What’s more Dunedin than the students and their families walking along George Street. The Otago University Students Association organised procession along George Street happens before every Graduation ceremony that is held at the Town Hall in May, August and December.See full post & more photographs
A Walk On The Beach
I keep getting email’s from people wanting to give me money and scarves. Someone called David in the UK wants to transfer me 8 million pounds, Philip in the USA wants to send me 8 hundred thousand US dollars and Mazlan from Kuala Lumpur is trying to send me 13.2 million US dollars which was left behind by a client before his tragic death. Along with that, a company in Thailand is wanting to send me samples of the world’s finest hand made scarves.
Now I must confess to being a tiny bit suspicious of these emails and so it was I decided a walk was in order. With potentially over 35 million (NZ dollars) to spend, a clear head was needed. While I was juggling with the decision of whether to spend my windfall at either KMart, The Warehouse or on Trade Me, I got distracted by the beach.
Then, a new and equally random idea sprung to mind. What would a set of images taken at the beginning and end of the day, in the same location would look like. I thus decided to put my money spending ideas on hold and turned my attention to the beach.See full post & more photographs
A Walk To The Polling Booth
The other day, I was happily taking a virtual walk through my lightroom catalogue when a sudden buzzing of my phone alerted my attention to something important. These alerts are fantastic. So fantastic I have my own vocabulary of four letter words that I used to describe them. I know I can turn these alerts off, and before you ask, yes, I do know how. it’s just, I always forget!
On this occasion my phone had drawn my attention away from the mist covered Otago Peninsula that I was currently enthralled in to tell me that I had a podcast from the Guardian that was now two/three days old. With my phone desperate for me to listen to the content, I took a look. The title read:
‘US election 2020: will Donald Trump accept the result?
I couldn’t help myself. Before I knew what was happening I was in. You see, I have recently become a lot more acquainted with CNN than I ever wanted to be. Like the rest of the world, I’ve become fascinated with the US numbers game.See full post & more photographs
Even silence has a voice
Twice a year, there are times when photography and writing have to take a back seat. One is late June, early July and the other is early December. It’s no coincidence that these times are when school reports have to be written and assessment data analyzed. Unfortunately, these tasks have been occupying my time and mental capacity of late. However, last week I managed to put these tasks to bed and turned my attention back to my newly created ‘Jacinda’s Law’ and exploring Dunedin.
Jacinda’s law states; where possible, we are to get out and see our own backyard. With this in mind, I recently found myself walking up a misty and muddy track on one of Dunedin’s surrounding hills. The beautiful thing about Dunedin is that it’s relatively easy to escape onto a bush track or path. From the city center, you can be on a bush track in 10 minutes if you wish.
Engulfed in mist, the track I was now on twisted and stretched up into the forest. Initially looking like a vehicle access track, it quickly narrowed. Continuing, gently falling rain collected in the autumn leaves which had created a blanket on the narrow bridge. Wet and muddy, with rain running into a stream, the track continued until deep grooves started crisscrossing the trail before me.
Suspecting the trail …..
Suspecting the trail I was on was a mountain bike track, I now feared that I might get struck down at any moment without having the faintest idea of what hit me. Proceeding, but with a greater awareness of my surroundings, I continued on through the mist. I passed exit signs that read ‘No Entry, Rockin Roller Exit’ and ‘No Entry, Three Little Pigs Exit’. As I walked, it became clear that on this day, I had the area to myself. Feeling confident, and no longer worried about being bowled over by an adrenaline filled speed rocket, I continued. My concerns of having to arrive home with tyre makes across my back abated further when a sign appeared that read ‘No Chicken Lines, Don’t Ride Wet.’ Relieved, I spent the next hour exploring the surrounding tracks, jumps and paths that wound their way through the forest.
