Press Photographer and Photojournalist

Posts tagged “Photojournalism

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

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Wellington Asset Sales Protest

A few weeks ago a few hundred people gathered in Wellington to protest the New Zealand governments proposed asset sales. An economic policy most of Europe experimented with 20 years ago.  I used two cameras at this event: one digital Canon 5D mk iii and the other a film camera – a Voigtlander Bessa R3A shooting Ilford HP5 ISO 400 (plus a yellow filter). I find the comparison between the two mediums interesting. The digital is accurate, producing clean, colourful, and crisp pictures, whereas the B&W film produces a rough quality with a graphic contrast. Admittedly with digital I’m always disappointed when the auto-focus misses the subject or when there’s slight motion blur to ruin the image. With the B&W film shots, many of the images are not sharp and have a gritty, fluid quality to them. The soft images seem to suit the medium, and I prefer them to the clean digital versions. What do you think?

Digital

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Film

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For all those aspiring photojournalists out there…….

I came across the blog of Chicago Tribune photojournalist Alex Garcia while searching for “How to get photojournalism assignments” on Google.  If, like me, you have a compulsion to want to tell stories with your photos, but happen to have the mis-fortune to have your day job get in the way of your photographic aspirations, it can be a long and tough road trying to photograph projects in your spare time. This I experienced last year while working on two projects simultaneously: the 2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup and the Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen.

Admittedly I felt physically and emotionally exhausted after completing these two projects and for a while, I fell into a bit of a photo-funk and lost my photo-mojo i.e. having plenty of ideas for new projects, but limited energy and motivation. If you ever reach this state, on his blog, Alex Garcia lays out six steps to diagnose this condition (I scored three out of six) and offers plenty of useful tips and advice  for aspiring PJ’s to stay motivated: six traps to your photographic creativity.


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.’


Ben Hana aka Blanket Man Funeral

The public funeral service for Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man was held yesterday at Waitangi Park in Wellington, which saw approximately 120 people in attendance. Hana, a homeless man who resided on the footpaths of Wellington’s Courtenay Place, was a well-known figure and attained almost celebrity status. He earned the pseudonym Blanket Man from the loin cloth and blanket he used to cover himself with while living on the streets, even through Wellington’s wet and blustery winters. On Sunday 15th January 2012  he died in Wellington hospital at the age of 54.

Purportedly a one-time family man with four children, and a good job as a forestry worker, Hana’s life on the streets began tragically with the death of his friend which Hana himself caused through a drink driving accident, or so rumour has it. Snapped by many a-tourist on their trip to Wellington, his eccentric lifestyle and behaviour was revered by some, and offensive to others. With alcohol and substance abuse and reportedly refusing help from housing and social care organisations, his iconic status gave “him a sense of identity and a public persona, which was more important to him than well-being”,  according to Stephanie McIntyre, director of Wellington’s Downtown Community Ministry.

Hana’s death and subsequent media storm has led to an unofficial shrine being created outside the building where he spent most of his days, and even the millionaire philanthropist Gareth Morgan paying for his funeral costs. I didn’t know Hana personally to be able to say whether that much public attention is justified or not, yet I cannot help but wonder if this event is glossing over the issue of homelessness and other marginalised people living in Wellington.

Homelessness is a complex issue. We all have our own experiences with which we struggle, and often our choices are limited to how we respond to circumstances outside of our control. We do not all start out life on equal footing, and some are more fortunate than others, and tragedy and misfortune can visit upon us when we least expect it. Life sometimes does kick people while they are down. Placing oneself in the shoes of another is never an easy task, when we fall foul to our all too human fears, judgements, misconceptions and prejudices.

Does man make the society or does society make the man?

Mourners gather outside Chaffers Marina at Waitangi Park to pay their respects to Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man.

Mourners gather outside Chaffers Marina at Waitangi Park to pay their respects to Ben Hana as public service is given.

Mourners gather outside Chaffers Marina at Waitangi Park to pay their respects to Ben Hana, while journalists battle the wind during the public service.

Mourners view the coffin of Ben Hana during his public funeral service at Waitangi Park.

