Photo Essay: Local Creatives Find Hope & Inspiration In Lockdown

Top New Zealand photographers share snapshots from isolation, and how they're staying motivated at home


Karen's photo represents the tranquillity of home. Photo / Karen Inderbitzen-Waller

Since Covid-19 regulations were enforced worldwide, local creative industries — especially ones creating photographic, film and video content — have had to readjust to the new reality of being unable to collaborate in person.

As magazines and brands explore various ways to creatively produce content that's relevant for the times, photographers in particular have had to re-adjust quickly to changes as bookings and work remains on hold.

READ: Remembering Peter Lindbergh- An Iconic Fashion Photographer

Like all industries right now, actively looking forward to ways we can change the way we work is one outcome of this crisis.

From cover photos taken on smartphones in isolation to illustrations and virtual reality, creating images now requires plenty of outside-the-box thinking, at least for the foreseeable future. 

For these local photographers and creatives in lockdown, the time at home is also an opportunity to reflect, reset and find inspiration from their surroundings. 

KAREN INDERBITZEN-WALLER 
We are out south in Pahurehure in our 70s-style home surrounded by a garden full of tui and fantail with our dog Serge. This photo represents the beauty and tranquillity of home and these moments where the light is exquisite. With spending more time at home than we are ever able to do, I can appreciate these glimmers from Mother Nature and the bounty of our garden on our table. 

My daily dog walks with Serge and especially the golden autumn light has created some nice photographs and some beauty in each day. The solitude and thinking time allows me to dream of new projects and photographic ideas that I look forward to creating once this is all over. Kareninderbitzen-waller.com

The soft light play from outside filtering indoors. Photo / Delphine Avril Planqueel

DELPHINE AVRIL PLANQUEEL
This photo is of the morning light through our bedroom blinds. I love the soft light play from outside filtering indoors. It’s the feeling of a blank canvas, and to me sums up the current feeling of not knowing what lies ahead.

FASHION: Karen & Delphine Photograph Beautiful Spring Fashion

Luckily at home there’s always something to do and I’m a person who likes to keep busy! Besides on-going tweaks to home renovations, I’m enjoying some time to draw and paint, reading and tending to my bonsai and gardens.

Mark's son Jack provides a different perspective of the times. Photo / Mark Smith

MARK SMITH
I’m at home with my partner Lucy, 12-year-old son Jack and our dog Pearl in Mission Bay.

I am enjoying watching our 12-year-old, who has a different take on the situation from Lucy and me. He’s annoyed that he has to up his hygiene levels and is not able to play sport; however this has presented me with great scope photographically.

This photo was taken on day one of our lockdown and illustrates his pre-teen persona while also acknowledging the gravity and uncertainty of Covid-19.  

We are now two weeks in and I'm grateful to be safe and in good health. I’m feeling for my mother who has dementia and being cared for in a home, with full quarantine and no visitors allowed. I am lucky to be in New Zealand where we have such great leadership from our government. 

I’m struggling to tear myself away from the screen, swiping to find new information as our situation evolves. Faced with lockdown I decided to document our lives using my Instagram account (@mrmrsmithnz) to share our experience. I'm looking at our bubble, in all its repetition, simplicity and smallness. I love that I can pick up my camera and collect images.

I find the process meditative and I love looking at our lives so closely. Lucy, Jack and Pearl are very accommodating and they are especially patient on the very protracted family walk. These photos will be a record of our time during the Covid-19 lockdown. Marksmith.co.nz

Mara Sommer merges her creativity with being a mother. Photo / Mara Sommer

MARA SOMMER
I am self-isolating with my partner and our three-year-old daughter at home. Pears have an inside and an outside. In this image the inside is more prominent.

Red is a strong colour. For me, it stands for emotions, love and the inside of things (like inside of a body/blood, etc). So symbolically this sums up for me being at home with my family.

FASHION: Mara Sommer Photographs Vintage & Pre-Loved Fashion

I feel in times like this, simple everyday objects become important. As a photographer I want to find creativity in those simple everyday things and try to see them in a different way. 

This image is part of a project I am doing with my three-year-old daughter during lockdown. It’s a way to keep my child entertained and at the same time to still be creative.

That is basically what my days look like at the moment. Being a mum and still trying to find an outlet for my creativity. Marasommer.com

The feeling of being a little 'off' informs Karen's photo at home. Photo / Karen Ishiguro

KAREN ISHIGURO
I am in my home in Mt Eden with my partner. I'm grateful I live so close to the mountain that I can see it every day. It makes me feel connected to the 'outside' still. 

I initially didn't want to choose this image; I had other shots where the apple was more centred, the corner shadow taking up a bit more space in the shot.

