Pro­file | Vaughan Brook­field


Com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher Vaughan Brook­field’s one-of-a-kind per­sonal project to il­lu­mi­nate the is­sue of cli­mate change saw him col­lab­o­rate with event pro­ducer Tom Lynch. The re­sult is a com­pelling se­ries ti­tled

The Name­less, which fea­tures im­agery that em­bod­ies both the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween tech­nol­ogy and art, and the cross­way be­tween man and na­ture It has been two years since the his­toric adop­tion of the Paris Agree­ment, an in­ter­na­tional road map for mit­i­gat­ing and adapt­ing to the chal­lenges of cli­mate change, and the is­sue re­mains one of so­ci­ety’s most press­ing. Find­ing new ways to ap­proach things in or­der to safe­guard our planet calls for the kind of cre­ative drive that fu­els our most suc­cess­ful artists, and a pair of lo­cal cre­atives has de­vised a way to demon­strate that cre­ative adapt­abil­ity while putting en­vi­ron­men­tal mind­ful­ness in the cen­tre of the viewfinder. Com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher Vaughan Brook­field and event pro­ducer Tom Lynch have teamed up to cre­ate a se­ries of images that com­bine high-end light pro­jec­tors with re­splen­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal pho­tog­ra­phy to craft a unique call for con­ser­va­tion. The Name­less project sees the pair us­ing com­mer­cial-grade pro­jec­tors to su­per­im­pose lu­mi­nous images onto el­e­ments of the nat­u­ral world, to be cap­tured by the vet­eran lo­ca­tion pho­tog­ra­pher. “Not many peo­ple have these pro­jec­tors, they are the top of what you can get on the mar­ket, so we thought we should see what we could do with [them],” Vaughan ex­plains. “I liked the idea of blend­ing the light: all pho­tog­ra­phy re­volves around light; you can cre­ate any­thing if you have the light source. So, I thought, with a re­ally pow­er­ful pro­jec­tor, we could cre­ate some magic that peo­ple hadn’t seen be­fore.” The ex­per­i­ment be­gan in the back­yard, pro­ject­ing images onto trees and other non-flat sur­faces. The re­sults were more ef­fec­tive than ex­pected, so the duo moved on to shoot­ing around the

Wanaka re­gion, in lo­ca­tions Vaughan had pre­vi­ously vis­ited for com­mer­cial shoots, such as water­falls and rivers. But to re­ally give peo­ple some­thing they hadn’t seen be­fore, Vaughan knew they would have to take the project some­where re­ally spe­cial. And so, they formed a plan to ven­ture out onto Aotearoa’s long­est glacier, the ma­jes­tic Tas­man Glacier. “We had been push­ing the tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions of our equip­ment, and then we started to get bored; we needed to take it to the next level if we were go­ing to keep do­ing this,” the pho­tog­ra­pher re­calls. “I spend a lot of time up those moun­tains and around those glaciers, and I’ve seen them lit­er­ally re­treat­ing. Ev­ery time I go back, I see it change so much. It seemed like the per­fect lo­ca­tion to take our idea and our art, and try … [to] cre­ate a bit of a mes­sage about how frag­ile the en­vi­ron­ment is and look­ing af­ter it a bit more.”

“We had been push­ing the tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions of our equip­ment, and then we started to get bored; we needed to take it to the next level if we were go­ing to keep do­ing this”

To shoot in that frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment, they first had to ap­ply for a per­mit from the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, then there was helicopter ac­cess to ar­range, not to men­tion an in­or­di­nate amount of gear to bring along — from a satel­lite phone and safety plan to alpine tent­ing, har­nesses, and ropes. For the ac­tual pro­duc­tion, Vaughan faced a very lim­ited win­dow of time in which to shoot — the darker it was, the bet­ter the pro­jected im­age showed up, but there also had to be enough nat­u­ral light that the sur­round­ing nat­u­ral beauty can also be seen. While he some­times used Bron­color lights to sep­a­rate ici­cles from the back­drop, hook­ing up the whole area with strobes would have been a tech­ni­cal night­mare, and one that would have un­der­cut the au­then­tic feel the pho­tog­ra­pher was af­ter. “There is only about a 20-minute win­dow, start­ing around 10 min­utes af­ter the sun goes down — it’s that sort of twi­light zone when I can get enough

power out of the pro­jec­tor to show a clear im­age and show the sur­round­ings in the one frame,” he ex­plains. “It’s a bal­anc­ing act of match­ing the nat­u­ral light with the pro­jected light.” It’s a dif­fi­cult kind of shoot to plan for — ar­range­ments have to be made a month in ad­vance, but the weather around Mount Cook is ex­tremely fickle; there may be just two or three sunny days in the month. The team planned to spend two nights on the moun­tain, bank­ing on that be­ing enough to get what they needed. It turned out to be sur­plus to re­quire­ments, as sun­down the first night, and just ahead of sun­rise the fol­low­ing morn­ing, gave them ev­ery­thing they could have hoped for. “We checked the weather re­port on the sat. phone and a big front was com­ing in, so we had to get a heli-lift out of there. The fol­low­ing night, they had about 1.5m of snow­fall where our camp­site was, so we were lucky [that] we didn’t stick around longer,” he says. It ended up be­ing a mam­moth ef­fort — eased con­sid­er­ably by the team win­ning Canon Aus­tralia’s Show Us What’s Pos­si­ble com­pe­ti­tion for fund­ing and as­sis­tance — but one Vaughan feels was more than worth it, even be­yond the im­agery, just to be in such a spe­cial place. “What blows you away is the scale of ev­ery­thing,” he says. “Ev­ery­one knows the glacier is big, but, once you’re stand­ing right un­der­neath those mas­sive ice chunks, even just look­ing across the vast­ness of the glacier — it’s mind-blow­ing how big it is. “You feel so small in those en­vi­ron­ments, in­signif­i­cant, and it makes you ap­pre­ci­ate the na­ture of it a bit more.”




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