‘Suddenly Wellington sort of grew up’ - 30 years of the New Zealand International Arts Festival

The Overcoat at the New Zealand International Arts Festival, 2004

The Overcoat at the New Zealand International Arts Festival, 2004

Festival Staff Portrait, 2004

One of the longest & proudest associations I've had as a photographer - and as a person, really - is my work over fifteen years with the New Zealand International Arts Festival. I moved to Wellington in 1997, working as a box office manager at the time, in part lured by the fact that the venue I'd be working at was the primary ticketing agency for the Festival, and moreover that Wellington would be the last place ever to see Robert Lepage's Seven Streams Of The River Ota in 1998. (I'd actually seen it several years earlier in Toronto - but it wasn't a finished work then, and I needed to know how it ended!)

By the time of the next festival in 2000, I was working as a lighting designer & technician, and I spent the following festival doing that as well - helping touring shows recreate their lighting setup with the gear that was available in New Zealand, running followspots on the opera (for English designer Paul Pyant, still one of the highlights of my lighting career) - but by the time 2004 came around, I was a full-time photographer, and had convinced the Festival management that they should try having a photographer working for them for a change, rather than relying on the media to send someone along when a story looked good.

That relationship flourished, with my brief growing year on year to the point where I was working 17h days for up to 24 days straight by the time of my last Festival in 2012 - and I couldn't have been happier, really. Some people run marathons, or walk the Camino de Santiago; I did festivals.

The work I was doing was a reward unto itself, watching the Festival grow over those years was hugely satisfying, and the friendships I made in the office, at the venues, and amongst the touring companies continue to sustain me, years after moving to Sydney.

So I was pleased to see so many familiar faces - and a number of my images, of course - in this 30-year retrospective of the Festival, which came out last week. Joseph, Sue, Carla and Shelagh were some of the first people I met when I arrived in 1997; and of course I worked on many of Carla's years in Wellington, and all of Lissa's tenure - including the revamped Wellington Jazz Festival in 2009.

When the Festival got in touch about this story, to see if I could locate some images for them, naturally I was more than happy to help. Sometimes finding things in my archive is just a joy - and inevitably leads to even more discoveries of images I'd long since forgotten.

So, here are a few extras that didn't make the final story - and there are many, many more here...!

Festival Programme Launch, 2006