Cleared topsoil at a retirement village construction, Wigram, 2016. Photograph by Mitchell Bright.

Changes in land use in the Selwyn district on the Canterbury plains is the fascinating subject of Transitional Landscapes by photographer Mitchell Bright.

He explains, “I started documenting the outskirts of my hometown, Lincoln, as I witnessed its rapid changes firsthand. After the Christchurch earthquakes, land was at a premium and the Land Use Recovery Plan was formed to direct the use and development of greenfield land. A lot of this development was in the Selwyn district. This coincided with construction of the Christchurch Southern Motorway Stage 2.”

Gallop Lane development stuck in a legal battle, Yaldhurst, 2017.

Initially, the plans and maps available of the proposed developments guided his research.

“I wanted to capture these places before the sod was turned but markers and signs of construction were already scattered across the landscape. A lot of these places had been acquired from the previous landowners, homes stood vacant and land was dormant as they waited for what was to come. Other spaces sat somewhere between the future and their past, not quite one thing or another.”

Earthworks, Flemington residential development, Lincoln, 2017.

He began documenting these transitions during his MFA at the Ilam School of Fine Arts. Bright will talking about his book at Wellington’s Photobook/NZ event on March 8 at Massey University in Wellington. Photobook/NZ opens on March 6; all events are free and open to the public.

In the meantime, Bright’s work is available on his website.

“As a photographer, I tend to point my camera at the familiar. Projects come from everyday life and I use my camera to explore and question what I see. Growing up in Selwyn and spending a lot of my childhood on the West Coast of the South Island, I was often surrounded by green space. Manipulated landscapes have been a central theme throughout almost all of my work,” he says.

Christchurch Southern Motorway stage 2 overbridge construction, Selwyn, 2017.

The Photobook/NZ event is New Zealand’s national biennial photobook festival. It features leading international and New Zealand photographers and specialist publishers talking about the art of photobooks. There’s a bookfair where the work can be seen and purchased, a Chinese and Taiwanese photobook exhibition, the announcement of the Australia and New Zealand Photobook Awards and a Masterclass in photobook making.

Mary Macpherson is a Wellington photographer and poet. She is a member of the PhotobookNZ committee and Reviews Editor of the PhotoForum website. Her poetry collection Social Media' (The Cuba Press) was...

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