Tessa Chrisp is a commercial, award-winning photographer noted for her travel and editorial work for New Zealand magazines. She has been a part of Piha's diverse community for 20 years. "The lockdown portraits gave me a sense of how other women were coping in my community. Amidst so much uncertainty, I want to celebrate humanity and some of the amazing Piha women I have met." Here, her latest project, Women Out West builds on a visual narrative of their lockdown experience.
"The lockdown portraits gave me a sense of how other women were coping in my community. Amidst so much uncertainty, I want to celebrate humanity and some amazing women I have met."
Cindy Baxter moved to Piha 10 years ago. She soon discovered there was a massive move to mine black sand off the Taranaki seabed. And if this got the green light it could ultimately lead to seabed mining off Piha Beach. "'Not on my watch, I said, and of course I got so involved I ended up chairing Kiwis Against Seabed Mining". During lockdown, KASM had good news when the Court Of Appeal quashed Trans-Tasman Resources' mining consent. Baxter says the best cure for her loneliness during lockdown was walking her dog Pearl.
Melanie Reid is an award-winning tenacious investigative journalist. When Covid-19 lockdown hit, every time Chrisp saw Reid out walking she was constantly on the phone, juggling her team covering stories from the regions and the Pacific. Reid was photographed overlooking her view, with gumbooted feet planted firmly on the ground, For her, "being a journalist never stops". While she is home she often sets herself up for work outside, glass of wine in hand. however, lately she has not had a chance to absorb that view.
Fiona Anderson, Piha's campground manager and first responder, with a Queen's Service Medal, found Piha by accident 24 years ago: "I immediately fell in love with the unspoiled
beauty and wairua of the place." As lockdown approached "the telephone went beserk" so
Camp Mother Anderson opened the gates to 71 stranded tourists. "We made a rule that
they came in and stayed until they got their flights. No wandering about the country willynilly on the pretence of going to the supermarket." She did all their grocery shopping,
involving seven-hour journeys with 42 different lists and metres-long receipts. Anderson is photographed with her dog, Mantaray, whom she says "is such a beautiful soul, and a
soothing presence in my life."
Tracey Tawhiao is connected to an ancient Pohūtukawa tree at her home on Garden
Road. She stands holding her painted, mirrored moon under the gaze of a light patu.
She calls this her supernatural narrative. "Once this road was called Māori Garden
Road and I love it here.
"A lifetime is a special and sacred experience. Lockdown is a realigning, by simplifying
and essentialising. A shift that made us slow down. In these extreme times we can
change everything just by slowing down. We are living in a garden of experience and
discovery. It's good to remember that it is a work of art to be here at all."
Antje is a DIY warrior. She was a pattern-maker for some of our best in New Zealand
fashion and now works in film as a textile technician. Never idle, in lockdown she spent
hours making windows: sanding, scraping, painting, using all the material gathered over the years to complete an old, unfinished project.
"This enforced break from my usual extremely busy working rhythm has brought a loss of
fear of pausing in order to hang on to the things I have created. A slower pace, the total lack of commerce but instead making do, mending and fixing, weeks of not leaving our patch of bush, where a wallet and car keys became completely redundant. The tool shed contents.
With a psychology background, Maureen Buchan worked as a mental health professional
for 20 years. She decided to simplify her life and left to become a postie. She is also a life
balance therapist and teaches taijiquan.
As an essential worker during lockdown, Buchan found people regularly approached
hoping to take the mail straight from her. "They were in a different gear, a different
mindset. I was working, where I need to be focused and maintain my distance."
Chrisp photographed Maureen in her postie uniform, swarmed by people out
walking, running, on bikes, while she is still, maintaining balance in her Taoist principles.
Tegan Molony felt split during the lockdown in her job as an international humanitarian
aid worker. "Shortly after the announcement, the northern islands of Vanuatu were hit by Category 5 Cyclone Harold, which devastated everything. I was asked to take on my job remotely." While her partner John managed home-schooling their kids, she was a country away, buried at her computer in the next room. "As I'm taking conference calls I hear laughter, discussion about science experiments and recitation of times tables. I pop in, wanting to be in their gang, however, I can never totally engage; not getting in-jokes and already thinking about the next funding proposal."