Beyond

The Unforgotten Soldiers

For New Zealanders, April 25th isn’t just another day on the calendar.

It marks the landing of the ANZACs - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915 in the first major campaign fought by New Zealand and Australian troops during WWI. Despite costing the lives of over 3000 New Zealanders, it cemented the ANZACs a special place in New Zealand history. Henceforth, April 25th was christened ANZAC Day - a testament to those who fought and died for our country.

Four years ago marked the ANZAC centenary - 100 years since Gallipoli. As part of the special commemorative celebrations, the History Channel wanted to bring the ANZACs and Gallipoli campaign back to life. And that they did.

Based on the recounts of real ANZAC soldiers, an 8 hour live-action performance was staged in the heart of Auckland’s CBD, giving passers-by the opportunity to experience life in the trenches at Gallipoli. As the stills photographer, I was given the unique opportunity to capture life in the trenches - an absolute honour by any description, but also probably one of my most challenging shoots.

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First and foremost, because the photos had to portray a past truth.

Although the audience would know the images weren’t shot in 1915, they had to look like they were - authenticity was paramount. I have never experienced warfare first-hand - I have never lain in a trench, have never killed a fellow human, and have never had to dig a grave for one of my mates. But in order to capture the emotion, the adrenalin, the hardship of life in the trenches, I had to imagine that I had. I had to put myself in the shoes of the soldiers. As you can imagine, with their reality so far removed from our typical day-to-day, it was no easy feat.

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The second major challenge was time.

Being primarily a television commercial shoot, the production was massive. As the stills photographer, I was just one small part of the operation. Added to this was the fact that the performance was a public event and that was, above all, the priority. Between the TV crew and the general public, I had a very small window of opportunity to get my shots.

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At the end of the day, it came down to a lot of careful planning but also versatility - you can plan and plan and plan but the real key lies in your ability to adapt. Basically I prepared as best as I could, accepted that things would probably not play out exactly according to plan, then on the day made the most of what I had to work with.

I felt like it provided people a glimpse of what everyday life was like for the ANZACs, and I think that’s what made the campaign such a success - it tripled donations for the Returned Service Association’s annual appeal in just one day. To me that just shows that providing people with that dose of reality helps to connect them to an experience, even if they weren’t there themselves.

For historic events like this, images are of particular importance. With no surviving veterans remaining, our connection to and comprehension of their experiences becomes increasingly reliant on representations. And I believe visual mediums, especially photos, are the most accurate and compelling means by which these realities can be conveyed.

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Looking back, I feel proud to have been given the opportunity to honour those who fought for our freedom in such a unique and powerful way. I also appreciate that, more than 100 years on, people continue to acknowledge the important role the ANZACs played in shaping our country into what it is today.

Tomorrow will be no different - thousands will gather at Gallipoli and at memorials all over New Zealand to pay their respects.

Over 100 years have passed, and we still remember them. In another 100 years, we will still remember them.

Lest we forget


Varicella

Usually I’m pretty slack at having my camera with me unless it’s for work, but once in a while an opportunity comes along that I feel compelled to capture. This was one of them.

About three years ago now, I got a call from my wife saying that the kids all had chicken pox (varicella).

Obviously not great news, especially since it was the school holidays, I really felt for them. But at the same time, I was fascinated.

Lennon, 2

Lennon, 2

Part of it was the rarity - I knew they would experience this just once in their lives, so I would only get this one chance to capture it.

And then there was the intensity. Even though you know everyone gets chicken pox at some point and that it’s only temporary, the effects are profound. What captivated me the most was that each of them reacted so differently, even though they all had the same physical symptoms.

Obviously given their discomfort, there was no room for me to plan or provide direction, and I wouldn’t have felt good about that anyway - I didn’t want it to seem like I was capitalising on their pain for the sake of a photo.

I just shot them as they were - no guidance, natural light, standing against the wall at home.

Mason, 5

Mason, 5

Piper, 2

Piper, 2

Incidentally, both our neighbour’s and friend’s kids also had it at the time, so I decided to continue the series.

Nico, 2

Nico, 2

It was definitely a different experience from photographing my own children, but I kept the process the same. No influence, no direction, no planning, just got them in front of a wall at their house and shot a few frames under natural light.

Rocco, 8

Rocco, 8

Hawk, 6

Hawk, 6

Because I tried to work quickly, didn’t do any planning and just shot things as they were where they were, I didn’t really know how the end result would turn out. But actually, it was this simplicity that helped to capture both the kids’ emotions and the intensity of the moment in their rawest forms, which is what had fascinated me in the first place.

Kai, 1

Kai, 1

I guess the main thing I learnt from this little project is to take opportunities wherever they arise, and to make the most of what you have to work with. It reminded me that you don’t necessarily need an elaborate set-up or a really out-there subject to create something meaningful and impactful. This was a simple case of the chicken pox, something that happens to pretty much everyone, yet turned out to be quite a compelling series.

Proof that there’s something interesting to be found (and captured) in even the most seemingly ordinary of things.


She's Brave

Recently, I was given the opportunity to do some really rewarding work for Amnesty International NZ’s “She’s Brave” campaign, aimed at stopping online abuse towards women.