Feeling wet, I made my way back to the car as the mist lifted and the rain got heavier. Once again reaching the small bridge, I couldn’t help but get distracted by a casually ambling stream. It appeared from the thick bush, ran under the bridge and continued on down the hillside. I stood listening to the sound of the stream bubbling over rocks and branches. For a moment I forgot about the Dunedin traffic noise. That’s the beauty of nature, even silence has a voice.Continue reading No Chicken Lines
The Long and Winding Road
When Wellingtonian William McLean imported the first two cars into New Zealand in 1898 he can’t of been aware of the chaotic madness he was about to unleash on the country.
Just what the 53 year old Scotsman and former politician was doing in Wellington in the first place is an interesting tale. Born in Grantown (a district of North Edinburgh), Scotland and the son of a shoemaker, William was first adopted by a parish priest before he moved to Rochdale in England to work as a cotton spinner at the age of 13. When the American Civil War caused a cotton famine, at the age of 18, William decided to head for New Zealand and the Otago Gold Rush.
Unlike many others who ventured into the Otago gold fields with the hopes of finding a fortune, William it seems, had some success. After making enough money to open a small shop, when the West Coast Gold Rush in Hokitika sprung up, William packed up and headed for the coast. The West Coast must have suited him because during his time there he not only prospected for gold, he was a schoolmaster, an auctioneer and a mining and commission agent. At this point, in April 1877, William married Mary Elizabeth Crumpton where they continued to live happily on the coast until they moved to Wellington in 1884. Once again, William held several positions of employment which included an auctioneer, secretary for the Wellington Loan Company before becoming secretary to the Empire Loan and Discount Company and standing for parliament.
After coming last in the 1881 Inangahua election, he was also unsuccessful in the 1887 Thorndon election and the 1890 Wellington election before successfully winning the 1892 City of Wellington by-election. William’s time in office lasted until he lost his seat in the general election of 1893. What all this means is that William McLean’s contribution to life in New Zealand wasn’t as a great businessman, he wasn’t known for heroic deeds on the gold fields and he clearly wasn’t a politician with a long and lasting career. Yet, his contribution to New Zealand’s identity is long reaching and forever lasting. William McLean’s gift to New Zealand, was the 1898 McLean Motor-car act.
The act of 1898 which was passed in government legalised the operation of motor vehicles and set out the rules under which McLean’s two Benz cars imported from Pairs could operate. Among the rules and regulations that William McLean (and other motorists in years to come) had to follow was that they must be lit after dark and did not go faster than 12 miles ( 20 kilometers) per hour.’ Just think, if we could have somehow brought William McLean forward in time with one of his Parisian Benz cars to the year 2020, even he would have had to slow down on George Street in Dunedin to make the recently enforced 10 kilometers an hour speed limit. Although he would have found the assortment of blue and red dots covering the street quite bewildering.
And so it was that in 1898, thanks to William McLean, New Zealand’s love affair with cars was born.
This is part three of three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road – Prologue’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts. Last week I published part two: This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. Today is part three: A Tourist in NZ.
A few days later I found myself discussing all things Covid 19. The conversation traversed the topics of hand sanitation, hygiene standards, social distancing, contact tracing and how wonderful life in Aotearoa was under Alert 2. The hysteria of being able to line up for hours in our vehicle to get McDonalds and KFC had died down and it was generally accepted that while we were all sick of our own cooking, Alert Level 2 was far better than Level’s 3 and 4. After all, we now had takeaway shops back, we could stock-up on alcohol, extend our bubbles, use QR codes and send kids back to school. With the number of new Covid 19 cases dropping by the day and local travel opening up, it seemed New Zealand was the place to be. I must admit, I was more than ready to spend a few hours wandering along a beach, swimming in the ocean or roaming through the wilderness. There were towns, forests, mountains, lakes and beaches to see and I was just a little bit excited.
Later that same day, sometime after 6pm in the evening, I found myself listing potential ideas for upcoming blog posts while the evening news droned on in the background. I try if at all possible to avoid the 6pm news on TV. I find it repetitive, onerous and completely exhausting to sit through. Despite my misgivings about the nightly bulletin, I watched as they cut to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In an effort to stimulate the local economy she was telling everyone to take a local holiday. She had received a letter from a lady called Judith who was looking forward to getting a haircut and seeing Aotearoa once out of lockdown.
