Archive for the 'Andy Palmer' Category

Picturing the aftermath

At the end of February I spent a weekend in Christchurch. It was just after the first anniversary of the disastrous earthquake of 22 February 2011.

It was my first visit to Christchurch since early 2010 so my first time to see the state of the city first-hand. Sure, I’d seen the news coverage, but I still wasn’t really prepared for what I saw, particularly in the suburban areas. It was quite surreal going along streets where half the houses were abandoned with doors open and gardens overgrown, while neighbouring houses were still lived in, some with modern plumbing, some with outhouses.

Christchurch suburbChristchurch suburbAbandoned Christchurch house

Lyttelton was also a shock. It’s not a place I had spent a lot of time, so I couldn’t tell you what London Street used to look like, but the effects of the earthquakes were plain to see with numerous cleared lots and damaged buildings.

Empty lot in Lyttelton

Damaged roof in Lyttelton

But what was equally plain to see was the community spirit, the way the locals were making opportunities from the ruins.

Lyttelton Pentanque Club

Walking around the streets the photographer in me was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to photograph. But at the same time just being there was emotionally overwhelming; the obvious realisation of the human cost, the complete abandonment of seemingly fixable houses.

But what I found really interesting were the little things, the details. In the suburbs …

Abandoned Christchurch house

And in the red zone …

Cleared red-zone building

And this letter seen in Latimer Square, near (I found out later) to where the CTV Building had stood. The few visible words are intense and sad, and the emotion is palpable.

Flowers and letter in Latimer Square

Then there are the more formal and official memorials like that at St Luke’s Anglican Church and the newly opened memorial at Avonhead Cemetery.

Avonhead Cemetery

More of the photos I took over that weekend can be seen on the QuakeStories website, where everyone can add their own photos and stories.

Roadtripping for Roadside Stories

The other week I was on a roadtrip. Ostensibly I was taking photos for our West Coast Roadside Stories, starting in the north with Thomas Brunner and finishing in the south with Julius Haast. It might be overstating things somewhat – after all I had a nice car, a map book and paved roads, mostly, rather than vague tracks through the dense bush – but, like those two, I was also exploring the West Coast.

Westport

Westport

Some of the things I needed to photograph I knew well – Punakaiki, Ōkarito, the glaciers. Others were less clear-cut in what was needed – such as Grey coal. And others I was just hopeful that I would find something/anything interesting to photograph – earthquakes, Addisons Flat.

Hokitika

Hokitika

Hokitika

Hokitika

The West Coast is renowned for its rain. I was hoping for a bit of rain as it wouldn’t really be a proper West Coast experience without it, but I got quite a bit of rain. On most days. At Kumara the rain cut visibility to less than 50 metres, so no hanging out at Seddon’s house. My day exploring the Haast Pass was also pleasantly evocative, meaning the river at the Gates of Haast was quite wild and the view from Haast Pass was somewhat limited.

Whataroa

Whataroa

Ōkarito

Ōkarito

The West Coast is also renowned for its wildlife. I forgot to pack any insect repellent. Well, I didn’t forget so much as it never occurred to me to pack any. Rain or shine they were out in force, from St Arnaud to Haast. One thing I did learn, however, was that it takes a certain fortitude to compose and take a photo while your arms/legs/ears are being nibbled by hoards of hungry sandflies. Of course, once you’re done, there is more than a certain satisfaction in squishing a few of the pesky buggers with a nice slap or two.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

While I was a couple of months early for the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival, I also discovered great beer (thanks West Coast Brewery), great salmon (thanks Lake Brunner), and great coffee (thanks Lake Matheson and Wānaka … not that it’s actually on the Coast).

Knights Point

Knights Point

Probably my greatest discovery was that while my whistle stop four-day tour covered the highlights, though only one of the glaciers, I could have easily spent two or three times as long just exploring the side roads and numerous walking trails I raced past. One day…

Haast

Haast

And one thing that I’d be taking with me would be a camera or two (or three). While my recent trip was for work, it probably wouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone (including my manager) that I snuck in a bit of photography for myself too, including the photos above and this one of me at the Haast Pass lookout … in the rain … pretending to be photographing.

Haast Pass

Haast Pass

We’ve just completed the last of our Roadside Stories, audio guides to places around New Zealand. The final two areas we’ve covered are Northland and the West Coast. You can find out more about them and download them here: http://www.mch.govt.nz/roadside/.

Putting a face to the name

In an earlier blog post I mentioned that there is a small group of us in the Te Ara team who also work on the Te Ara biographies – aka Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB).

Obviously most of our work on Te Ara goes into completing the first stage of our comprehensive online guide to New Zealand’s peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society, but, as is the nature of websites, nothing is ever really complete.

Freda Cook, no longer faceless thanks to a contributed image

Freda Cook, no longer faceless thanks to a contributed image

Got the picture?

There is ongoing work on the biographies, and an important part of this is adding new images when they come in. Often they arrive via our Contribute an image page. This allows members of the public, like you, to provide photographs of people that would otherwise be unavailable because they are not held in public collections.

It is particularly good to get images of the many lesser-known or locally important but nationally obscure people who find a place among the biographies. When deciding who to include in the DNZB, the selection policy stressed ‘representativeness’ rather than just ‘importance’. People who might otherwise have remained faceless, such as the irrepressible socialist and peace activist Freda Cook, brilliant preacher Ānaru Ngāwaka, and chemist and writer of dreadful poetry William Skey now have images thanks to family members who have provided them from their private collections.

Contribute here

Recently we have made some exciting technical changes to the ‘Contribute an image’ page. Well, it’s certainly exciting for me, as this is the aspect I look after and the page redesign was my idea. Hopefully this redesign will make it easier for you to help us with images, whether it is contributing a photo you have or letting us know where we may be able to find one.

