Author(s): Mark Watson
Starting in January 2015, Watson walked from Reinga to Bluff along New Zealand’s national walkway, Te Araroa. The journey took him six months and has resulted in this remarkable, evocative book of photographs.
Few photographers ever produce photographs with life, photographs that evoke memories even in those who have never visited the place, photographs that do not stagnate when seen again but instead record a vibrancy that continues to surprise. Watson, through years of dedicated effort hauling equipment across high-alpine ridges and through flooded gorges, built a unique style and approach to his photography. This experience has culminated in a photographic tour of the Te Araroa trail. Inspiring, vibrant, yet authentic, landscapes are set off neatly with a selection of detail close-ups of the natural and human environment along the trail, for example stunning portraits of fellow through-walkers and an oddly inspiring shot of muddied boots on beech-forest leaf-litter. As a tramping photographer myself, I can appreciate Watson’s dedication to working the light across the landforms, honing his images to more than mere postcard views. It is no mean feat to walk the Te Araroa trail, let alone carry 8kg of camera equipment. This was made even more difficult by choosing to walk through summer, autumn and winter months to show the seasonal differences. Starts at 5AM would have been the norm every day, in order to fit in enough time for photography during the so-called blue and golden hours of light before and after sunrise. Not to mention the constant exposure to weather extremes, low rations and blistered feet. An already athlete-fit Watson admits that he lost 5kg over the trip from the constant exertion. This is no ordinary landscape photographer at work. Mark Watson has dedicated his life thus far to the pursuit of adventure in the New Zealand and global environment and spreads his motivation in this elegant work. Watson’s timeless and soulful landscape photographs will have you lacing the boots and poring over topo-maps before you even get the book open. This portrait of New Zealand is already a classic. - Dougal