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Capturing everyday people

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 07:43 19/06/2012

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Photographer Julian Ward found it easy to wander in and out of people's lives back in the 70s.

The Wellington man said it's not as easy to do these days, and is glad he got the opportunity to capture that period through his lens while living in New Plymouth.

His exhibition Gala Days is now open at Puke Ariki, and portrays not only the true "gala days" of photography, but also the events themselves that he used to attend.

He said being a photographer in the 70s was wonderful - he could wander into the Waitara Freezing Works and take photos, shoot a tangi with a nod of approval, and be offered a cuppa from teachers while photographing children.

"These days people are far more hung up with privacy and sneakiness," he said.

"For the most part, people are good people, and we are just interested in ways of life. There's so much stranger danger these days," he said.

Over the past 40 years, Ward said the innocence of society had suffered the biggest change.

"People used to be friendly, rather than suspicious," he said.

Ward moved to New Plymouth in 1970 to work as a draughtsman in Bell Block.

"It soon became a boring job so I started taking photos of the environments around me. It was all very colonial, very quirky and rustic.

"I was fascinated by New Plymouth, Taranaki and Bell Block."

Ward said the 50 exhibition photos were mainly set in New Plymouth, but also featured places and people attending events from Hawera to Whangamomona.

"I curated the exhibition around events, but New Plymouth was also a town of surfies and rugby. There were also a lot of new buildings being built.

"It's really like I was a witness to change and New Plymouth was one of those cities experiencing it during that period."

Initially, he thought he might want to be a photojournalist, but discovered his street photography became more about human landscapes, in the style of French Magnum photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, than news.

"I've always been interested in the Magnum style of photography and right from the very beginning I stuck with it. Forty years, later the museums are interested," he laughed.

Ward said, looking back, he couldn't think of a better place to have spent his street photography apprenticeship.

"People would take off to faraway countries to shoot a famine or something, but they wouldn't photograph their own back yard."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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