Take time to look around your neighbourhood at the good, the bad and "the ugly" — that's the message from three photographers involved with Re:trace, a project that celebrates the heritage of Auckland suburbs through historical and contemporary photography.

Now in its third year and on for Auckland Artweek and the city's heritage festival, Re:trace focuses on Avondale, Northcote, Onehunga, the Wynyard Quarter, Manukau, Panmure and Takapuna and is backed by Panuku Development Auckland.

The urban regeneration agency is working in those areas on developments that are sometimes controversial because of the level of change brought to communities. Re:trace aims to celebrate the heritage and future of these neighbourhoods by showing the past and the present side by side in a series of photo essays displayed in various ways in each suburb.

Long-time Manukau resident Emily Mafile'o concentrated on South Aucklanders themselves, saying she wanted to capture images, mainly of people, that reflect the areas she's familiar with.

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"It meant slowing down and really looking at the communities I have lived in and, for that, I am grateful because often we are so busy we drive down a road and don't actually look at it," says Mafile'o. "This gave me an excuse to stop, to look and see how things are changing and to enjoy different aspects of these communities.

"You do forget what things look like because they keep changing all the time. This project is a nice way for a community to reflect, to connect growth and development with what has gone before and to consider the people who make up each community."

Her work is now on display at Manukau Square.

Panmure Business Association retailers prepare for the 1994 Christmas parade.
Panmure Business Association retailers prepare for the 1994 Christmas parade.

Meanwhile Benji Timu and Niko Meredith, of the No Six collective, spent their time in Panmure. Like Mafile'o, they say it was a great opportunity to take time to really look at their neighbourhood which is undergoing far-reaching change.

"In five to 10 years, many of the things we photographed just won't be there," says Meredith. "There have already been huge changes in this area and in Glen Innes, where so many houses are already gone. It's good to be reminded to stop and enjoy the place you're in."

Collective No Six worked in Panmure at night, photographing the many new ethnic businesses in the shopping strip.
Collective No Six worked in Panmure at night, photographing the many new ethnic businesses in the shopping strip.

He and Timu worked a lot at night and spent much time trying to capture one of the suburb's most iconic symbols, the Panmure roundabout and its sign. With plans to replace it with traffic lights, it's also a symbol set to disappear — or, at least, move.

No Six photos are displayed on Panmure's main street in shopfront windows.