Adaptation is an ongoing project documenting the sometimes surreal and often disorientating environment that is Christchurch’s post-earthquake central business district. It is a follow on from Tim Veling’s project Orientation, a walking guide to the edges of the central city red zone cordon, which was erected immediately after the February 2011 earthquake.
After Orientation, Veling continued photographing as the cordon slowly contracted and demolition and make-safe work was completed, revealing something of an alien city landscape. Seeing once familiar buildings, streets and landmarks suddenly reduced to rubble was a strange experience for all Cantabrians, to say the least. While one might assume, as Veling initially did, that this would make for good photographs, it was hard to avoid picturing obvious signs of trauma; the last thing he wanted to be accused of being was a sensationalist–the mass-media machine was doing a good job of filling that void without his participation. Veling says that at the time he was overcome with grief for the loss of places he used to inhabit, and struggled to try and communicate something closely echoing his state of mind in the wake of disaster. As the cordons slowly contracted, the intensity of his grief magnified and after a while he says he couldn’t help but feel he was photographing a decomposing corpse. To preserve his own sanity, he stopped photographing in the city centre altogether in late 2013 and removed the photographs from his digital image archive and website.
In 2017 Veling’s interest in photographing the city was rekindled. This newfound desire was a result of witnessing his good friend and colleague, Haruhiko Sameshima undertake a three-week artist residency at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. On a loose commission to photograph the city rebuild for a book soon to be published by Canterbury University Press (Things Change, edited by Barbara Garrie and Rosie Ibbotson,) Veling carried his tripod and fetched him coffee while Sameshima stood patiently with his 8x10” camera, waiting for the light. Listening to Sameshima’s thoughts on what he was seeing and looking at the resultant photographs, Veling found himself excited for the first time about what Christchurch’s city centre is fast becoming.
The photographs in this portfolio are sequenced in loose chronological order.