the street, hoop-jumping between government agencies makes it difficult to get back on your feet. You need a residential address and phone to be contacted about jobs. If you don’t have this, finding work is difficult.’

Terry and Samson - ‘There’s a few of us who share amongst ourselves. It’s mostly alcohol. Most of them wouldn’t share a cigarette, as they don’t have one themselves’, Samson says as we sit in the Whare with other Soup Kitchen regulars, as they share the proceeds of the afternoon’s “butt” run – a collection of partially smoked cigarettes.
‘Terry and I hang around a lot on the street together. We enjoy the camaraderie and the companionship. Us guys on the street watch out for each other though we don’t look out for each other.’
‘You can’t rely on other ‘streeties’ to save you. Life on the street is about survival. You have to contend with the elements, with people who are being snobbish and abusive towards you, and security guards and coppers constantly waking you up and moving you on.’
‘Sometimes life on the street is a choice, a choice of narrowed options, but a choice all the same. Everyone’s got problems. Some of us show it. Some of us don’t. Some of us just don’t like asking for help.’
In Terry’s case, however, it wasn’t so much a choice as a moment of bad luck that changed his life over 30 years ago. At the age of 19 the glass-blower was involved in a bad car accident that left him unconscious in hospital for over a month. He’s had problems with his short-term memory ever since, and is now living on the streets.
‘I was at the night shelter, but I was told to leave because I have no money. I used to stay at the railway station, but was told by police they would use a dog to catch people who stay in the trains. I think they are unfair, and I wish the policemen would leave me as I am.’


Travers Sabine Circuit Nelson Lakes National Park

Towards the end of November last year, Simin (my partner) and I completed our first multi-day tramping trip on the Travers Sabine circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park. This was by no means an easy task. Well,  for me at least. Simin is built for stamina. I’m built for small bursts of energy with plenty of rest stops in between! The Travers Sabine circuit is an 80 Km alpine tramp which navigates the Travers and Sabine rivers and head waters of lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa. The track winds its way from the village of St. Arnaud around lake Rotoiti, through tussock, alpine grasses, and mossy beech forests and climbs from the 600m starting point to 1787m on the Travers Saddle, taking in vistas of 2000 meter plus snow-capped mountain peaks.

We planned the trip to cover the full 8 days to allow for side trips, bad weather and possible rest days (which turned out to be a necessity). Being the committed photographer I am, and having managed to sell the story and pictures to a Nelson based magazine called Wild Tomato,  I planned to take a couple of different lenses, and an off-camera flash with remote triggers. Once I’d donned the 20 kilo backpack, I soon change my mind, and stuck with just the single lens. I did manage to squeeze in a few filters for good measure.

Here’s a link for those interested in more information about this tramp, including route maps and route profile:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/nelson-tasman/nelson-lakes/travers-sabine-circuit/

Simin navigates her way through tussock en route to John Tait hut from Lakehead hut on the second day of the tramp. Mount Hopeless rests in the background as we follow the Travers river valley into the mountains.

Simin crossing the Travers river on a swing bridge between Lakehead and John Tait huts.

This was one of the many rest stops (not to mention all the photo stops) during that long and painful journey from Lakehead to John Tait hut. The distance on the DOC sign post say's 14.6 Km. I have to say, that doesn't sound very far. The 20 Kilo pack combined with walking a trail that's more obstacle course than footpath, certainly left me feeling seriously exhausted by the time we arrived at the hut. My memory is somewhat hazy here, and I think for good reason, but I do recollect stumbling along for the final few kilometers in a kind of trance. My body running on autopilot, as my mind struggles to deal with the aches, pains, and general mental trauma. Luckily my body (and more importantly, my mind) gradually got used to the aches, pains and tiredness that was my constant companion through out the trip.

Water filtered straight from a mountain stream. This was the first and last day that we used the water filter on the tramp. The mountain water was cold, crisp and fresh. It was the cleanest, most refreshing water I have ever tasted.

Another picturesque rest stop by the Travers river a few kilometers from John Tait hut. Mount Cupola rises in the background.

No comment required.

We arrive at John Tait hut exhausted and euphoric (for we can finally stop moving woohoo!) nine and a half hours after leaving Lakehead hut. A recent avalanche (one of many on the Travers Sabine circuit) leaves its debris of freshly felled tress and mountainous ruble close to John Tait hut.

Simin writes a journal entry after a long day at John Tait hut.

A DOC sign warns of the many avalanche risks which occur all along the Travers Sabine circuit. Avalanche debris fields criss-cross the tramping route at regular intervals and can become significant obstacles to negotiate, especially with tired and shaking limbs.

Mosses hang from beech trees shrouded in fog as they cling to the steep banks of the Travers river on the route to Upper Travers hut from John Tait hut.

Simin crosses an avalanche chute on the way to Upper Travers hut, which has carved its way through the forested, lower mountain slopes, destroying everything in its path, until it reaches the river below.

At a height of 1370 meters, Upper Travers hut is reached after a relatively short climb of 400 meters from John Tait hut taking approximately 3.5 hours. It rained consistently during the walk, which wound its way through beech forests scattered with moss-covered boulders, snared by webs of interwoven tree roots. With the heavy cascade of the Travers river pounding over huge boulders, and the drifting tendrils of fog, this could be the land of Hobbits and Elves, albeit a little less accessible for Peter Jackson.

After a wet and rainy 3.3 hour tramp, our boots, along with those of other trampers, dry by the warmth of a wood fire at Upper Travers hut. We sit in the hut with a warm cup of tea and watch the curtains of low cloud flow across the mountainsides.

The Vegetable Sheep. One of the many rock dwelling carpet plants, resembling cell cultures, which grow in the alpine areas above the tree line.

