Fiona Pardington on sacred ground
Presenter (Lynn Freeman): Photographer, Fiona Pardington, has just returned to civilisation after six weeks living and working in Central Otago bush. She was selected by Creative New Zealand for one of its Wild Creations artist's residencies and she knew exactly where she wanted to go.Presenter (Lynn Freeman): Photographer, Fiona Pardington, has just returned to civilisation after six weeks living and working in Central Otago bush. She was selected by Creative New Zealand for one of its Wild Creations artist's residencies and she knew exactly where she wanted to go.Fiona Pardington (Photographer): I wanted a wilderness close to my heart and previous work that I had done had been centred around concerns in the South Island through my father's family who are Ngai Tahu, looking at pounamu, carved into hei tiki.
Presenter: So where did you go in the end?
Pardington: Well, I was in kingston which is at kind of the heel of Lake Wakatipu on the southern - like the very southern part of it, and a little community there. It's just because Doc had a wee hut there, but I drove up to the Routeburn Track which was a good hour away, up past Glenorchy, and I was looked after by some really nice DOC officers up there that kind of tramped me in to the beginning of the Routeburn and made me aware of you know, the different streams which are the sources for the pounamu which I was looking at, which was inanga, the very pale green greenstone. I found actually a boulder as big as a car. That was pretty exciting.
Presenter: Good lord. Don't tell anyone where it is though because you know there's been a problem with theft there.
Pardington: I know. All those issues were kind of swirling around in the newspapers while I was there which made it kind of more thoughtful and more pertinent for me as a subject.
Presenter: I know one of the things you were looking forward to before you went was walking up a mountain to photograph a sacred site?
Pardington: Well no, what happened in the end was, I'd been involved for about a year making contact and I've been to hui concerning that site, but in the end the kaitiaki decided that it wasn't a good idea for me to go up there, so I was given a second site which - on the Routeburn. I was given a really beautiful stream to go to and that was in itself was absolutely enough. That really was a really - a very eye opening and very - and it sounds so cheesy but it was a very inspiring and very touching experience that I had up there so you know, I'm grateful for that.
Presenter: You weren't going to be taking I know, any landscapes there. You work in detail, that's what you do. So how interesting was that for you, being in such a vast space but focusing on the small, the detail?
Pardington: Photography for - so much of what a photographer does is really about what you can't see. When you photograph in an area where nobody - like I was photographing up a stream and it looked very much like the Otira Gorge paintings because they're very historical, quite beautiful, very - a lot of cliche but you know what I mean. We all know what it looks like to look up a stream or a beautiful river -
Pardington: In New Zealand so I was kind of dealing with that. Something that everybody knows but at the same time nobody knows because it has such a - it's a very precise and very intimate space so I was able to kind of get a little bit further out on those details that I'm normally making and at the same time, even though the vision changed and there's more in the photograph, the context is also changing so you can't actually tell how big the place is that I'm at. So even the photograph, it's kind of like it could be bigger, it could be little. You just can't tell when you look at it. You can't tell how big it really is. I'm saying oh well, one of the things that I've - well, you know, the pictures that I took was of this river with this huge boulder as big as a car in it, but when you look at it you can't really tell if it's big or small. So I suppose in a way it kind of addressed some of the interests that I have but it was in a way that I hadn't really anticipated.
Presenter: I wonder too - I mean a lot of the artists have gone on these Wild Creations, have been there particularly for the animals for some reason, and animals - I think you've photographed them before but they're not your main focus.
Pardington: They're mostly dead too. I've mostly photographed stuffed ones.
Presenter: That's right, so when you're out there in the wilderness and you see a - I don't know, a tui or something to your left, I mean were you tempted to swing round and photograph it or were you very focused on what you were there for which was the pounamu?
Pardington: Well, I was absolutely aware of the birds the whole time and it was really difficult because I've got a really large format camera and you can't just kind of swing it around and take a photograph, and it was very frustrating because I'd be waking up to the sound of beautiful bellbirds and I saw robins and everywhere in the South Island are the harrier hawks, kahu. It just blew me away. I was trying to work out - everywhere I was going there's these beautiful hawks just coming down onto the road and eating possums and flying off again and I was very frustrated but that's just what happens. You just can't have everything. I am - I have been - most recently before I went on the residency, I was photographing at Te Papa extinct New Zealand birds and I think that's just strengthened my interest in looking back into those - well, taonga, those beautiful birds that have just kind of like now moved beyond the veil. I mean it wasn't very long ago that they died, most of them, like within the century.
Presenter: Photographer Fiona Pardington. Creative New Zealand's Wild Creations scheme is open until August 31st for applications from artists interested in going bush, and Fiona says she can't recommend it highly enough.