Mitchell Bright: Cultivated


Selwyn has been changing and growing significantly - post earthquake, large parts of the region became earmarked for new development, for both residential and commercial use. Bright’s investigation centres around a juxtaposition of land use, as the area and what is was used for rapidly changed. Existing properties and homes were acquired and demolished, making way for the new. Fields disappeared and were replaced with motorway construction, and road restructures cut off land that was once in use, isolating it. Familiar landmarks and boundaries, like the edge of town, continually shifted, creating an ambiguous environment - a place in limbo.
Cultivatedexamines the complex realities of the redetermination of land use - the necessities of development, restoration, and rejuvenation conflicts with the nostalgia of a stomping ground changing, becoming less recognisable. Bright describes a sense of urgency, a need to capture the physicality of the area before it changed, and was lost.
The series also carries with it something of the Canterbury landscape tradition - Bright points out that the while the characteristic landscape and its patchwork fields, captured in works by the likes of Sutton and McCahon, were being paved over, the same colours and geological forms were appearing in the earthworks of the new developments, as tonnes of soil were shifted from place to place. These colours and forms appear in Bright’s photographs - not a direct reference, but a nod to that tradition.
Both Bright and Cultivatedare proudly supported by Place In Time: The Christchurch Documentary Project and the Ilam School of Fine Arts. Place In Time arises out of the Ilam School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury. Its purpose is to make, facilitate and promote documentary work about a city and a cross-section of its people that might contribute towards an increased knowledge, perception, appreciation and tolerance of one another and our surrounding environment.
Place in Time firmly believes in photography as an ideal means of communicating information, expressing ideas and conveying insights into the world. The project was conceived in the year 2000 as a platform to promote work produced by Ilam’s talented students and staff. Since then students within the programme have been widely exhibited and published as part of its associated activities.
Cultivatedmakes up part of Place in Time’s extensive archive. This work is typified by Bright’s dry wit, eye for tiny, telling details scattered within each frame, and a keen awareness of the nuances of Canterbury light. The images speak of human endeavour in relation – and often opposed – to natural beauty, and Bright’s simultaneous pessimism at the often wasteful and ultimately unsustainable nature of such rapid development. They document the landscape in its in-between state; a place that seems unpopulated until the workday begins and the construction crews arrive. They are both a work of love and nostalgia as well as a piece of historical documentation - capturing the landscape at a turning point.
Mitchell Bright is a Selwyn based photographer engaging with his local environment through long term documentary projects. His work focuses on the human relationship to the landscape and how it is valued and utilised.
 – Jennifer Shields, CoCA

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