“my message to everyone is to go and get that haircut and see your own backyard” she said.
I assumed she meant this figuratively and not literally. Following the Covid 19 lockdown I’d seen quite enough of my own backyard over the last few months and I didn’t have any desire to stay put if I could help it. The possibilities started to spark in my mind. I could improve my knowledge of my own country’s identity by taking a look at it through fresh eyes. My mind whirled, I could write and photoblog about my own backyard. After all, the Prime Minister was telling me to do so and it didn’t seem right to argue with her. I would call it, Jacinda’s Law.
For the briefest of periods I carefully considered what this would mean. Clearly I couldn’t just take off on an endless grand adventure, that would be ludicrous and totally impracticable. For one thing my job prevented this. But, I could use Jacinda’s Law as a sort of guide when time allowed. Where possible I would headout into my own backyard and take stock of this great country called Aotearoa, reconnecting with its identity. Are we still a nation obsessed with Fresh Up, Fush & Chups, Buzzy Bees, The Pavlova, Paua Shells, The Edmonds Cookbook, L & P, The All Blacks, Gumboots, Jandels, Hokey Pokey Ice Cream with a No 8 Wire mentality? Are these items redolent of New Zealand life or just of an urban myth sold off to tourists who drive on the wrong side of the road and decorate bushes with loo paper.
There were of course some obvious obstacles that would make this more challenging than it first appeared. In the South Island for example, The Southern Alps would clearly limit my travel options. It isn’t possible to continuously zigzag across the country at will as it is in Britain. There are only four points where you can cross the Alps via road and often they are closed in winter. To drive from Dunedin on the East Coast to Hokitkia on the West Coast is a distance of 548 kilometers with a driving time of nearly 7 hours. An alternative option is to travel through Haast. This is somewhat closer at a distance of only 400 kilometres and 5 hours driving time. Another potential obstacle is the small matter of Aotearoa being split into three main islands. The North and South Islands and Stewart Island. These geographical challenges meant I would have to keep my travels local, stopping at all the small incidental places around Dunedin that I usually drive past without giving a second thought too. Then, I would venture further afield out into the vast beyond of Aeoteroa during school holidays, long weekends and when time permitted and regularly blog about my travels.
The Prime Minister had clearly given me a sign and who am I to argue with someone who has successfully led a country through a mass shooting, a volcanic eruption and a global pandemic all in 12 months.
I particularly liked the idea of rediscovering all the nooks and crannies of Dunedin and Otago that I had forgotten about. I also liked the thought of being able to answer people when they asked me why I was doing this. I would look them in the eye and then adjust my gaze over their shoulder to the horizon, tilt my head back slightly and say with a look of thoughtful confusion and a touch of daring, ‘because Jacinda told me too’.
There was also a long weekend coming up, Queens Birthday, and a chance to rebook a scheduled autumn trip to Arrowtown. The timing seemed almost perfect.
But before that late autumn adventure, I had an ipod to re-find, a Spotify playlist to adjust, hundreds of kilometres ahead of me in my weekly commute and a chance visit to the small nook of Evansdale Glen.Continue reading A Tourist In New Zealand
This is part two of three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts. Last week I published part one: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. Today is part two; This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. Next week part three: A Tourist in NZ.
The Long and Winding Road: This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. There really are only two ways I listen to music these days. On my ipod and via Spotify on my phone or computer. I don’t count listening to music on the radio as this is something I’m forced into now that Radiosport is no longer on the air.
On the morning drive to work, Radiosport was my go to channel. Now I’m forced to choose between bird calls on the National Programme, Mike Hosking complaining about the Prime Minister and the Labour Party on Newstalk ZB or music that I don’t enjoy or understand. While I’m sure I could easily find a radio station that I like, what it boils down to is that on my travels, I miss my radio station, Radiosport.