But I realised the way I'm feeling during this entire time is 'uncomfortable' and 'unsettling'. I hope when people see this image they feel like something is a bit 'off' or that they want to move a few things around, because that's exactly the experience I'm facing through this entire quarantine. 

READ: Karen Ishiguro's Time In Portugal

I'm listening to a lot of music which is nice. I used to do that a lot when I was younger, which would then inspire me for shoots and ideas, so that's been great.

I've also stopped being on Instagram so much which has actually helped me feel a bit clearer-headed; maybe being bombarded with images 24/7 is not very conducive to creativity after all! Karenishiguro.com

Collaborating with her daughter Shiloh provides time to be creative. Photo / Edith Amituanai

EDITH AMITUANAI
I’m isolating at home in west Auckland with my kid, husband and my mother. Thank goodness I live opposite a park so I get my daily fix of people watching.

I am grateful my friends and family are safe, healthy. I’m not bored, I feel productive and relaxed.

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I am over Zoom meetings and when I’m not working from home or doing housework I am thinking about photography. I’ve been shooting at home with my teenager for fun, well I think it is.

For exercise I’ve been working out badly in my living room and I walk around my park which is a whole new project. Also I've been taking an Instax Polaroid each day of the isolation, the images are not very good - the camera is very hit and miss but it’s a good journal exercise. Edithamituanai.com

Protecting her mother is Babiche's priority. Photo / Babiche Martens

BABICHE MARTENS
I am currently with my partner, two pre-schoolers and 76-year-old mother in the family home in Auckland. Our own home is missing walls and a roof as we are halfway through a renovation. We had luckily already moved out prior to lockdown. My priority is about protecting my mum.

FASHION: Babiche Martens Photographs Style For Every Age

My pre-schoolers are taking up most of my creative space and energy right now as my partner and I are still working. Elements of my creativity are being satisfied through child's play however! Babichemartens.com

Chloe's photo symbolises, like most of us, the struggle for balance and wellness. Photo / Chloe Hill

CHLOE HILL
I've been back in Sydney for a month now, after a two-month work trip throughout Europe and the US where it seemed the virus was right on my tail (I left Milan the day they started to lockdown). An out-of-focus selfie sums up my blurry uncertainty with the future right now.

You could say the apple symbolises my daily struggle to achieve balance and wellness lol. I'm just going with the flow and only getting creative when my head is in the right space.

READ: Chloe Hill Shares Her Beauty Routine

Most days I feel restless and find it hard to focus on anything beyond taking a walk and eating healthy-ish meals. I would love to be amping up my skills ready for the end of isolation, but we have to be realistic and scale back all the pressure we put on ourselves. Chloechill.com

Overlooking her iconic apartment on Parliament St. Carolyn takes in the silence. Photo / Carolyn Haslett

CAROLYN HASLETT
I am self-isolating at home, in Parliament St in the city. This photo represents peace — no cars, no noise. Usually this street has a constant stream of traffic.  

READ: Style & Substance: 5 Women Share Their Inspiring Perspectives On Beauty

I am reading, watching, listening, getting inspiration from these sources, which normally I have limited time to indulge in. Carolynhaslett.co.nz

 

Post lock down optimism from Stephen Tilley. Photo / Stephen Tilley

STEPHEN TILLEY
I am currently at my home in Eden Terrace with my partner and two children.

I believe this image represents the human condition and an optimistic approach to our future; reflecting a feeling of freedom and escapism, for those humans that are fortunate enough to have this most basic human right.  

READ: Stephen Tilley Photographs Musician JessB

This freedom has temporarily been removed from us and replaced with anxiety, isolation and cause for concerns of an unknown future. This image is about breaking free, post lockdown and navigating a new world with optimism. At first, like everyone, the anxiety of the lockdown and the unknown future was quite crippling. I have taken this opportunity to spend more quality time with my children, ensuring they understand and are adapting to this new way of being.

I have spent some of the time renovating our home while listening to my favourite music, which has always driven my creativity for photography, in an effort to take my mind off our new world.

My partner Caroline and I have taken this opportunity to focus on continuing our preparation to mark my 20-year career of creating images. I started shooting on film in London, so we have used this time to digitise and format my career highlights onto a new cloud portal. I have also spent time revisiting our personal book collection. I was kindly lent iconic photography books (prior to lockdown) by a close friend to inspire me. 

READ: The NZ Fashion Museum Celebrates 85 Years of Fashion Photography

While I have been keeping busy, in all honesty, it is difficult to maintain creativity and sanity when essentially my entire purpose of being is taking pictures, particularly of humans. However, for circumstances way out of our own control, this freedom has been taken from us temporarily. While we all learn to adapt to our new normal, I know that we will continue to reach out with empathy to support each other in this unknown world. See you on the other side! Stephentilley.co.nz

Our screens have become our windows to society says Guy Coombes. Photo / Guy Coombes.

