In­ti­mate tales of life af­ter quakes

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JOE DAW­SON

Guy Fred­er­ick is us­ing his sto­ry­telling pow­ers to share with Auck­lan­ders the unique ex­pe­ri­ences of those af­fected by the Can­ter­bury quakes.

The Christchurch pho­to­jour­nal­ist has in­stalled in the Brit­o­mart train sta­tion his se­ries of por­traits and sto­ries doc­u­ment­ing the emo­tional toll the quakes have taken on the peo­ple of Can­ter­bury.

His ex­hi­bi­tion, The Space Be­tween Words, fea­tures the sto­ries of just a cou­ple of hand­fuls of peo­ple but Mr Fred­er­ick says any­one who has lived through the quakes and the years of strife and re­build­ing could have been a sub­ject.

Mr Fred­er­ick re­ceived the 2011 NZ Men­tal Health Me­dia Grant en­abling him to ex­press how the quakes had af­fected men­tal health.

The project be­gan af­ter the Fe­bru­ary 2011 earth­quake when Mr Fred­er­ick went out into the com­mu­nity and doc­u­mented a cross-sec­tion of re­cov­ery sto­ries.

The fin­ished im­ages fea­ture tra­di­tional por­traits of each sto­ry­teller sit­ting in the same chair, but the back­ground dif­fers ac­cord­ing to his or her story. One woman sits among the rub­ble that used to be her back gar­den. Another is seated in­side her dam­aged house.

The re­sult is a col­lec­tion of in­ti­mate and emo­tional tales that have been oth­er­wise rel­a­tively un­told.

‘‘There’s just so many lay­ers to the im­pacts and con­se­quences of the earth­quakes,’’ Mr Fred­er­ick says.

‘‘This project fit­ted into the gap where the main- stream me­dia doesn’t go – these aren’t sen­sa­tional sto­ries but sto­ries of the heart and mind.’’

One shows a young woman pic­tured at Boul­der Bay, where she used to walk be­fore the quakes. Walk­ing there now is one of the few things that has re­mained the same in life af­ter the quakes.

‘‘To be able to do the same thing as I used to do be­fore the quakes gives me a sense of nor­mal­ity,’’ she says.

Rather than fo­cus on the neg­a­tive im­pacts of the quakes Mr Fred­er­ick says the aim is on look­ing for­ward.

‘‘Be­cause of what the prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions were I didn’t dwell on the men­tal health con­se­quences but rather show what peo­ple have im­ple­mented in their lives to help them progress, and their strate­gies to cope.’’

The ex­hi­bi­tion comes to Auck­land af­ter seven months at the Na­tional Li­brary in Welling­ton and pre­vi­ous show­ings in Christchurch.

Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Judi Cle­ments says it is good to now share it with the 30,000 trav­ellers who pass through Brit­o­mart ev­ery day.

‘‘Now Auck­lan­ders have the op­por­tu­nity to find out what life has been like for Cantabri­ans as they learn to live with the af­ter-ef­fects of the earth­quakes,’’ she says.

‘‘It is a re­minder to us all that peo­ple are both more frag­ile and more re­silient than we give them credit for.’’



Christchurch pho­to­jour­nal­ist Guy Fred­er­ick, whose ex­hi­bi­tion The Space Be­tween Words is at Brit­o­mart sta­tion.

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