Black and White – A Photo Essay by Graeme Russell

We first noticed Graeme Russell’s photography on Instagram, his striking black and white street imagery bringing to mind the observations of a flaneur, distanced yet right in the heart of the city. Street art has been a recurring subject of his photographs, often exploring close up details, re-framing larger works as disconnected and intriguing snippets. When we asked Graeme if he was interested in putting together a survey of his images as a photo essay, he revealed he was about to move to Oamaru. It therefore made this piece a fitting farewell to a city that the photographer has come to adore for the creativity on its streets…

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As a recent newcomer to Christchurch (I guess three years makes me a newcomer?), one of the things that I absolutely adore is the vast array of street art around town, it brings the city to life and adds a new perspective to the city. Those behind the art deserve a huge pat on the back. Almost daily I pop out with my camera to capture what is going on in town, what is new on the walls and, of course, on the lampposts.

Seeing something new around town brightens my day and gives me inspiration to shoot. Watching the looks on people’s faces when I’m taking pictures is interesting – they vary from smiles to a look of disgust, people commenting that I am encouraging graffiti.

For those not familiar with the Christchurch street art scene, it’s awesome. It brings the city to life, and every piece around town has a story to tell. So, if you’re in Christchurch or visiting from out of town (or when travel restrictions ease, from offshore), put on a good pair of walking shoes, wander around and take in the work of street artists. It is certainly worth your time!

People often comment about my photos on Instagram, saying that the content is great, and how they wish they had something similar in their town. I truly believe we need to get out there and encourage local artists to get to it and start producing art to liven up the streets of towns around the country.

So, what images have I taken that I want to share with this post? Yikes, I guess sharing 12,000 images isn’t possible, so here’s a small sample for your viewing pleasure…

P.S – Since being asked to contribute to this blog, I have moved to Oamaru, so I guess this is both a welcome and a farewell post. Thank you for the opportunity and an even bigger thank you to all the street artists who have enriched my viewing pleasure around Christchurch.

Follow Graeme on Instagram and keep an eye out for more photo essays!

If you would like to contribute a photo essay, drop us a message on social media or email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz 

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The Diaries of the Mundane – A Photo Essay by Sofiya Romanenko

I first came across Sofiya Romanenko’s photography at the exhibition More – The Show, a group show of local female artists held at the Boxed Quarter. I was immediately struck by her recognition of the beauty found in the urban mundane; a bundle of stacked shopping trolleys forming a striking geometric huddle with horizontal and vertical lines transforming the everyday and overlooked into an object of interest. Having moved to Ōtautahi Christchurch from Moscow, Russia, Sofiya’s photographs are not simply a record of a universal urbanity, but a process of coming to know one’s surroundings, grappling with the unknown and jarring elements of a city that is constantly shifting as it sets about re-asserting its identity. The Diaries of the Mundane display an undefined poignancy, still moments of reflective observation, we stand on the threshold, looking in and yet a step away…  


The Diaries of the Mundane

I moved to Christchurch from Moscow, Russia almost five years ago, but until very recently our relationship could be described with a very specific image of a curtsy nod, accompanied by an awkward tight-lipped smile that strangers here give each other upon accidentally locking eyes in a public setting. Not that I knew Moscow any better, but that’s simply because I was acquainted with it just enough to not want to delve any deeper. Christchurch though – it has proved a whole other story.

It’s taken me a while to “get it”. To embrace the unsightly, the uncomfortable, the ugly. To recognize the potential behind each broken window, rusty fence, deformed road cone. To take in the rugged textures, clashing colours, confronting details. To finally start relating to it all. It happened at a time of great uncertainty in my life, when lone walks through dingy alleyways and railway tracks became a mental escape from the dreaded shadow of the future, side-eyeing me from each corner and gnashing its teeth in anticipation of swallowing me whole. It was around the same time I started revisiting my old hobbies, trying to reconnect with the “self” I had seemingly lost somewhere along the way of springing into adulthood, and a long-forgotten but quickly remembered skill in film photography came about as the perfect accompaniment to my wandering antics.

Christchurch and I still have a long way to go – for instance, I can’t learn its layout to save my life. But we get closer each time I capture yet another beautifully mundane part of its day-to-day as an ongoing diary of the city’s ever-changing nature. Eventually, all of what I photograph will disappear; replaced by shiny new malls, painted over for the sake of uniformity, gentrified to appease the upper class – all of it will be wiped out without a shred of doubt, the eyesores finally gone. But it will forever remain on film as a comforting reminder that nothing is ever truly gone as long as you’ve got some lonesome lunatics running around with old school cameras taking photos of literal trash.

To see more of Sofiya’s photography, follow her on Instagram: @chchasti

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