The Remembrance Project
This series of photographs was made in and around the small Bay of Plenty town of
Kawerau. The photographs were made during several walks over the course of this
year. Kawerau is my hometown — my family lived there for about 30 years. Kawerau
was established in 1953 as an adjunct to the newly constructed Tasman Pulp and
Paper Mill. Kawerau takes its name from a Maori chief who lived in the area around
In returning to Kawerau and placing myself in its landscapes, I hoped the
photographs I made would reflect the sense of unease I have always felt about this
place. My feelings in that regard seem to be shared by others who grew up there.
Some local kaumātua believe there are places in the town, and past events, that
continue to exert an unhappy influence on Kawerau.
Simon Schama, writing in Landscape and Memory, talks about ‘moments of
recognition in places that expose their connections to ancient and peculiar visions’
and he observes that ‘to see the ghostly outline of an old landscape beneath the
superficial covering of the contemporary is to be made vividly aware of the
endurance of core myths’.
My project is also a pilgrimage, and in this sense, it is performative. The literature of
WG Sebald that incorporates photographs ‘signifying moments of apparently
absolute documentary authority … collapsing into an uncertain, unreliable fictive
space’, is a relevant influence on my conceptual framework; the landscapes in these
photographs are remembered landscapes, and they are also portraits.
My brother Noel lived all his life in Kawerau and died there of cancer, aged 20. In the
photographic space there is no past, present or future and every time I gaze into the
spaces in these photographs I feel the steady gaze of a brother looking back at me,
come to demand his dues, waiting for me to accept the challenge and avert the
misfortune lying ahead of him