At sixty, I felt that time and energy were depleting resources and I wanted to make one last all-or-nothing attempt to realise the dream that had started so many years ago. I got in my car and drove 10,000 kilometres across the South Island of New Zealand over a period of a year. My aim was to draw on everything I knew about photography to capture those images that I could see in my mind’s eye but which I had always failed to create. The journey became my own personal Everest.
However, what began as a journey into the land turned into a journey to a place that I had never intended to go. For most of my adult life I have suffered from depression. I’m not sure when exactly I finally admitted that my mood swings and erratic behaviour had a name called depression, but I was well into middle age. It crept up on me slowly and the process of trying to explain to those who loved me what depression felt like was both painful and frustrating.
When I came back from my journey I discovered that the photographs I had taken spoke of other things than the landscape in front of the lens. Every choice I made as I composed and focused betrayed a need I didn’t even know I had. I wanted to use the landscape to tell my story because it hurt so much not to be able to express myself in any words that might make sense to others. My camera had allowed me to speak a language I had been seeking for so long.
These photographs are about all of our common experiences of joy, sorrow, grief, anger, darkness and elation. I had spent most of my life looking to record a perfection and purity in the landscape. It has taken me till now to understand, in a very real sense, that this is just one aspect of landscape. The land is soft and harsh at the same time. The snowy mountains can sparkle like brilliant diamonds, but at their base are shadowy cold valleys. One cannot exist without the other. The photographs became a sort of metaphor that allowed me to describe my feelings about depression, and in a wider sense, to use photography as a language to describe emotions that often have no words to describe them.
I never made it to the top of my own Everest but even getting half way there was an emotional journey that taught me so much about myself and allowed me to see landscape in a way I could never have imagined.