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

1200AD.

 

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