Radiosport was the most glorious of stations. Sports coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It was my default station no matter where I was. Be it at home or in the car, radiosport would play until I decided which podcast or playlist I’d entertain myself with. Unfortunately, it seems that men aged between 30 to 60 talking about rugby all day didn’t pay the bills and after 25 years of broadcasting it was taken off the air. I must admit, I am still working through the seven stages of grief with this loss of my longtime companion and the drives to and from work and the travels around Aotearoa just aren’t the same. I didn’t think I’d miss the continual analysis of ‘the problem with the Blues’, how ‘the Warriors are still a mathematical chance to make the playoffs’ or how the All Blacks are the best team in the world despite losses to Australia, South Africa, Ireland and god forbid – England, as much as I do.
A great source of comfort in working through the stages of grief (currently I’m sitting between stages five and six, anger and depression) has been my iPod and Spotify. As simple as my iPod is, Spotify seems wonderfully technical. I can load it on my computer and phone through a simple app and then stream it via bluetooth to all sorts of places. In one touch I can leap between music genres that have no business following each other and happily create playlists that make sense to me and me alone. My current rotation ranges from Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Holly, Lead Belly and BB King to The Doors, Bob Dylan, Nirvana and The Offspring.
A short time back I once invested time exploring all the playlist selections that were available to me. Curiosity got the better of me and I just had to find out what was included in a ‘Mood’ playlist. This is a decision that I instantly regretted. Not learning from my mistake, I then ventured into playlists called Even Flow, We Be Vibin, Confidence Boost and Front Left. After a few minutes of scrolling and scanning through titles and artists I didn’t know, including a playlist called ‘You Do You’ I decided that this wouldn’t enhance my mood when navigating icy New Zealand roads at 7am on a chilly winter morning. In fact, they’d probably have the opposite effect. Returning to the search bar and having plenty of time due to being in a Covid 19 alert level 4 lockdown, I decided to alter my search to a more local flavour. I wanted to know what was popular in New Zealand on Spotify in 2019 and what local, Kiwi artists I could find for a New Zealand music month playlist.
With the goal of creating a playlist for future roadtrips, I went in search of New Zealand music and trends. Looking at the statistics from 2019, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that these were local artists that I had actually heard of. Out of the top four, I recognised two of them. That’s 50%, a pass mark in the old fifth form New Zealand school certificate test. A whole 19% more than I achieved in Science back in 1992.
My hopes of being a New Zealand music guru were raised even further when I discovered that at first glance, out of New Zealand’s most streamed local tracks in 2019, I recognised five out of the six bands. That’s an incredible 83%. As quickly as my hopes were raised, they were just as soon dashed when I concluded that having heard the name of the band, doesn’t mean you know anything about them. Or, being able to name the address of a student flat in Castle Street, Dunedin doesn’t automatically mean you know the band’ songs. I read the list which contained titles called Vibes, The Greatest, Don’t Forget Your Roots and Don’t Give It Up. I quickly realised that I knew none of these.
My fall from grace of being a New Zealand music guru was only added too when I discovered that New Zealand’s most streamed international artists consisted of Khalid, Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande. I desperately searched my mind for some type of knowledge of these rock megastars but all I could recall was that Ed Sheeran played three concerts in Dunedin last year, and there’s a painting of him on a wall in the central city.
My initial excitement of having a great, in depth knowledge of the New Zealand music scene had quickly plummeted and showed no sign of abating with the more I found out. I now had to face the sobering reality I knew more about Science in the fifth form, than I did about New Zealand music in my 40’s. A fact I’m ashamed to admit it is probably true. My brief flirtation with modern Kiwi music had resulted in abject failure. I began to wonder what else I didn’t understand or know about this great country called Aotearoa.
I made a mental note that I needed to improve my knowledge of my own country’s identity. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but it would soon come to be a very prophetic thought.
