Existence seen through lens

Ross Nolly
Ross Nolly

Fresh from showing his work in Australia, photographer Ross Nolly is now looking forward to taking his work in a new direction.

The Stratford man was invited to the Burn 2 exhibition in Sydney last month, to show a photograph from his project, Teen Pregnancy Story.

He was the only New Zealander in attendance at the exhibition, curated by Diego Orlando and Burn online magazine creator and Magnum photographer, David Alan Harvey.

Nolly said it was an honour to be invited by Harvey, who mentored his project, as well as being surrounded by so many great photographers.

''James Nachtwey, the world's premier conflict photographer had some of his prints there, so to see your work alongside his is pretty humbling at the best of times.''

In 2008, Nolly spent three weeks in Timor-Leste, where he documented the lives of adults and children living within an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in Dili.

The freelance photographer said while he might venture back to Timor at some stage, his whole outlook on photography had changed since then.

''To be honest, I won't travel overseas to do a story now unless there's a potential outcome for it.
''For the money it costs you to go there, unless you can really make a difference, you may as well go and put it into an orphanage.''

Nolly says his new philosophy is to shoot local stories and discover the essence behind things that are extremely ordinary.

His latest project has seen him spend a year on good friends, John Earney and Ruth Healey's, Avonstour Rare Breed Farm in Stratford.
''That started out as a documentation on their life, and it's expanded into a documentation of their attachment to the land.''

Nolly says the mantra of his recent work is to make people think, and have them feel the image rather than just see it. Some of his photos off the farm certainly do that. One image shows a sheep which has had its throat cut after being shot first, however Nolly says he is not trying to use gore as a clutch.

''That's a bit of a ying and yang one. It's beautifully lit, the sheep's got a very nice catch light in its eye, and you think that's quite a nice portrait of a sheep and you like it. ''But then you see the blood and think you shouldn't like it - it messes with your head.''

Breaking stereotypes is also a feature of Nolly's new direction.
''I'm starting a project on average, everyday families living in rough parts of different towns and cities.'' What he refers to as the ''South Auckland syndrome'' is the basis behind the project.

''Ninety nine per cent of the people there are there because it's a cheap place to live, they're trying to get ahead and trying to put food on the table. I want to go in there not to show poverty, but to show strength.''
Nolly says another of his pipeline projects is so mundane people will wonder what the heck he is doing.

''It's an essay on commercial cleaners. The staff who go out at 8pm at night and get back at 6am. People who get told oh you're just a cleaner, you're just a cleaner.''

Nolly believes there's a real story in there, which will follow the comings and goings of cleaning families, and second language immigrants who do the sorts of jobs people look down their noses at.

''I want to show the strength of what people do rather than show them saying 'oh look, poor me, poor me','' he says.

The former butcher is working towards being able to hold a gallery exhibition of his work and says he has clear goal which he is trying to achieve with his contemporary intentions.

''I just want to produce work that I'm proud of, which actually shows or has an emotional impact on what a situation feels like.

''All you can do is trust your own judgement and hope that other people see it as well,'' he says.

Taranaki Daily News