GUY COOMBES

I am self-isolating with my partner in our flat in Herne Bay.

Humans are wired to be touched and touch. As we are deprived of physical contact with others, we have no choice but to turn to our screens for solace. Our screens have become our windows to society and communication more so than ever during isolation, but our fundamental need as humans for touch, whether a formal handshake, a pat on the back, or a hug from a loved one cannot be fulfilled digitally.

READ: Guy Coombes Photographs Parris Goebel in L.A

I’ve been channeling my energy into a couple of projects, one of which is making collages from old magazines, I find it calming and it takes my mind off everything kind of like doing a jigsaw.

We have also been doing virtual Les Mills classes because challenging exercise keeps my anxiety levels down, I am lucky to have my partner in my bubble to motivate and do these with me. It’s also completely fine to do nothing though, and we don’t need to emerge from this having achieved a whole bunch of goals, and it’s important that some days are spent embracing this also. Guycoombes.com

Two contrasting photographs prompt Scott Hardy to assess and self-reflect on creating work that lasts. Photos / Scott Hardy.

SCOTT HARDY

My partner and I have been self-isolating in our flat in Ponsonby with our cat. Our cat cannot believe her luck in having us at home all the time.

The images above was taken when I was going through my archive and examining past practices whilst the image on the right comes from a place of optimism in what our turbulent future holds.

FASHION: Scott Hardy Photographs Bold & Beautiful Luxury

The image on the left came from reflecting on how, in the past year or so, I had been focused on pursuing opportunities for other people as motivation to create new work instead of creating new work from a self-motivated core.

Paul Strand wrote something that really resonated with me during this self-isolation period : "Above all, look at the things around you, the immediate world around you.

If you are alive, it will mean something to you, and if you care enough about photography, and if you know how to use it, you will want to photograph that meaningfulness.

If you let other people's vision get between the world and your own, you will achieve that extremely common and worthless thing, a pictorial photograph.

But if you keep your vision clear, you may make something which is at least a photograph, which has a life of its own, as a tree or a matchbox has a life of its own."

Self-Isolation, the resulting halt on pursuing opportunities, and the confined world we experience now has enabled me to rediscover how to really look. This image is the timid result of that thought.

The image on the right, whilst coming from that same recentering, looks toward what is to come.

FASHION: Scott Hardy Photographs Holiday Inspired Fashion

A whole world of drama and intrigue take place within this flower bush (sex, death, rebirth..) but no one can deny the universal beauty and purity of that dewy flower in the morning light.

A blank slate ultimately indifferent to us. Making what lies ahead only the more exciting, but also profoundly hoping we move away from this psychopathic inegalitarian feudal economic system we are currently operating in and move towards something nurturing the land, our communities, and the individual.

Reducing screen time has been a big thing for me; allowing my eyes and brain to be idle reinvigorates and relaxes me, bringing things in clarity when I pick up a camera. 

Boredom and daydreaming are also great sources of inspiration, even though they kind of feel like dirty words.

Hopefully, this rejigging of our world will leave some space for them. Scotthardy.co.nz

James' diptych mimics what it feels like to photograph the sun with an old camera. Photos / James Lowe

JAMES K LOWE

I’m currently with my partner, Nicole, in our studio apartment in Mt Eden.
Nicole has been working straight through this down period, while I’ve been feeling somewhat guilty now that she actually sees how my day-to-day freelance life goes.

Since our place is one open room, I have little place to pretend to be productive. Isolation living isn’t much different from my normal freelance life if I’m being honest. 

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While the world works around me (not just in the working-from-home sense, but how everyone seems to be bettering themselves- for example, my sister has been running mini-marathons, while I might walk around the block once). I’ve been trying to tell myself to pick up my camera and make something. Anything. As a photographer, you’d think this would be easy. That I would be accustom to pressing the shutter.
Yvonne Todd once described herself as a lazy perfectionist in relation to her practice. I really relate to that.

I can scroll back through the photos on my phone with one finger swipe and reach the end. I very rarely use my camera despite it being the one thing I’m trained at. (Although don’t get me wrong, it’s the struggle with the concept, not with the medium itself).

FASHION: James Lowe Photographs NZ Model Icons Ngahuia Williams and Vinny Woolston

I’ve called this image, ‘If Only I Could Look At The Sun, Just One Last Time’. I wanted to mimic what it felt like to photograph the sun with an old camera. Where the sun burnt the pixels on the sensor and melted holes in film. When boredom was somewhat of a choice, and not this chore. I think it’s somewhat indicative of what I’m feeling now. Where my words fall short, I think this quote by Robert F Forth in Evidence vs Circumstance, by Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan says more than I ever could. “We are each born after “It” all started, there are gaps in what we know about “It,” and we have to leave before “It” is all over - life, that is.” Jamesklowe.com

 

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