A mourner listens to the funeral service for Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man at Waitangi Park to pay their respects.

A mourner at Ben Hana's public funeral service views the coffin through the vehicle window at Waitangi Park.

Mourners rest their hands on the coffin of Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man, during his public funeral service held at Waitangi Park.

Mourners gather outside Chaffers Marina at Waitangi Park to pay their respects to Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man.

Mourners gather outside Chaffers Marina at Waitangi Park to pay their respects to Ben Hana.

Tony Hana speaks to the crowd during the public funeral service at Waitangi Park for his brother, Ben Hana aka Blanket Man.

Maxine Dixon, Ben Hana's lawyer, speaks to mourners who have gathered to pay their respects at Waitangi Park.

Mourners rest their hands on the coffin of Ben Hana, aka Blanket Man, during his public funeral service held at Waitangi Park.

The unofficial Ben Hana memorial outside ANZ bank on Courtenay Place.


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.


Phillip Cottrell Funeral

I photographed the funeral of Phillip Cottrell, the Radio New Zealand journalist who was found badly beaten on Wellington’s Boulcott Street in the early hours of the morning after finishing work on Saturday 10 December. His injuries were severe and his life support was turned off the following day. His funeral on December 16 at St. Andrews Church on The Terrace was attended by many of Mr Cottrell’s friends, family and colleagues, and the events surrounding his death received an outpouring of shock and grief from the general public.

Friends and family of murdered Radio New Zealand journalist, Phillip Cottrell, carry his coffin after the funeral service at St Andrews church in Wellington.

Sue Hollows, the sister of murdered Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell, clutches his framed photo after the funeral service at St Andrews church in Wellington.

Mourners at the funeral service of murdered Radio New Zealand journalist, Phillip Cottrell, at St Andrews Church in Wellington.

Mourners at the funeral service of murdered Radio New Zealand journalist, Phillip Cottrell, at St Andrews Church in Wellington.


2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup Photo-essay

Over the past three months, I have been working on a photo-essay project based around the 2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup. The idea behind the project was to get a different angle on an international event which unifies the rugby-crazy nation of New Zealand beyond the stadiums and  fan-zones. My aim was to photograph people’s participation in an international event, particularly those whose current circumstances prevented them from attending the games or from participating in many of the organised public events.

When photographing this project, my aim was to stick to the rigors of photojournalism,  observing and recording events as they occurred, and not to choreograph or set-up any images. In some cases this was difficult, as with photographing Wellington Free Ambulance staff, as action is not always guaranteed during the time I was there.

Gaining access and permission was a difficult task at times, and I would like to thank all of the individuals and organisations who supported me with this project. Below is a selection of images, one from each individual or group who I photographed during a Rugby World Cup game in New Zealand. The exception to this is the Compassion Centre soup kitchen whose opening times did not correspond with any of the games.

Village at the Park retirement complex resident Jim Gardner, watches the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup: New Zealand vs Tonga. The retirement complex in Newtown, Wellington is built on the site of the Athletic Park stadium, Wellington's former home of international rugby and events before the Westpac Stadium was built to replace it in 1999.

Supporters of the Welsh rugby team watch the team's opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup at The Welsh Dragon Bar in Wellington, as the actual game is being played only a few kilometres down the road at Wellington's Westpac stadium. A tight call on a penalty by referees in the second half gave the game to South Africa, winning 17 points to 16.

Margaret Stewart House cancer treatment centre residents Tony (left) and Jennie Bloomfield react to a last-minute try scored by Namibia against Samoa during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Originally from Picton, Tony and Jennie will stay at Margaret Stewart House for seven weeks while Tony receives radiotherapy treatment. Diagnosed with prostate cancer last November, Tony will undergo a total of 37 treatments on a daily basis. Jennie, his wife and supporter, will stay with him at the centre to provide care and support over the coming weeks as the side effects of each treatment become more progressive.

