Street views: Auckland
A multicultural hub in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Auckland is home to volcanic mountain ranges, award-winning architecture – and, some say, the first-ever flat white. Here, we celebrate the city through the lens and language of photographer Blake Dunlop.
‘For the past five years, I have split my time between Indonesia and here, in New Zealand. We’re a couple of beautiful, small, remote islands at the edge of the world… With less than five million people, many of us have maintained family connections to a rural way of life and market garden cultures. We’re no success story in terms of our colonial history, but there’s an essential community spirit unmatched in the world that we credit to the intersection of Maori, Pacific, Asian and European cultures.’
‘I now live with my partner in Auckland and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Our neighbourhood grew from Bohemian roots, which held on relatively tightly through Auckland Central’s gentrification. Our neighbours tend to both mourn the loss of cultural institutions, but at the same time try to support the new, well-considered eateries and establishments.’
‘In creating these images, I’ve attempted to give an unpolished experience of a meandering Sunday, as a character of myself or as one of my neighbours. It’s one person’s lucky perspective on the city we call home.’
‘On returning to more of my go-to places I found repeating motifs. Recognising similar arched framings, stairways and stone materials across the different locations was reminiscent of bumping into the same old friend twice in a day – a reality and perk of living in our relatively small city. Despite each frame being devoid of people, there’s some sense of a group behind the lens. We’re lining up to order coffee at Daily Bread, chancing upon a rare spare table at Lilian, catching an Uber to the galleries or The Crystal Palace Theatre before the final pilgrimage to Ponsonby food court.’
‘I’m drawn to portraiture, so capturing metropolitan spaces is a fresh take. I think that because I’m trained to look for a certain character or facial expression, I started personifying the buildings, viewing them as their own characters. I defaulted to portrait framing over landscape to hint at this – shooting on film helped to muddy the timestamps on what represents the new Auckland and the old Auckland.’
ON ART & CULTURE
‘I’m enchanted by Andres Serrano’s provocative work and Wayne Lawrence’s Orchard Beach series. As far as New Zealand-born talent, Tom Gould sets the standard in short film and Derek Henderson shoots a unique perspective on our isolated country. But I tend to get a bit paralysed if I look at what others are doing. It’s impossible to feel content with your abilities when you’re looking at the giants.’
‘Learning to speak Indonesian helped me understand that there are unique aspects of culture that are only unpacked once you start to grasp the language. This has perhaps been the biggest revelation of my adult life and is starting to seep its way into my future ideas.’
‘The finite nature of shooting film helps to slow things down to a more methodical and considered pace. I’ve followed a fairly observational-documentary approach to photography, but I’m becoming more interested in contrived and manipulated scenes. There’s a tendency for my images to end up as a blur of unrealised (or “ongoing”) projects. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but I seem to focus on characters and culture less familiar to me.’
ON STAYING CREATIVE
‘Measure success against yourself. It’s debilitating trying to emulate the person you think you want to be. Try to compare yourself to who you were yesterday – not to who someone else is today. As Alain de Botton writes: “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” My motivation comes when I acknowledge how brief life is. Get up, smell the coffee, and find something to distract you…’
Blake Dunlop (@blakedunlop) is the photographer for Auckland: The Ocean City, a printed guide by COS – launching in September and available for a limited time only. The book features nine locals, from artist Devyn Ormsby to fashion director Sammy Salsa and former Paralympian Rebecca Dubber. Find out more @cosstores.
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