Action and reaction
Peter Bush talks to Barry Durrant about photojournalism inciting action, and reflects on his own time chasing the various Rugby World Cup events
Lying in bed in recovery mode after a stint in hospital, all food and liquids off the menu, I was daydreaming about drinking my way through an entire case of ginger beer while idly flicking through The Dominion Post, when I came across a well-illustrated article about the trashing of the historic Cone Hut in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges.
The trashing of the Tararua Tramping Club’s iconic club hut triggered sadness and bitterness in my old friend Barry Durrant — a highly skilled photojournalist who had captured the imagery for the article — and his companion Grant Timlin, who are both long-time members of the club.
Although the article did well to express these feelings, it was the four-column picture that conveyed the impact of the wanton vandalism in the interior of the hut — white paint liberally splattered over surfaces, mattresses slashed, and evidence of attempts to light a fire on the floor.
Durrant dropped in to see me in hospital, and told me about the amazing public reaction to the Cone Hut story. Many offers of help had emerged overnight — one from a helicopter company, offering to fly in any materials needed for restoration. By the time I was back at home, Barry was already up in the Tararuas, helping with the rebuild of the hut’s prefabricated woodshed and other items, with the Department of Conservation flying in all materials required for the work.
When I asked how he shot the pictures that were in The Dominion Post, Barry said, “The pictures from Cone Hut were taken on an Olympus Tough Camera. It is both waterproof and shockproof, which makes it an ideal camera to take into the hills, as it will handle the roughest conditions you might encounter. Exposure of the interior of Cone Hut was 1/30s at f/2 on 800 ASA.” He added that the quality was good enough to print at A3 size — the camera has a f/2 25–100mm zoom lens.
Barry saved the best bit for last, when he added that, as he had forgotten to put the memory card in the camera, he had to rely on its memory, which gave him just 10 high-resolution exposures.
“It felt like I had left my last roll of film at home,” he said.
Apart from my discovery of the Cone Hut image during my time of being essentially housebound, I became involved with a project that I was not exactly keen to undertake — a review of pictures taken at the last seven Rugby World Cups.
The first Rugby World Cup I reviewed was held way back in 1987, with the opening and final games being played at what was then the old Eden Park — now, it would probably look like a small suburban rugby ground. Back then, New Zealand won that first Rugby World Cup and, it’s strange to admit now, at the time I was convinced the tournament would not continue. How wrong I proved to be.
For the next Rugby World Cup, held in the United Kingdom and France in 1991, we photographers travelled between the venues mainly by train.
Four years later, it was South Africa’s turn to host what I feel was the greatest contest and most colourful spectacle, set against the background of the emerging rainbow nation of South Africa. The final game between South Africa and New Zealand — famously won by South Africa — was attended by Nelson Mandela, and the heads of many other countries.
That final day of the 1995 event was bursting at the seams with drama — Zulu dancing and throbbing drums, all backlit by the high, bright sunlight. It was exhilarating. My lasting memory will always be of that giant South African Airways 747, flown by a skeleton crew of just five, skimming over the top of the stadium.
Sadly, most of my coverage of that Rugby World Cup, including the final day, was lost when I left many of my colour negatives with South African photographer and good friend, John Rubython, who was murdered by a 14-year-old intruder in his own home, in a truly senseless act of violence.
Finally, who could ever forget our stunning 2011 Rugby World Cup win, back at Eden Park, where it all began in 1987.