The campaign was centred around using the “Sound of Unity” - a specific sound frequency (417Hz) that removes negative energy and creates positive change - to speak out against online harassment, which 1 in 3 New Zealand women experience. By downloading the Unity GIF (a visual representation of the sound), and sharing it wherever online abuse is seen, people could help end toxic conversations and encourage healthy and positive behaviour online.

As soon as I read through the brief I was sold on being involved with the campaign. With two daughters growing up in the age of social media, I felt it was an awesome opportunity to help make the online world a safer and healthier place for my girls in the future.

The cast consisted of several influential New Zealanders: actress Claire Chitham (pictured), comedienne Melanie Bracewell, musician Tiki Taane, presenter Erin Simpson (pictured), All Black TJ Perenara and his wife Greer, and personal trainer/social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore.

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Because the campaign was centred around such a sensitive topic, I had to think quite carefully about how I was going to approach the shoot. As the main objective was to raise awareness and encourage positive change, I didn’t want the images to seem downbeat or antagonistic. I wanted them to send a proactive, rather than defeatist, message - all-in-all a solution-based approach. I also didn’t want to portray the cast as victims, but rather empowered individuals determined to make a difference. I needed them to appear natural and genuine - for the message to be real it has to feel real.

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By utilising the Amnesty International colours (yellow and black) and constant lighting, I was able to achieve the images’ intended effect - provocative, empowering, and real.

Overall, I feel really privileged to have contributed to such an important campaign and helped convey powerful messages about how we can make the online world a safer place. For not only our daughters, mothers, sisters, partners, but all women.

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign itself and/or how you can help, visit https://www.amnesty.org.nz/soundofunity


Rivers of Ice

A couple of summers ago I got invited on a helicopter tour of one of New Zealand’s biggest claims to fame: Milford Sound.

Located in Fiordland National Park on the southwest coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is a world renown tourist attraction. People travel from all over the globe to marvel at its landscape and wildlife, so to be able to experience it for myself was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

Although Fiordland National Park is home to many sounds, each spectacular in its own right, Milford is particularly special. What makes it special though, is not what it is, but what it isn’t. Despite its name, it isn’t actually a sound, but a fjord - an inlet carved out by ancient glaciers.

And, amongst the rainforests and waterfalls and mountains and native flora and fauna, this is what people come to see - the glaciers.

A glimpse of Milford - the perpetual cloud cover is the result of air cooling and condensing as it moves over the mountains.

A glimpse of Milford - the perpetual cloud cover is the result of air cooling and condensing as it moves over the mountains.

Not just because of their spectacular visual aesthetic, but the increasing recognition that in a few decades they may very well cease to exist.

Because, unlike mountains, glaciers are not fixed entities. Although formed over thousands of years, the existence of these “rivers of ice” is almost exclusively contingent on the climate.

Which means their continued existence is currently under serious threat. Thanks to global warming, glaciers all around the world are retreating at a rapid rate, and given they account for around 75% of the world’s freshwater supply, their extinction will have massive implications for the world as we know it.

One of Milford’s glacial lakes, formed by erosion and melting of ice at the glacier’s base. The vibrant blue is the result of light reflecting off tiny pieces of rock, “rock flour”, that become suspended in the water as the glacier melts.

One of Milford’s glacial lakes, formed by erosion and melting of ice at the glacier’s base. The vibrant blue is the result of light reflecting off tiny pieces of rock, “rock flour”, that become suspended in the water as the glacier melts.

It’s crazy and quite sad to think that future generations might not be able to explore this extraordinary landscape. So whilst I am incredibly grateful to have been able to witness it myself, I am also reminded of the responsibility we have to look after our environment, so that people can continue to marvel at it not just in photos, but in the flesh.


The Ultimate Blast From the Past*

*reshared from the Frame By Frame archives

Have no fear, the 1980s is here.

Life was very different back in the 1980s – policemen wore shorts and pirate taxis plied their trade on the unpaved streets of Singapore. Just kidding. That epic decade saw the introduction of the MRT and SBC dramas (that’s Channel 8 to the millennials).

And it just so happened to be the setting for our latest project with BBH Singapore for Income, too.

So, the 1980s – a time when all the cool kids were born. Sounds like an easy-enough assignment, right? Not so for a New Zealander who was still getting underfoot at the dinner table then and has never even lived in Singapore. But of course, both Troy and the FBF team met the challenge head-on – fearlessly.

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Knowing that the choice of location would make or break the visuals for this campaign, and that Singapore had evolved so much since the 1980s, the team spared no effort in getting the perfect locations.

Each potential location was scrutinised to the most minute detail, like cement finishing and tiled edges. And even then, it had to look like it’d seen better times, and yet not look like it was falling apart. Among the shoot locations was a kitschy Chinese restaurant, which while easy enough to shortlist, wasn’t exactly the easiest to secure permission to shoot at. But with an equal amount of charm and luck, we ultimately managed to win the owners over, obviously.

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With the locations secured, it was all up to Troy, who had to complete two intense areas of research before embarking on this job. First, he had to take a crash course on Singapore in the 80s; to find out what made the people tick in those days. Then he had to understand how the cameras in that era worked; the kind of imagery they produced – so that he could work his magic with the lighting and composition to ensure that the images looked straight out of the 80s.

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How did it all work out in the end? I guess the best way to put it would be, despite our initial apprehension of being able to recreate the 1980s 30-something years later, our fears were unfounded.

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But of course, as always, we’ll let the final product speak for itself.

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