To take a not-quite-random example: have a look at the entry on Alice Palmer (no relation as far as I’m aware). Although not widely known, she was clearly a significant figure in union circles – an early campaigner for equal pay for women and the first woman to hold high office in the Public Service Association. She died as recently as 1977 and although she had no children, there may well be other relatives who remember her and have photographs of her. But I digress.

If you click on the silhouette icon labelled ‘Contribute an image‘ in Alice’s biography, this takes you to a page with two options, each going to a separate page. The most daunting option is to actually contribute an image. It’s daunting because it is full of quite specific instructions, but hopefully it will streamline the process for both the contributor and the person at our end – i.e. me. If someone has a digital image of Alice, and can give us clearance to use it, by filling out this form they make it a relatively straightforward process for us to upload it to the site.

The simpler option is Suggest where an image can be obtained, if you happen to know where an image of that person could be found.

Adding faces to the names in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

A portrait of Noda Asajiro, one of the newly added photographs in the DNZB

A portrait of Noda Asajiro, one of the newly added photographs in the DNZB

While the main focus of our work at Te Ara is on producing new material for the Te Ara website, there is a small group of us who also work on the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB) which, a year ago, was incorporated into Te Ara.

We celebrated the event with ‘the publication of 11 new biographies of some of the movers and shakers of this country in the last half century,’ as we announced on our blog at the time, and a number of new biographies are on their way.

Alongside this, we regularly receive images of people already in the DNZB, some of whom we have found images for, but most of whom don’t have images at all.

We have just updated 13 biographies with new images. These folk cover the gamut from early settler to aviator.

They are not all movers and shakers, but all do have interesting tales. Like world champion pedestrianist Joe Scott, who wasn’t able to escape bankruptcy even after pawning his championship belt. Or Horowhenua midwife and centenarian Hannah Retter.

Others include pioneer aerial photographer and surveyor Piet van Asch, who started the New Zealand Aerial Mapping company, and marine biologist and reviver of the Portobello Marine Laboratory, Betty Batham.

Then there’s the story of Noda Asajiro, a Japanese national whose wedding to a Ngāti Mahuta woman is said to have been presided over by the Māori king, Te Rata Mahuta Pōtatau Te Wherowhero.

As someone with an interest in the history of photography it has also been interesting to see the changes in portrait photography over the years from whaler James Jackson to architect George Allen to choirmaster Robert Parker to broadcaster Herb Mullon.

If you have photos or paintings or illustrations of anyone in the DNZB, whether they’ve already got an image or not, do please send them through because it not only improves the biographies, it makes for a fascinating time for me too.

War memorial fever

There are a number of people in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage who have an obsession with war memorials.

Chief amongst them is Te Ara’s general editor Jock Phillips. In 1990 he and fellow historian Chris Maclean published a book on war memorials around our country – The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorials. There’s also the online memorials register over at NZHistory.net.nz, and Te Ara has an entry on memorials in its upcoming Government and Nation theme.

I don’t count myself as a war memorial obsessive (… yet), but I do like them very much and have indeed photographed many memorials over the years (which you can view here and here). On a recent North Island road trip I, again, photographed a number of memorials, and was once again reminded of the similarities and the differences between them.

From random observation it seems that we have four types of war memorial – the plinth/statue, the gate, the hall and the park. At the risk of protesting too much, I feel I should point out that I wasn’t actively seeking war memorials, merely regularly coming upon them.

Bunnythorpe war memorial statue

Bunnythorpe war memorial statue

The war memorial in Bunnythorpe has long been one of my favourite memorials, even before I visited it, thanks to a wonderful Laurence Aberhart photo. Its location on the corner of a rugby ground, with farmland on one side, and industry on the other, seems to encapsulate the New Zealand male stereotype.

Tikitiki war memorial

Tikitiki war memorial

Equally I love the memorial in Tikitiki. Like Bunnythorpe, the statue itself is stunning, but so is the location on a hilltop looking towards the rising sun. The other week I was lucky to arrive in Tikitiki an hour or so before sunset and the light was just beautiful.

A little way south of Tikitiki is Tolaga Bay, and there you can find a large memorial gate. There’s also one in Taranaki, at Normanby School from memory, which always catches my attention as I drive past saying I must stop and photograph it one day.

War memorial gates in Tolaga Bay

War memorial gates in Tolaga Bay

Many of those communities which don’t have a statue or gate, and indeed some that do, often have a Memorial Hall, a hall for the community, such as the one in Mahoenui. Occasionally the building has some other public function, such as the War Memorial Library in Lower Hutt or the War Memorial Baths in Millers Flat, Otago.

Mahoenui memorial hall

Mahoenui memorial hall

Lastly there are the parks. It seems to me that naming a park ‘Memorial Park’ was easier than coming up with some other name. There’s not always any memorial of any kind, or even suggestion of it being a memorial aside from the name. Sometimes, as with the park in Taihape, there’s quite an entrance.

Entrance to Taihape war memorial park

Entrance to Taihape war memorial park

The newest memorial I came across on my trip was one in Rongotea. At the centre of town they have a statue and little park, but the Te Kawau Memorial Recreation Centre is on the edge of town … which is only 500 metres or so from the centre of town. And while the rec centre is reasonably new, the gate on the left confirms that the park has been a memorial for some decades.

Rongotea's new memorial hall

Rongotea's new memorial hall

And while it’s not a war memorial, this rugby ground not far from Tikitiki also caught ­my fancy, and does (I suppose) memorialise battles of another sort.

George Nepia Memorial Park

George Nepia Memorial Park