Next week, Part 3: A Tourist In NZ.Continue reading This Calls For A Spotify Playlist
This is part one of a three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts. Today, part one: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. Next week part two: This calls for a Spotify playlist.
The Long and Winding Road: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. One thing that I’ve noticed recently, is that I don’t have as firm an understanding of life around me as I thought. I had this realisation one day as I flicked through the numerous TV channels on offer while I lay in bed. Having recently had my appendix removed after a late night divorce between myself and the offending organ, I had plenty of time to make my way through the television programming choices on offer. Most mornings, I would flick through the channels before giving up and loading a Netflix series to binge. However, one particular morning, instead of quickly glancing over the infomercials as I always did, I found myself pausing with intrigue. Someone had finally invented an item that would allow me to slice, dice, chop, peel and even grate with total protection and precision. It was made of flexible polyethylene and copper fibre yarn and had standard level 5 resistance. This was a glove! But, no ordinary glove, this was a Sharp Shield Glove.
‘I do cut myself an awful lot while cooking’ I remarked, as another equally inventive item was suddenly displayed in front of me. The next short while was spent deciding whether or not to purchase all sorts of gadgets and devices that would improve my life most wonderfully. They had carefully been designed to make me feel happier and healthier, improve my looks, get me into shape and give me ‘rock hard abs’ while at the same time being a great money saving deal! The one thing that bothered me, was if I’d have time to be one of the first 18,000 callers to qualify for the ‘buy 1 get 1 free promotion’. Further to this problem, was where to store all these life changing items and what my wife would say if she arrived home to find the house filled with iwalks, Bambillo Mattresses, Pain Erazors, Renovator 4 Piece Better Grips, pieces of Total Gym Equipment, A Finishing Touch Flawless Leg thing and a pair of Sharp Shield Gloves that would allow me to grab the sharpest knife around the blade without restricting my movement or comfort. After some cognitive reasoning, I decided that it was best to pass on these once in a lifetime offers and continued my flick through the channels.
I skimmed past some other mindless shows when suddenly I found something completely unrecognisable blaring out at me. After several seconds of desperately trying to get the volume under control, I concluded that this was in actuality, the music channel. On screen was a naked and pregnant Katy Perry standing in a rock pool by a small waterfall claiming people ‘tell her that she’s crazy, but she’ll never let them change her, till they cover her in daisies!’ Next up was Harry-someone singing about Watermelon on a beach. I must confess that in all honesty I genuinely didn’t know who 90% of the people were. As the video’s flipped through, I did begin to see a pattern emerging. Generally the video’s started with a skimpily clad young lady with a tattoo of a brightly colored and petite heart, a crescent moon or something spelt wrong in fancy italic writing appearing on screen who would sing about how ‘it’s a girl thing’ and how she doesn’t ‘need no man’, that her life had now improved ‘without him’ and she was going to prove it to ‘her girlfriends’. She would do this by dressing in next to nothing, showing off her big boobs, botox lips and erotically dancing with a dozen equally naked men. All the directors had clearly been given the outline of ‘semi-pornographic’ which accompanied a set of unintelligible lyrics. Wondering if I had missed the musical genius of these tunes, I decided all in all this was far too confusing for me and that I much preferred music I could listen to without watching. With that, I vowed to find my ipod and headed out for a short walk in the fresh air as quickly possible.
The next short while was spent hunting for the elusive item which was located in a miscellaneous collection of odds and ends in a basket that sits on our kitchen bench. This led me to another realisation. I have an innate ability to misplace objects, no matter how carefully I place them down.
