Oamaru-born – and proud of it


I’m sure we can all remember those few moments that really do shape our lives.
Setting aside the usual but important recollections of marriage, children and your first brush with death, one of my most defining moments was in 1982, when I walked through the door of the Oamaru Mail in Coquet St to start a new career as a staff photographer.
It has become a rewarding career that has taken me around the world many times, covering events with my cameras for newspapers and magazines.
Now, 35 years later, I felt the same amount of trepidation when again I crossed the welcome mat at the new, much smaller Oamaru Mail office to start another chapter of my life, this time as a trainee journalist.
My core skill _ that of a newspaper and magazine photographer _ has gone the way of film. Now we are referred to as “visual multimedia journalists”, and I needed to upskill to keep employed.
But 35 years is a long time to be away from your hometown. And yes, things have changed, not that you would instantly know it.
Thames St still has the parking between the trees where I used to while away the time on Friday and Saturday nights with Ken Smith, James Robertson and others during our misspent youth surrounded by motorcycles and Mk 1 Zephyrs.
The Victorian precinct and steampunk have completely changed an area (for the better) that we used to avoid due to its very iffy nature.
Gone, too, is the old smelly fuel depot by the harbour, and in its place is a welcome new family-oriented recreation area.
St Kevin’s College has subtly changed _ a few buildings have gone, causing me to question my memory from all those years ago _ but I hear the interschool spirit is still very strong, especially during the annual first XV matches against Waitaki Boys’.
Two of the biggest changes are the hospital relocation down to Severn St, and all the development out past Weston between Ardgowan and Reservoir Rds.

Photography remains my first passion, and it has served me well over the past 35 years.
After years of working for national daily newspapers in several countries, where you are just one of a team of newsgatherers rostered on to cover an event, I can proudly affirm that the Oamaru Mail was a great place to develop the skills needed to succeed in the very competitive global media world.
I am sure now that the widely diverse range of unique photo experiences I faced while working for the paper prepared me well for a lifetime of racing around the world with my cameras.
The daily demands of filling pages with interesting photos as demanded by David Bruce stretched my creative abilities and helped develop confidence skills that have allowed me to interact on a personal level with many famous and infamous people over the years.
And then along came digital. About 20 years ago, I was at the forefront of the transition to digital news photography here in New Zealand and in several other countries.
Digital photography later allowed me to realise a long-held dream of starting my own niche magazine, eventually building it up to become one of the biggest in Asia.
Over the next nine years, I often called upon skills I had learned at the Oamaru Mail when I was working closely with all the major camera manufacturers, creating unique workshops and presentation programmes for them.
Highlights of my long career behind the lens include covering the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics thanks to the late Graham Condon, racing around the world twice with the Amazing Race Asia crew as their stills photographer, training to become a TV cameraman and setting up a news channel, meeting
many famous people, attending many great sporting events and recording all those moments forever to share with others.
Then there is the lure of the chase: all media revel in it, the thrill of chasing a news story, of capturing the moment of action, of immortalising it forever in time and then opening up a publication and seeing it there in print for the first time.
The Oamaru Mail instilled in me this infectious desire to seek out news, to find interesting people and situations and record them with a camera.
Now I look forward to a new direction for my media career, one where I’m doing both jobs – shooting and writing.
And here I am: back in Oamaru, a town that I vowed never to come back to when I first left as a stroppy 17-year-old in 1978 but came back just four years later to start a new career, one I am extremely thankful for.
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