Simin sits by a tarn on the Travers Saddle, the primary source of the Travers river. I have to admit, the part I like most about tramping was, when I wasn't actually tramping. The opportunity to sit and be still, and to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the environment you are in isn't possible when you are constantly looking at your feet, negotiating the next mass of rocks and roots. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the physical and to a greater extent, the mental challenge that tramping poses.

Mountain ranges of the Sabine valley as seen from Travers Saddle.

Simin poses on the Travers Saddle.

I similarly pose on the Travers Saddle.

After our rest day hiking up the 400 meter climb to Travers Saddle (minus backpacks), we retreat back to Upper Travers hut for a sip of Nelson's Blood rum which helps to soothe and relax aching bones and prepares us for the next day's trip over the Saddle, fully laden!.

Are you prepared for Travers Saddle? From Upper Travers hut, Travers Saddle is a mountain pass which sits at a height of 1787 meters, a climb of 450 meters. A different story with a full pack!

Resting for a day at Upper Travers hut was certainly worth the wait, as we woke to clear blue skies and golden sunshine, and the full 2300m peak of Mount Travers, naked and fully visible, hidden by a blanket of fog the previous day. The walk up to Travers Saddle from Upper Travers hut meanders through alpine grasses and scrub, before ascending up a 45 degree boulder field (to the right of picture). Travers Saddle is reached after about two hours of rock hopping and scrambling.

Mount Travers basks in the sunshine above an ice-covered tarn.

The highlight of our journey. Sitting on a small rocky outcrop shouldering Mount Travers, a 180 degree panorama is visible of the Sabine and Travers valleys. Here I was absorbed in the serene stillness and silence of this place. It was deathly quite, except for the odd scream from circling Kea, a form of mountain parrot. The polarising filter causing a distortion in the rendering of the sky in the 10 image stitched panorama.

On the high altitude pass of Travers Saddle, tiny rock-dwelling carpet plants dominate, blanketing rocks and crevices.

Having just experienced the highlight of the trip a few hours earlier, the low point was soon to follow. The torturous decent to West Sabine hut, 1000 meters below. This route navigates alpine scrub, steep 50 degree descents dropping over steps of loose rock and roots, rock-hopping across broad boulder fields and, just when you think your trembling knees couldn't take anymore.........

.......an 800 meter long river of scree. The decent took Simin and I approximately three and a half hours. When we finally reached the bottom, exhausted, we happily collapsed on the trail for a desperately needed cuppa and replacement knee joints.

When we first started the tramp, the DOC officers at St Arnaud warned us that the swing bridge crossing the Sabine river, linking West Sabine hut to Sabine hut had been destroyed in a recent flood. Having planned the trip in advance, and adamantly not wanting to backtrack up the hideous climb we had descended the previous day, we were glad to find that Mother Nature had kindly provided for us a bridge she had previously destroyed.

Simin demonstrates the many root and rock "staircases", one of the many natural obstacles we had to navigate on the tramping route.

Tree roots capture the remnants of an ancient avalanche.

Boulders carpeted with water-loving ferns and mosses litter mountain streams. The remnants of ancient avalanches now frozen in time, entwined and trapped by the roots of large trees.

The early morning sun filters through the dense canopy of beech forest on route to Sabine hut. A warm gentle breeze meanders through the trees, and a pleasant bird song drifts on its currents. The pleasantries of not tramping.

Roots and moss.

An ideal picnic spot is formed by a break in the forest canopy and a fallen tree, making the perfect time for snacks and a cup of tea, before we arrive at Speargrass hut. The final hut of the circuit.

Flowers like small explosions dot the alpine floor during a side trip to Lake Angelus.

On the eighth and final day of our tramp we leave Speargrass hut for the final three hour walk through beech forest to Mount Robert carpark, where we are picked up by Nelson Lakes shuttles.


Fishhead Magazine Creative Couples

Below are recent portraits I produced for a feature on creative couples for the Wellington-based magazine Fishhead.

Film director Robert Sarkies (right), and producer Vicky Pope, pose for a photograph at the Paramount cinema in Wellington.

Film director Robert Sarkies (left), and producer Vicky Pope, pose for a photograph at the Paramount cinema in Wellington.

Film director Robert Sarkies (right), and producer Vicky Pope, pose for a photograph at the Paramount cinema projection room, in Wellington.

Founders of advertising and design firm Luvly, Maggie Mouat (right) and Gavin Bradley relax in their inspirational client tree-house meeting room, at their home on Raumati Beach.

Founders of advertising and design firm Luvly, Maggie Mouat (right) and Gavin Bradley relax in their inspirational client tree-house meeting room, at their home on Raumati Beach.

Founders of advertising and design firm Luvly, Maggie Mouat (right) and Gavin Bradley relax in their inspirational client tree-house meeting room, at their home on Raumati Beach.

Punk band Newtown Rulz guitarists Kirsten Ainsworth (left) and Greta Welson.

Punk band Newtown Rulz guitarists Kirsten Ainsworth (left) and Greta Welson.

Punk band Newtown Rulz guitarists Kirsten Ainsworth (left) and Greta Welson.


Recent Work for English Language Partners New Zealand

Below is some recent work I have produced for refugee and migrant NGO, English Language Partners New Zealand. These images were photographed for the magazine Connecting Cultures and for the organisation’s website.

Rachel and Simon Sonius photographed for Connecting Cultures magazine. Rachel and Simon spent several weeks, tirelessly and selflessly, helping new refugee and migrant families in the Christchurch area during the aftermath of the February 22nd Christchurch earthquake.

Mohammad Ali Amiri photographed for Connecting Cultures magazine. Mohammad, a former Afghan asylum seeker, was one of 438 Afghan asylum seekers rescued from a sinking fishing boat in the Indian Ocean by the cargo ship Tampa in 2001.