A very wise woman once said to me “Childhood trauma defines your life”. This book is a reflection on my life at secondary school, of the teachers I met and their often abusive and largely indifferent behaviuor towards those in their care. It is not a pleasant story but will be representative of and familiar to many people who went through secondary school in New Zealand in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, especially males.
It combines newspaper reports about the school at that time and reports of the video recordings made of caning. It represents my recall of events over those five years of schooling as an impressionable youth and how that has influenced my life and my subsequent career in teaching.
The accompanying photographs represent a searing series of metaphorical work produced in response to these experiences. They have been fifty years in the making.
When our world again dissolves into chaos and uncertainty with another cancer diagnosis, we reach for the hand of the person we love. We close a window on the storm outside and look to the things that never change. We find the light again, find ourselves again, draw solace and inspiration from moments, objects, and memories, the perpetual fragments of beauty that we see. That transition through the dark is our collaboration as partners; so too is our inner resilience, our determination, and an unbreakable bond.
My work has an edgy immediacy, a crisp urban industrial medicine starkness that lays bare both form and emotion. Annemarie’s photogenic drawings break away from the austerity of the hospital and return home, to familiar surroundings and personal memories, scenes of equally ephemeral and timeless beauty.
We both have distinctive photographic styles, but our images interlock rather than contrast in this follow on to our first collaborative photo book “Still Intrusion” – we are two voices telling a shared story, individual lives entwined on the same path, trying to shining a perpetual light.
Strength, determination and love – “Still Intrusion” frames a narrative around cancer that is intensely, intrinsically personal; the images provoke a visceral response in people, tug at memories and unlock the door to countless emotions. Collectively, “Still Intrusion” speaks of family and home, of self-care and care for others, of roads walked alone but always coming back together. The viewer is encouraged to reflect on the universal human experiences and connections that make us who we are.
Stylistically, the early history of photography is connected with its modern digital counterpart, juxtaposing the serenity of photogenic drawings with the edgier, urban feel of digital processes. In my depiction of painted road markings, there is a strong sense of unwilling movement, of being forced down an unexpected path. Annemarie’s work offers a deep breath, the wash of calm, a grounding reminder of what centres everything, what shelters and sustains.
This is a collaboration of very different techniques but with a shared artistic vision that consistently connects with the reality of life in words and metaphor. In 2020 “Dissolving Margins” was published which is a direct follow on photobook that supplements and complements “Still Intrusion”
In the year this book was published, the Ambulance Service of St John treated 308,609 patients – a significant proportion of the population. The fleet of 535 vehicles spread over 184 stations travelled 13,188,932 kilometers and attended 207,482 emergency calls. These vehicles were crewed and supported by 2129 paid staff and 6350 volunteers.
What does that translate into when we look at the men and women who attend these calls? Who are ambulance officers or paramedics as they are now commonly called? What motivates them? What do they do? What have they seen? How do they cope? What do they feel?
I was a frontline ambulance volunteer for 30 years. During that time I have had the honour to interview and photograph twenty eight of the men and women who pick up the pieces when you are having one of the worst days of your life. There is something universal in these stories: human stories of dedication, compassion, commitment, privilege, pain and joy. We see the darkness and poverty of life and we see the tenacity and dignity of life and this spectrum of emotion moves us all in many ways. These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. These are some of our stories.
This entire social documentary photo project (digital images, recordings of interviews, photographic prints, exhibition prints, text panels and supporting documentation) is in the photographic collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library / National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.