"Everyone loves Paekākāriki", is the conclusion professional photographer Bob Zuur has come to after creating his latest photographic exhibition.

When work ground to a halt, lockdown hit, and taking pictures of letterboxes in Paekākāriki didn't cut it, Bob decided to start a project.

The Bubbles of Paekakariki: Portrait of a village in lockdown, was born.

"As a professional photographer my work had dried up and I wanted to do a positive photo every day, so I thought it would be great to get photos of people in the village," Bob said.


Wanting to gauge interest, Bob put a message on the Paekākāriki community Facebook page.

Photographer Bob Zuur.
Photographer Bob Zuur.

"There was a lot of interest online, then word of mouth took it further and it started to run away - crikey, the response was great."

Ending up with 55 families, after originally hoping he would get 20, Bob had to start scheduling people in.

Working with high fences and long lenses, capturing what lockdown looked like for bubbles of different sizes with limited time and without being able to get close, Bob's skills as a photographer have captured the heart of each bubble.

"It's not a statistical sample of the village as most people got in touch through Facebook, but if you have a look there are a wide selection of families."

Couples, blended families, people living with their landlords, multigenerational whanau and people who only had animals for company.

"Often when you try to organise a family portrait it can be really difficult with people working and kids everywhere, so lots of people cottoned on to that as everyone was at home.

"I enjoyed the challenge of taking the photos under those conditions because it was a new challenge, you had to take them quickly.

A musical bubble in Paekākāriki. From left: Danni, Bonnie, Lola, Pete and Lance. Photo / Bob Zuur
A musical bubble in Paekākāriki. From left: Danni, Bonnie, Lola, Pete and Lance. Photo / Bob Zuur

"There's an element of trust you have to establish as a photographer which normally takes time, but with this it was a case of turning up and getting the photo within five minutes.

"I then often ended up with a longer conversation on how lockdown was and the challenges they had faced and that sort of thing."

With animals being a major part of many bubbles, getting the family dog to pay attention was helped by an app Bob used that makes a cat meowing sound to make the dogs look up and pay attention.

Another important part of the project was the story behind the photos which he got each bubble to briefly share and will go alongside the photos at the exhibition.

"I've been a photographer for a long time, starting back in high school when I was the photographer for the school newspaper."

Working as a biologist and doing a lot of study in Antarctica, Bob found it handy having a camera with him when exploring different places.

He also found photographs were a good way of connecting with people from different countries.

"Talking means nothing when you speak in a different language, so using photos made all the difference.

"The words add a lot of context to the photos.

"Some people were creative with their words, someone even did a haiku poem.

"There were tensions and challenges in each bubble but what sold the project was that everyone loves Paekākāriki.

"Lockdown was hard but what everyone said is, 'if we are going to be stuck anywhere in lockdown, best be in New Zealand, you can't beat Paekākāriki'."

The exhibition will be on display in Paekākāriki this weekend at St Peter's Hall from 10am-4pm and will also be shown at Mahara Gallery from September 5.

The exhibition has been supported by the Paekākāriki Community Board and Epson who helped with the cost of paper and ink to print the photos.

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