Photo archive puts Christchurch community life in focus

16 April 2019

An evolving archive of Christchurch community images captures everyday life in an urban landscape for future generations. With a strong focus on human interactions, the Christchurch Documentary Project is a collaboration between Christchurch City Libraries (CCL) and the University of Canterbury’s (UC) School of Fine Arts.

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    An image from the Christchurch Documentary Project, from UC School of Fine Arts students.

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An evolving archive of Christchurch community images captures everyday life in an urban landscape for future generations. With a strong focus on human interactions, the Christchurch Documentary Project is a collaboration between Christchurch City Libraries (CCL) and the University of Canterbury’s (UC) School of Fine Arts.

Christchurch City Council Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson says CCL has initiated the project to “create a photographic record of communities across our city”.

“Greater knowledge is driven by creation,” Ms Robertson says. “In conjunction with the School of Fine Arts, the Christchurch Documentary Project has a strong curatorial focus. We are using photography in all its complexity to build a real-life legacy for future generations of Cantabrians. Just seeing an image can change your views on the past and the present.

“These images bring power to the study of everyday life in our communities.”

Woolston will be the focus of the latest work as UC photography students seek a fresh perspective for the next six months.

The project has already covered Halswell, the wider New Brighton area, Bishopdale, and the central city inside the four avenues, with third and fourth-year UC students taking up CCL internships to help create each community portrait.

Project Lead Sam Depree-Ludemann says the students’ work “is an integral part of the CCL Digital Heritage Collection, becoming an invaluable historical resource that preserves the city’s heritage for generations to come”.

A range of remarkable young photographers have all contributed to the project, including Mitchell Bright, Nicholas Glen, Ellie Waters, Janneth Gil, Rachel Pugh, Tegan Hollis-Ristow, Thomas Herman, Liam Lyons, Lucas Perelini, Elise Williams and Summer Robson. Lucinda Webber, Annabelle Johnston and Victor Wu are working on this year’s Woolston section.

Rachel Pugh recalls her time “capturing a snapshot of life in the east”.

“They were so pleased we were there and someone was paying attention,” she says.

The collection is available to view on the CCL website, with the Woolston section available from mid-November.

It will be complemented by an exhibition of a selection of photographs later this year.

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