Jack of all trades
Peter Bush sits down for a trim and a chat with Lance Barnard, to discuss Barnard’s various careers in the realms of barbering, hunting, and photography
For the past 20 years or so, I have had my hair cut by Lance Barnard and, more recently, both my hair and my beard trimmed, such is the ageing process. Along with the sheer pleasure of stretching out in the traditional and very comfortable oversized barber’s chair in the Wellington Courtenay Place shop, the chats we share are also very enjoyable.
Sixty-four-year-old Barnard is a talented and accomplished photographer, a watercolour artist, a skilled hunter of all New Zealand game, and much more. After initially attending schools in the Hutt Valley and then Wainuiomata College, he started work at age 15 in a Wellington City barbershop. Barnard said that, back in those days, your day began with a “good morning”, followed by the hanging up of the senior barber’s jackets, and not too much backchat while you slowly learned the trade. At the same time, he went back to night school, studied for his school-certificate exam, and also found that he had talent in drawing and watercolour painting.
After finishing his barbershop apprenticeship, he spent most of the next seven years working as a government deer-culler, requiring long stretches of time living rough in rugged bush country. Besides hunting the animals, Barnard was able to photograph many of the deer in their adopted habitat. That was back in the ’70s, and, along with becoming a capable professional hunter, he had started on a parallel photographic career, beginning with a Praktica 1B 35mm film camera. He was then introduced to the Olympus range of cameras by John Johns — a highly talented and skilled photographer who worked for the New Zealand Forestry Department. Barnard had fondly thought that his next camera would be a Minolta, but Johns won the day and convinced him to buy an Olympus OM-1 camera with an f/1.8 lens. It was one of the first in New Zealand, and, because of a few minor body scratches, it cost him $200 instead of $250.
With his photography expertise fast developing (he had added a 300mm f/4.5 to his OM-1), he found that he was shooting deer more often with a camera than a rifle.
It came about that he had been able to track and photograph the elusive sambar deer in the swampy land of the lower Manawatu — a feat rarely achieved even by many of the skilled hunters who tried tracking the secretive animals. This led to his talents with the camera being more widely recognized and also broke the jinx with some of his bosses, when, on seeing his pictures of the deer in the swampy terrain, one of them commented, “If you can photograph sambar deer, you have to be something very special.”
In a dramatic change of lifestyle, he returned to Wellington, married his wife, Ursula, and went back to his original trade at the barbershop. His clients ranged right across the business world, including many of the diplomatic corps, and they varied from confident joke-sharing Americans to the very formal and polite Japanese ambassador. They were the best of times, with the appointment book always full, and, even today, he still regrets getting out of the business, but he did leave it in the hands of good mates John Mangin and Ian Yarlett.
His next move was to head to the back country once more, this time to Central Hawke’s Bay to take up a job with the rabbit board — a common move for many professional hunters after marriage, as houses were provided for married couples.
Eventually, Barnard returned to Wellington and to his original barbershop trade.
Over time, he had been able to replace his rifle with his camera, and, along with busy days in the barbershop, he continues to pursue his twin loves of spending time in the bush and photography, which has resulted in an expanding collection of stunning pictures of New Zealand wildlife.
Animals he has captured through his lens range from imperious stags roaring their defiance in the Tararua Range to a sleek frog relaxing in his bush pool.
When questioned about his longest and toughest day in the great outdoors, he replied, “Waking up in the Reardon Hut at the head of the South Island’s Dobson Valley, I was greeted with over a foot of freshly fallen snow coating the valley floor, so I set off to tramp the 35km to another forestry hut at Huxley Gorge.
“As well as my usual tramper’s pack full of gear, that day I carried two Olympus camera bodies, a couple of tele lenses, and [a] great mix of other camera gear, including my tripod. That was one of my longest days, slogging all the way through the wet snow, and [I was] so thankful to reach the old base hut in the dark … special days to look back on.”
Barnard still uses Olympus gear, and has the E5 and E520 cameras. Normally when in the bush, he has a 50–200mm lens attached, with a 2x teleconverter ready to use. He will sometimes carry his 600mm f/6.5 super-telephoto lens in his daypack — the fact that this lens weighs 2.8kg he qualifies by describing how very sharp and positive it is with its rack-and-pinion focusing.
Shortly after our interview, Barnard and a friend were leaving for a week photographing and relaxing in the Tararua Range. They were travelling by helicopter, so, this time, there would be plenty of room for those extra little luxuries that make camp life so much easier as the years clock up. Meanwhile, I will have to wait until the beard grows scruffy again before I get to hear tales of his latest photographic exploits.
Lance Barnard at work in his shop