Kingfisher House resident Adrian Faherty (left), spurred on by his father Michael, cheers for the New Zealand All Blacks during their 2011 Rugby World Cup game against Canada. Adrian, who has cerebral palsy with associated intellectual disability, is a longtime All Blacks fan. He was recently given a signed jersey by All Blacks flanker Victor Vito, which was auctioned on the website, TradeMe, to help Kingfisher House residents buy a new television. Kingfisher House was designed to help foster independent living for those living with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre operates a soup kitchen that has been serving those living on the margins in Wellington since 1901. The soup kitchen is operated by lay staff, religious Sisters and volunteers, and provides breakfast for up to 50, and dinner for up to 90 guests everyday, six days a week. The soup kitchen serves the most marginalised people in Wellington. During the build-up to the Rugby World Cup final, animated and lively conversation could be heard from many of the regular breakfast guests during each of my visits. An afternoon quiz with tickets donated by volunteers, enabled a couple of the soup kitchen guests to attend the Wellington pools games of France vs Tonga and New Zealand vs Canada.

Front L-R: Mark Bailey and Doctor Andy Swain. Back L-R: Hannah Dawkins, Jules Dewar, Amanda Weaver, Nathan Shippan, and Andrew Dunning. Doctors, paramedics and volunteer medics pose for a group portrait outside the Wellington Free Ambulance mobile treatment centre which was set-up at the Telecom building on Tory Street during the Wales vs Ireland quarter-final game at Wellington's Westpac stadium. The Wellington Free Ambulance staff pose during an early evening quite period before rugby fans and party-goers need assistance. Over the course of the Wellington quarter final weekend, the mobile treatment centre treated 38 people: mostly those who were grossly intoxicated or who had injured themselves while drinking.

An inmate of Wellington prison watches the New Zealand vs Australia 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final game in his cell. During the game, many All Blacks cries could be heard reverberating through the prison wing from other inmates.

Wellington students watch the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final between the New Zealand All Blacks and France, from a converted garage on Webb Street. The atmosphere in the makeshift private fan-zone oscillates between tension and laughter, as the mostly female students shout and swear at the French players one moment, only to praise their biceps in another.


DOC Rescue Seal Pup in Houghton Bay

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to photograph Department of Conservation rangers rescuing a New Zealand fur seal pup in Houghton Bay. I saw the poor little chap the previous evening, lying on the rocks with fishing rope caught tight around his neck.  I called the DOC the following morning and I arrived on scene at about 7.45am, just as it was getting light. The DOC rangers turned up about 9am. It was all over in less than 5 minutes – from descending the 20 foot embankment, to returning back to the roadside again – the DOC staff had caught, secured, removed the rope, and released the seal back to its home. The low light required me to shoot at ISO 3200, 125th @ f4 using a 70-200mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter. Sadly a small amount of camera shake, and the dreaded noise, has crept in in some of the images.
Getting the opportunity to photograph news stories as a freelancer is often down to the luck of tripping over it, as was the literal case in this instance. Finding news stories when you are not affiliated to any news organisations is a case of being in the right place at the right time (and having the camera at hand), unless it’s one of those rare events that is publicised before hand.
These images were used by the Dominion Post (Wellington’s regional paper) in print and online, and by the DOC.

A New Zealand fur seal pup lies on the rocks at Houghton Bay with nylon rope from a fishing net wrapped around its neck.

Department of Conservation officers Hawea Tomoana (left) and David Moss capture a New Zealand fur seal pup at Houghton bay, before removing the nylon fishing net rope which is caught around the animal's neck.

Department of Conservation officer Hawea Tomoana captures a New Zealand fur seal pup at Houghton bay, before removing the nylon fishing net rope which is caught around the animal's neck.

Department of Conservation officers Matt Barnett (left), Hawea Tomoana (centre), and David Moss capture a New Zealand fur seal pup at Houghton Bay, before removing the nylon fishing net rope which is caught around the animal's neck.

After having the fishing rope removed, the New Zealand fur seal swims happily around after being released back into Houghton Bay.

Seal shots as published online in the Dominion Post on 23 June 2011.

Seal shots as published in the Dominion Post print edition on 23 June 2011.