I was on my last can of tuna. My bank account was inaccessible and I knew no one. I drew a jagged inhale and reflected on decisions. Why had I left a ‘dream job,’ loved ones & comfort for many unknowns? New Zealand, a place I forever admired for Polynesian histories, rugged lands, & ‘muck-up’ mentality turned to an ‘uh oh’ moment.
[time passed. I grew more familiar with the unforgiving winds of Welly, falling asleep to the Moreporks and waking up to the smell of hot cross buns in the Aro Bake oven.]
In little time, I was attending weekly salsa classes and ‘Tuesday Night Dinner’ parties, determined Party and Bullshit and Hapi Daze are my favourite GP beers, and found my local go-to spinach and feta quiche. It was the familiar face under the streetlight each evening and warm welcome with a Sweet Tart order at the mini mart that gave me routine and normality which has since constructed my sense of place.
If these people represent my home, my Aro, what does Aro mean to them? Do they even notice me walking past everyday? Do people like myself, a nomad create any consistency or unintentional comfort for them? It is so easy to pass these same faces on the way to work and go through the day to day motions, but do you ever wonder what their stories are, why they are there, in that very spot everyday or what Aro means to them? These have been my burning questions that I have answered through contextualised photographs and short quotes from these individuals in their ‘place’ sharing glimpses into their their lives and personal sense of home.
I was inspired by Humans of New York, one of my favourite photo projects. Just like Brandon Stanton, I started just by taking photos and somewhere along the way I began interviewing my subjects because I was still curious and wanted to know more. I have taken photos of a dozen individuals who each represent a fragment that makes Aro so diverse and vibrant.
These photographs will be displayed in an eclectic array of large frames, representing what Aro is all about: eclectic, community focused, vibrant, warm, colourful, a melting pot, passionate, historical, a hub, and a self-sustaining ecosystem. Surrounding the featured photos will be smaller prints including but not limited to historical Aro houses, the Epuni St Van, Lola the Aro cat, etc, all which provide context and paint the environment. The exhibit will be set up sequentially as if you are walking through Aro Valley from Willis Street into the depths of the Valley.