Press Photographer and Photojournalist

Posts tagged “Soup Kitchen

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 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.




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?'



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?’


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.’



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.


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.’

Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen

As a spin-off project to the Rugby World Cup images, I have been visiting the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen on Wellington’s Tory Street, at least twice a week for the past two months. This has given me the opportunity to get to know some of the guests and for them to get to know me. Over time, I hope to build up a body of work on the regular soup kitchen guests.

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.

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.