Beyond

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.


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.