Monday, November 9, 2009

Developing the image

I have been working with distorting panorama (i.e. very wide) images for a couple of years now and Constructions was the third exhibition of mine which uses this technique. For this reason there wasn't a lot of development that went into creating the images. I was fairly well sticking to what was, for me, the tried and true. The difference was that the subject matter was specifically architectural construction in one site rather than searching the hills at sunset for sublime landscape scenery.

One reason for deciding on this technique and subject was the short time frame I had to complete an exhibition as part of my Art School course work. I had already begun work on photographing the changes as the stadium was built as part of a longer term and wider ranging project. This is the photographic documenting of Dunedin's heritage industrial precincts and the buildings in them. It is my plan to gradually collect images of interesting and generally underrated industrial buildings to form an image bank for historical and educational purposes. The thing about these buildings is that they can and do get torn down with no notice at the whim of the owners.

Dunedin's Architectural heritage is fairly well established by such buildings as the Train Station and Law Courts. Modern examples such as the Dental School are also celebrated. Lesser celebrated are buildings such as the Donald Reid & Co. Ltd wool store in Parry St.

Donald Reid and Co. Ltd wool store, Parry St.

This building is certainly not lovely to look at (although it does have a some of Art Deco stylings around it's entrance) but it has some importance to Otago and New Zealand's economic history in that our country was built on the exports that went through such buildings. It is also quite a feat of engineering to have the showroom floor, which must be about an acre or more in area, lit by the south east facing glass faces of the roof and all supported on just a few pillars. My family history also involves this building as it was built by the firm started by my great great grandfather. My father (named Donald like myself and my son) told me about the celebrations when the building was opened in 1936 and he was ten years old.

Now the building is being demolished, without a party to celebrate it's history and use, to make room for the eastern corner of the Stadium. I would have liked to see it stand and some interesting use made of that huge perfectly lit space of the showroom floor. However, what was important for me to do was to make sure that a photographic documentation was made before the asbestos roofing was (hopefully) carefully taken down and bagged for disposal and the rest came tumbling down.

With the help of a chap at the Dunedin City Council who gave me the key for an afternoon I shot several hundred images of how the building was after the last workers moved out. I had considered using some of those images in the Constructions exhibition because of the obvious link but I decided that it would be opening a another subject which would detract from the theme that I had established with Constructions.
Those images will wait for another showing and will probably include some of the buildings demolition which is in progress now.

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This work by Chris Reid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 New Zealand License.