The Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

With international visitors now being welcomed to New Zealand without any covid restrictions, I was interested to see what visitors were told about some of New Zealand’s iconic attractions. Turning to The Lonely Planet Guide, I looked up the Purakaunui Falls and discovered that it is described as ‘ a magnificent cascade down three tiers of jet-black rock.’ 

Having discovered what visitors are told about the falls, I then turned to online reviews to discover what people thought of the falls which were featured on a postage stamp in 1976. In an exercise of pure interest, instead of turning to the reviews that were categorised as excellent, I turned to the poor and average reviews. To sum up, the feeling was that the bathroom facilities were clean, there’s a good timber deck for viewing, the forest walk is pleasant and the falls would be better in full flow. 

Deciding that these reviewers might have missed the point of reviewing the falls themselves, I turned to the excellent reviews for balance. Amongst the many comments that listed the falls as a memorable sight, once again the viewing platform being ‘well constructed’ was a common topic. This goes to show one thing, people have a healthy respect for quality outdoor construction in New Zealand.

Tautuku Beach Morning

Tautuku Beach Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

At the end of Tautuku Beach is the Tautuku peninsula. Near the peninsula a whaling station was once in operation from 1839 to 1846. A port was then developed when the fishing, flax and timber industries were growing in the area. However, once the industries declined the port was closed. 

On the morning I was there I had this whole beach to myself. It was quite an airy feeling to be strolling along the beach in the darkness. I hadn’t seen another person or vehicle since I left the camp site and once reaching the beach, there certainly wasn’t a shortage of location options to see the sun coming up.

Silent Observations

Exhibition 2015

Following on from my 2011 exhibition A Rugged Paradise, I was invited to hang a two months exhibition at Dunedin Airport as part of their ‘Artist in the Terminal’ programme in early 2015. The initial planning for this exhibition began in late 2012 with shooting taking place in locations around Otago during 2013 and 2014. After the two month run at the airport ended in March, 2015, the art works went on to be displayed in numerous locations around Dunedin before finding permanent homes across Otago. What follows is a rerelease of my 2015 exhibition, Silent Observations.

Exhibition Introduction:
I was 12 when I first started using my parent’s camera on family outings. I’ll never forget going to a four wheel drive rally and finding just the right spot to photograph the vehicles as they made their way through all sorts of mud puddles and then waiting excitedly for the local pharmacy to have the prints ready. Since then it’s been a constant search, looking for moments of beauty or action to capture for people to view and enjoy.  I’ll also never forget going on summer holidays to all corners of the Otago region, and some of the sights still last in the back of my mind – recalled as I revisit some locations all these years later.

The only time I’ve really put the camera down is when I embarked on my teaching career that has seen me teach primary school both here and in the United Kingdom. These days I try and balance the life of a primary school teacher with the life of a photographer

Once I was well into my teaching career a shift happened between photography growing into a passion and the desire and aspiration to be more creative. Hidden within the cracks and spaces that separate passion, desire and creativity, a transition started to happen – a transition from Photographer to Artist.

At the moment, I’m increasingly viewing the world through an arrangement of shape, colour, angle, perspective and light. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of annotating and transcribing the world around me, not as a passive bystander but as an active participant who alternates between participant and observer, exploring and experiencing new places, sights and sounds. I also find that the notion of telling a story in a single frame, making the viewer feel something and documenting through images and words is highly intriguing to me. Rather than chasing the perfect shot, I’m interested in journeys, voyages and stories.

Silent Observations

This collection of images is based on the notion of Silent Observations. These Silent Observations happen in slow brain time, where looking is more important than doing. It’s a story, a moment, a time, a place, a feeling, a state of mind and a sense that time can stand still. This is my own wee corner of the world, where I share the stories behind my images while trying to seeking out and capture the still, silent and timeless places in New Zealand’s South Island. In a way all these images are my observations and annotations, the things I’ve noticed or will try to explain by way of viewing, watching and looking. My notes aren’t taken with a pen, they’re taken with a camera as I quietly watch the world go by for a while.

My images are about the human experience; the curiosity and inquisitiveness to explore; to feel and to hear.  These are my stories, my Silent Observations of this life as I journey from place to place.

I hope you enjoy

John Caswell

There Grows The Human SpiritThere Grows The Human Spirit (2014).
White Island and Saint Clair Beach, St Clair – Dunedin.

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