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Suzanne McFadden takes a look through a new book depicting a slice of New Zealand life over the 21st century's first decade - through the eyes of the Herald's photographers.

New Zealand Herald

photographer Mark Mitchell was faced with a choice in 2003 - but it was a no-brainer.

"I had to decide whether to go to the Rugby World Cup final in Australia or to Antarctica. It wasn't really a choice - you rarely get a chance to go to an amazing place where you wouldn't be surprised if a dinosaur suddenly stomped around the corner." And he wasn't talking about Sydney's Telstra Stadium.

One of the most haunting images Mitchell shot from that southern assignment - deep inside a crevasse on the glaciated flanks of Mt Erebus - is brought back to life in New Zealand New Millenium, a collection of images captured by Herald photographers over the last decade.

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Mitchell, the Herald's photographer based in Wellington and 2011 New Zealand Photographer of the Year, says the first era of the new millennium has been an influential one in the country's news history. "The last three or four years in particular have been huge - maybe the biggest in the three decades I've been a news photographer."

The photographs in the book - plucked from the Herald's digital archive of more than 1.5 million images - illustrate the highs and lows of the decade, from the fireworks over Auckland's cityscape at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000 through to the catastrophic underground explosions at the Pike River coal mine in November last year.

Mitchell recalls the thrill of capturing Sarah Ulmer grab gold at the 2004 Olympics, walking through the ruins of the September 4, 2010 Christchurch earthquake, and shedding tears when the body of 6-year-old Coral Burrows was found by a Wairarapa lake in 2003.

"Without a doubt, we are privileged to do this job. Although we sometimes feel we are infiltrating people's grief and misadventure, we remind ourselves we are the eyes of the wider community."

New Zealand New Millennium (Penguin $50) is out now.