Quietus, observations on an altered city

 

Every morning when I look out the window of my Colombo Street home and studio I see a new Christchurch. Gone is the row of old two story brick shops, in their place bare dirt, and I realise that this is the place we now live . Thinking about it and understanding the geology we now know that this earthquake event was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when, and that we are simply the unlucky generation to be here when it did. The seemingly endless nature of the aftershocks has in many ways made us become addicted to them; our lives are consumed by them as though forced by some cruel drug that we have no choice but to take. The physical, emotional, built and social landscape of the city has been forever altered, each and every one of us has been changed in some way. Even when I’m out of Christchurch now things like seeing a traffic cone in Melbourne or a lone chair in an empty lot in Auckland make me think about earthquakes, it is impossible now to walk down a normal city street and not look up to see what might fall in a quake.

This project started not long after the February 22nd 2011 earthquake, I was working in my studio not long after the street had reopened to the public, and there was a knock on the door, it was Philip Trusttum, wearing a heavy sweater, woolly hat, a scarf and I think a bicycle clip, I hardly recognised him. Before he was even insid e he was excitedly talking full speed, so much so that I could hardly keep up. He told me how he had recently read the book Wisconsin Death Trip and that it made him think about how we needed a variety of records to remind us of this period of change in our city’s history and he suggested making this book.

I had already started to photograph the city landscape after the September 4th 2010 earthquake in a series titled ‘A new Landscape’ In those photographs I chose to focus primarily on the more subtle and less obvious effects of the earthquakes on the urban landscape, and also on simple post earthquake acts of getting on with life, I had intended to expand and intensify this over time. However, with the city now totally devastated by the February earthquake that new landscape was gone, replaced by a desolate one, no longer could I focus on the subtle as there was no subtle, now all was brutal. With institutions, the media, and many other photographers, making images with a direct devastation narrative, and my wanting to represent the human condition more than just the physical condition of the city, I decided that I should just go on as I had started and continue photographing the city simply as a place, neither consciously focussing on, nor avoiding, anything earthquake.

After Phillips visit I spent day after day walking the red zone cordon. During these walks I was intrigued by the comments, sometimes ill informed, sometimes prophetic, I heard from people at the fences. They made me try to imagine what people were feeling, and what exactly it was they were photographing and why. As a result, like many people I imagine, I have never thought so intensely about a place before. The photographs in this book are observations based on my personal responses to the changing city, but it is my hope they will in some way represent the emotions we might all have felt in those moments when we looked at our devastated city, the little indicators that remind us or inform us, the beauty that can exist in anything, the confusion, the dislocation, the frustration, the irony, the humour, and the hope.

 

 

Doc Ross

 

Edition of 50 artist produced books

300mm x 300mm hardcover 102 colour and B&W pictures
with an Essay by Andrew Paul Wood

Introductory price $500