Adaptation: Work In Progress, 2011–2013 and 2017–Ongoing.

Adaptation is an ongoing project documenting the sometimes surreal and often disorientating environment that is Christchurch’s post-earthquake central business district. It is a follow on from Orientation, a walking guide to the edges of the central city red zone cordon, which was erected immediately after the February 2011 earthquake.

After Orientation, I continued photographing as the cordon slowly contracted and demolition and make-safe work was completed, revealing something of an alien city landscape. Seeing once familiar buildings, streets and landmarks suddenly reduced to rubble was a strange experience, to say the least. While one might assume, as I initially did, that this would make for good photographs, it was hard to avoid picturing obvious signs of trauma; the last thing I wanted to be accused of being was a sensationalist, the mass-media machine was doing a good job of filling that void without my participation. I was overcome with grief for the loss of places I used to inhabit, and I struggled instead to try and communicate something more closely echoing my own state of mind in the wake of disaster, all the time looking longingly over fences at buildings being demolished in the distance. As the cordons shrunk, the intensity of my grief magnified and after a while I couldn’t help but feel I was photographing a decomposing corpse. For my own sanity, I stopped photographing in the city altogether in late 2013 and removed the photographs from my digital image archive and website.

In 2017 my interest in photographing the city was rekindled. This newfound desire was a result of witnessing my good friend and colleague, Haruhiko Sameshima undertake a three-week artist residency at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. On a loose commission to photograph the city rebuild for a book soon to be published by Canterbury University Press (Things Change, edited by Barbara Garrie and Rosie Ibbotson,) I carried his tripod and fetched him coffee while he stood patiently with his 8x10” camera, waiting for the light. Listening to Haruhiko’s thoughts on what he was seeing and looking at the resultant photographs, I found myself excited for the first time about what Christchurch’s city centre is becoming.

The photographs in this portfolio are sequenced in loose chronological order.