Intimate tales of life after quakes
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.