This project was born out of observing rapid change in the place I was born and have grown up in, and a sense of urgency to try and capture what was and is fast being lost.
Selwyn is one of the fastest growing districts in the country in both commercial and residential development. Much of the this development was planned and initiated after the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. Government and council agencies established the Land Use Recovery Plan in 2013 to free up land for development. With the construction of The Christchurch Southern Motorway stage 2 commencing in 2016, the physicality of the area began to change significantly. While photographing, I became most drawn to the strange in-between nature of the place as it changed and land use and engagement with the area shifted.
City Art Catalogue Text
The motorway will have two lanes in each direction, separated by a central median with a wire rope safety barrier. There will be no direct access from private properties onto the motorway. Landscaping for the project is designed to complement the existing environment… while acknowledging the generally rural environment of CSM2. The project has a gently curving alignment open to views of the Southern Alps and Port Hills.
– NZ Transport Agency, ‘Christchurch Southern Motorway stage 2’
Raw earth is lifted and broken in accordance with plans to improve efficiency – a well-oiled mechanism. Yet the bitumen of commuter roads hardly registers in Transitional Landscapes.
The photographs of this exhibition exist between expressive fine art photography and documentary photography. Visual signifiers of change locate the images within glimpses of the land’s history and future. The skeleton of a building is erected amid a barren field, white rods hold up newly installed trees. How will these spaces grow? How will they integrate into the Canterbury landscape?
These transitions are documented through a carefully curated eye. Growing up in Selwyn, Bright has been witness first-hand to the changes in landscape: the shifting of earth and carving of land for new development. These are the non-places, stripped of identity and yet to be occupied, between one thing and the next, yet these photographs ponder if the transitional has a visual identity in itself. While light browns and greens evoke the Canterbury landscapes of Bill Sutton, Rita Angus and Rata Lovell-Smith, Bright finds artificial elements, oranges, pinks and whites, within this adapted world. Large patches of sky, clear and blue, fly overhead—a beautiful day for cold spaces.
Mitchell Bright is a photographer living in Selwyn, Canterbury. He addresses the manipulated geographies of Canterbury and the South Island’s West Coast, frequently exploring them and documenting his findings with a particular interest in the ways individuals and society view and interact with the landscape. He is currently undertaking his Masters of Fine Arts in Photography at the Ilam School of Fine Arts. His works can be found in private collections around New Zealand.
The literal shifting of earth became a central focus of my work. The physical manipulation of these materials to meet our new needs resulted in vast scenes of transition; scenes where the past use of land is still hinted at, but the foundations for future use have clearly been laid.
– Mitchell Bright, 2017