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…
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 email@example.com
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To recap September we caught up with Cape of Storms, our favourite street collage paster-upperer! You will know Cape’s paste-ups, even if you don’t realise it, they utilise vintage cooking books, kitsch knitting images and more retro finds to create whimsical juxtapositions that are at once funny and mysterious, adding that sense of wondrous inquisition as they appear across the city, revealing the absurdity of life. As I suspect it was for many of us, Cape of Storms’ September was hectic, catching up on a life that was put on pause… So, what was keeping Cape of Storms busy? Read on and find out…
September was a blur. My recollection of how the month passed by is somehow not linear. I remember key events, like feeding my best friend’s new baby girl for the first time, dressing up and going out for a special meal with my partner at Soul Quarter just after we passed into level 2. Going back to the gym, the stress and irritation around how and when to mask up. But most of all, I remember the build-up and anticipation, coordination, ultimate execution of of MOVING HOUSE.
Moving house is awful. It confronts you with all your life decisions and lifestyle choices and forces you to judge yourself as you pack up your life, box by box (well, at least for me anyway!).
I arrived in New Zealand just under three years ago with two suitcases full of clothes, a racing heart and a head full of dreams for my new future. For the first few weeks I muddled by sleeping on the floor on a blow-up mattress, eating at a rusty camping table and managing the delicate balance of ice-to-water ratio in a chilly bin.
Slowly and steadily I started to accumulate stuff. Four months after relocating from Cape Town, four modest boxes arrived by sea, filled with precious kitchen and household items from my previous home.
Fast-forward to September 2021 and van- load upon van-load of stuff needs to be ferried from the old house to the new house, multiple trips to Ecodrop required, $850 raised in Facebook marketplace sales and days and days of sorting, cleaning and reorganising.
And what did I learn about myself during this process? Well, a quite a few important things actually.
Friends, and friends who have become like family are my “home” in this new country. The physical objects I own only carry meaning for me if they are linked to how I can interact with the important people in my life, or bring me comfort and act as reminders of special memories shared with the people who are no longer physically present due to distance and time zones.Being a bit of a clutter-bug, I was amazed at how easily I was able to get rid of things that did not meet these requirements, and how important the objects that remind me of my home country and family actually are.
My home environment has become very important to me. This space has become my nest, my anchor which I can categorically call “my own”. Where I can express my personality and recharge. Taking the time to curate my space a bit better and only surround myself with things I truly need has been wonderful. Also, realising that my space is now shared with my partner makes this even more special as we create a life together.
When my life was in limbo for a few weeks, I really craved my routine and the activities that mean the most to me, the things that create balance in my day. For me, that was “studio”/workspace area back in order. This move has been really great as I have now seriously upgraded my work space and I really look forward to a lot of productive time being creative on a day-to-day basis, as I’m trying to incorporate making/creating into my daily routine. Another big one was realising how important regularly connecting with my fellow artist friends at weekly Slapcity meetups are to me. Slapcity is a group (I won’t use the dreaded word “collective”) of like-minded artist friends with a passion for street art. Some artists focus on sticker making, some on paper paste-ups, some on graffiti writing, some on drawing – but honestly any medium is welcomed. We get together every Wednesday evening to chat and do a little bit of work on whatever we feel like really, usually with a beer or cold beverage in hand.
So September was for the most part spent preoccupied with the move, but by no means all that I got up to…
Danny Knight-Baréat PB & JAM
Something that’s been preoccupying me throughout September is Slapcity member Danny Knight-Baré’s stunningly intricate multi-layered screen-printed pieces I saw at the PB & Jam show in mid-August. At first glance you would mistake the abstract colour-blocked pieces for digital prints, but once you realise that each line and dot have actually been screen-printed onto the surface, sometimes in up to 23 layers you truly realise their genius. I could stare at those textures and colours for hours. PB & Jam was an awesome group art and music show put together by the gorgeous Lydia Thomas (another Slapcity member!).
Level 3 saw us getting together via Zoom calls, but a return to Level 2 meant face to face meet-ups again! The pleasant sound of scissors snipping, vinyl cutting, the heavy smell of marker pen ink hanging in the air, good tunes playing in the background and our inane and random chatter is the definition of my happy place. It’s a totally relaxed and free environment, and I just feel so recharged and energised after every session. We alternate between the workspace at Fiksate Gallery and a few other locations around Christchurch central. New members are always welcome. Check out the Insta page for more info.
Mine and my partner’s favourite brunch spot on St Asaph Street in the central city. Excellent coffee and yummy fresh food (especially in the cabinet), all in all a beautifully decorated hanging plant-filled space. The hanging plant jungle that covers the entire ceiling of the café has Millenials and Gen Zs frothing at the mouth, but looking beyond this #hashtag nirvana, the food, coffee and service is really amazing. Our favourites are the Eggs Benedict, the Salad bowl with halloumi and the Florentines from the cabinet.
Aussie art rock and my trusty Blundies
I’ve had Twilight Driving by Methyl Ethel on repeat on a daily basis. I just can’t get enough of Jake Well’s gender-bendingly unique voice and the haunting lyrics. I’ve been listening to a lot of Holy Holy as well. Coupled with the fact that I have been wearing my beloved brown Blundstone boots so much that I’ve had to introduce “rest days” for them is making me question my loyalty to this Antipodean island in favour of the other, larger, hotter one. But then I think of those poor sods in Melbourne and happily return to sipping my flat white and dunking my ginger slice. Also, Blundstones are actually made in Vietnam now…
Trawling op shops for old textiles. Saturday morning hours lost inside the labyrinth of Creative Junk. Clandestine printing missions at my office photocopier. Gluing things to other things. Figuring out how to paint and paste onto old biscuit tins and suit cases. All in preparation for Even More The Show, opening Thursday, 14th October (and running through the 15th and 16th) at Club House Creative on Southwark Street. Even More The Show is yet another group show organised by the charming Irish creative dynamo Lydia Thomas. I was so stoked to be invited to take part, and it is made all the more special by the fact that proceeds made from the show will go to Youthline. Quite a few of my local female artist friends will also be taking part, its going to be a hell of a lot of fun!