|This was the first exhibition of my Backroads photos. It was held at the Leigh Sawmill early in 2008
These images are from the Backroads series I am working on.
Documentary photography is what I'm about more than any other genre. Creating a record of our physical and social time and place is just as important to me as the aesthetic aspect of my photography. I look for subject matter that is not spectacular or always immediately familiar to the viewer, but which is nevertheless very 'New Zealand.'
I am a fan of photographers such as Marville, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Marti Friedlander, Robin Morrison and others who have captured the times in which they have lived. (In fact, the Backroads idea could be said to date back to the beginnings of photography, when Marville, in the 1850s, captured the soon-to-be-demolished Paris streets, as a photographic record.)
I am drawn to photograph the ordinary subjects that are neglected in décor art: the coastal paintings and photos one so often sees in galleries, represent only the boundaries of our country not its heart; yet it is via the backroads that holiday makers traverse the countryside, at speed, en route to its rural margins, the beaches.
It is on the backroads where we find our true rural environment. The sea and sand, to which we flock in summer, don't change much. The settlements around them do, however, and the countryside traveled through in order to reach these locations, is changing.
Roads are being sealed. Subdivisions are springing up. Areas like Pakiri, Omaha, Matakana and maybe Te Arai have changed, or soon will. I want to record the neglected beauty of the ordinary roads that lead to these places, for it is along these roads that we live and pass every day.
I live in Leigh and am in love with the region, but seldom go to the beach. Instead I visit these lonely roads and absorb their beauty and mourn the inexorable erosion of my rural idyll as houses and new roads and developments spring up.
All content copyright © Richard Smallfield 2009