Some years back I once lost a large and expensive tripod at a local beach. I had spent a lovely Sunday afternoon having a lengthy walk along the stretch of coast that runs from Blackhead mining quarry to the settlement of Waldronville and back again. The beach itself is 13 kilometres Southeast of Dunedin city centre and is a popular spot for walking, running and surfing, depending on the weather conditions. If you happen to be there when an Antarctic polar blast hits, it can be a miserable place but in the warm afternoon sun, with the tide out, such as it was on this day, it’s a beautiful spot to be. Having finished my stroll and placing my tripod down (which I was carrying) while unloading my gear, I went around to the back of my car, placed my camera gear and gumboots in the boot, changed back into shoes, got into the car and headed home listening to the latest rugby analysis on radiosport. How it’s possible to forget owning a tripod within five to seven steps I am not sure. This is a feat I managed to successfully accomplish as it wasn’t until I was halfway home that it dawned on me that I was returning with less equipment than when I departed. Arriving back in the car park, I discovered that not only was my tripod gone, so too were the three other cars that had gathered there. In their place they had kindly left a semi empty tub of KFC scattered on the ground which the local seagull colony were gladly enjoying, accompanied with a few bottles that once contained Woodstock Bourbon and Cola. Tripodless and with a hankering for KFC, I departed once again for home. To this day, my tripod is always the first thing I put in my car!
Having already spent enough of the morning listening to things I didn’t understand, I clutched my ipod and I began the task of untangling my headphones while attempting to locate my shoes. Once unraveled and with my shoes located and tied, I happily headed out the front door for the first time that morning listening to something I both understood and enjoyed (The Rolling Stones). I walked with a renewed spirit of hope and optimism that I would never misplace anything ever again.
Next week part two:
The Long and Winding Road: This Calls for a Spotify Playlist.
A Place With No Name
From the series: A Place With No Name (2018)
Following on from my 2011 exhibition A Rugged Paradise, I was invited to hang a two months exhibition at Dunedin Airport as part of their ‘Artist in the Terminal’ programme in early 2015. The initial planning for this exhibition began in late 2012 with shooting taking place in locations around Otago during 2013 and 2014. After the two month run at the airport ended in March, 2015, the art works went on to be displayed in numerous locations around Dunedin before finding permanent homes across Otago. What follows is a rerelease of my 2015 exhibition, Silent Observations.
I was 12 when I first started using my parent’s camera on family outings. I’ll never forget going to a four wheel drive rally and finding just the right spot to photograph the vehicles as they made their way through all sorts of mud puddles and then waiting excitedly for the local pharmacy to have the prints ready. Since then it’s been a constant search, looking for moments of beauty or action to capture for people to view and enjoy. I’ll also never forget going on summer holidays to all corners of the Otago region, and some of the sights still last in the back of my mind – recalled as I revisit some locations all these years later.
The only time I’ve really put the camera down is when I embarked on my teaching career that has seen me teach primary school both here and in the United Kingdom. These days I try and balance the life of a primary school teacher with the life of a photographer
Once I was well into my teaching career a shift happened between photography growing into a passion and the desire and aspiration to be more creative. Hidden within the cracks and spaces that separate passion, desire and creativity, a transition started to happen – a transition from Photographer to Artist.
At the moment, I’m increasingly viewing the world through an arrangement of shape, colour, angle, perspective and light. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of annotating and transcribing the world around me, not as a passive bystander but as an active participant who alternates between participant and observer, exploring and experiencing new places, sights and sounds. I also find that the notion of telling a story in a single frame, making the viewer feel something and documenting through images and words is highly intriguing to me. Rather than chasing the perfect shot, I’m interested in journeys, voyages and stories.
This collection of images is based on the notion of Silent Observations. These Silent Observations happen in slow brain time, where looking is more important than doing. It’s a story, a moment, a time, a place, a feeling, a state of mind and a sense that time can stand still. This is my own wee corner of the world, where I share the stories behind my images while trying to seeking out and capture the still, silent and timeless places in New Zealand’s South Island. In a way all these images are my observations and annotations, the things I’ve noticed or will try to explain by way of viewing, watching and looking. My notes aren’t taken with a pen, they’re taken with a camera as I quietly watch the world go by for a while.
My images are about the human experience; the curiosity and inquisitiveness to explore; to feel and to hear. These are my stories, my Silent Observations of this life as I journey from place to place.
I hope you enjoy
John CaswellContinue reading Silent Observations