A Place in Time has opened a new documentary exhibition in Ōtautahi’s central city library, Tūranga’s, Te Pito Huarewa/Southbase Gallery curated by Place in Time project manager and Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Canterbury School Of Fine Arts, Tim Veling. The exhibition, We Stand Here: Celebrating five years of the Christchurch Documentary Project is the outcome of a partnership between Christchurch City Libraries and the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts.
Place in Time was conceived and established in the late 1990s by Glenn Busch, Senior Lecturer in photography at the School of Fine Arts, documenting the people, communities and environment of Ōtautahi with a long-term vision of a systematic record in photographs of the life and values of its inhabitants.
Projects to date include Place in Time, documenting local residents in the place of most importance to them, exhibited at CoCA Toi Moroki in 2003 and attracting 10,000 visitors over three weeks. We Stand Here: Celebrating five years of the Christchurch Documentary Project is the 29th project Place in Time has undertaken, researched and realised as all previous project have been, by staff, students and post-graduates at the SFA. It has taken five years with over 1,500 images by University of Canterbury internship students focused on five Christchurch communities: Bishopdale, the city centre, the East (New Brighton), Halswell, and Woolston.
Veling has selected the photographs for the exhibition and also developed its outreach education programme, Children’s Vision of their Ōtautahi. While the past five years of life in various suburbs of Ōtautahi are covered in the exhibition, Veling wanted to consider the city’s youngest residents, and their thoughts and vision of our future. He decided to approach Christchurch East School, commenting that ‘it has a high proportion of students with English as a second language. In conversation and holding workshops, he asked students to consider ‘their connection to the central city area and ideas that would make it feel like their place. What does this place mean to you? Is it grey and boring? What does home smell and taste like? What would your perfect home look like? One student responded saying: “I am from Nepal and I wish there was an exotic fruit stand in the square”. That idea is captured in the exhibition in a collage/photograph of Cathedral Square ‘.
As the subject of their interest for the exhibition, students populated images of Cathedral Square with activities, objects and ideas that they would love to see happen, creating new possibilities for the site in an ‘aspirational city’ that they would feel proud to call ‘home’ . (Visitors to the exhibition at Tūranga are also invited to answer the question: What do you think a liveable central city looks like? All are asked to respond by creating their vision in a free, drop-in activity).
Veling says that We Stand Here is a collaboration that came about following an approach from senior manager of Christchurch Libraries, Sam Depress-Ludemann to work ‘with the University of Canterbury School Of Fine Arts, its staff and interns to make a project within the boundary of Place in Time to go into the library’s archives and have it posted on the library’s website: https://canterburystories.nz (This online resource consists of digitised material from Christchurch City Libraries archives; publications, newspapers and donors).
‘The current exhibition is me closing off of that five-year period to curate a selection of images that had been produced with contributions from the community from 2015 to 2019. While it is Place in Time, it was made for the libraries and the complete archive, We Stand Here is now held within that archive. A selection of We Stand Here itself is everything on the walls of the exhibition, a tight selection of images that connect each of the five communities over the five years’.
The exhibition also acknowledges, Sydenham-based photographer Doc Ross and his decision to donate 17,000 images of his photographs to the library, many of them a history of the city over the past two decades. It is a substantial and invaluable resource with numerous photographs of Christchurch and Sydenham, pre and post quake.
‘The library calls it a library project and Depree-Ludeman provided the directive for We Stand Here. They wanted a good cross-section of communities in the city, but conversely they gave each year a broad focus, beginning in Halswell. It was undertaken by thirteen students. The Library wanted to have a greater sense of community represented within it. Who is living in Christchurch and is part of our community and what is our cultural/social make up? That was a challenge for some students. They got in touch with locals. Students went door knocking or walked the streets photographing building, or historic building or major road works, and they met people on the side of the road. That is partly why it ended in 2018’.
Moreover, Veling observes that Covid 19 didn’t help, but after the Mosque attacks and the sense of distress on the street, students were already feeling anxious about greeting people who were strangers to be interviewed and photographed. ‘The people that were photographed in 2019 were living in Woolston and the students found that a tough task. They went to The Tannery and photographed people but to break in on a deeper level was tough, and they gave me an indication of that at the time’.
What emerged from suburbs and region that were photographed? Mitchell Bright photographed the Selwyn district with an interest in the extended construction of the motorway which became an exhibition in its own right as Cultivated, at CoCA Toi Moroki in 2019. Photographs of New Brighton revealed the life and activity in the main shopping area and streets with images that included Columbian groups dancing and ‘grass roots stuff’. Janneth Gil captured that in many photographs highlighting her enormous interested in people and groups as the subjects of her work.
‘At the end of each internship, the students would have an exhibition of work that they had selected. There were ten from each student each year but they could submit one hundred each. That is the nature of this internship. It is a professional photography project that is practical, making work that spans archive research and journalist photography. They were all young students in their early twenties, being sent out as the photographer on the spot’.
We Stand Here: Celebrating five years of the Christchurch Documentary Project
10 July to 27 September
Hapori | Community, Level 1, Tūranga, 60 Cathedral Square
- Mitchell Bright, Halswell