The Remembrance Project
This series of photographs was made in and around the small Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau. Kawerau was established in 1953 as an adjunct to the newly constructed Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill. It is my hometown — my family lived there for about 30 years. Kawerau takes its name from a Māori chief who lived in the area around 1200 AD.
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’. I believe Kawerau is such a place; there is some kind of temporal threshold or instability present and it disconcerts us, inhabits our imaginations, and perhaps even infuses this work.
In terms of the conceptual framework for the project, I adopted a psychogeographic approach that is immersive, processual and non-dialectical. Psychogeography is most simply described as the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.
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.