First Women Photographers in NZ

Recently I had a chance meeting with a young man in a mens’ fashion boutique in Newmarket; Thomas Thew who told me his Great Grandmother was one of the first women photographers in New Zealand. I decided to do some research and discovered that his Grandmother and another  woman were indeed our first women photographers.

I believe Elizabeth Pullman started  practising as a photographer 6-8 years before Harriet Cobb. It doesn’t appear that these two women knew each other  however their stories have many similarities. This camera was similar to Harriet Cobbs precious camera   bought to NZ on the Lady Jocelyn.  It was a Dallmeyer made in London. Continue reading

Westfield Newmarket rolls out the future

Recently I was issued with hobnail boots, a high vis jacket and a hard hat for a tour of the biggest project undertaken in New Zealand.  Sean Nash, Project Manager and Dorita Munro the Community Relations Manager, took me up to the top dome area via the scaffolding to inspect this massive  construction site.

Westfield, Newmarket is undergoing a total reconstruction. If you think a knee reconstruction is major, take a look at this project.

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Photographer Melanie Burford

Introducing New Zealand’s only Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Melanie Burford. Some of you will be fascinated to see how life after the Pulitzer has unfolded, others will be captivated by this talented woman.  My sincere thanks to Melanie for sharing her thoughts on things photographic.

When I first met you as a young photographer I recall you working for The Evening Post newspaper in New Zealand. Your father John is a well known New Zealand photographer and you looked to be following in his footsteps. Within a few years you were off working in Dallas, Texas as a newspaper photographer. A dream job for a young New Zealand woman. Continue reading


Last year I blogged about the Rural Women’s  speech writing award I presented  in memory of my Mother Pat Rowley. The award is The Rowley Brooch and you can read about the award  here. Jenny Malcolm from North Otago won the Rowley Brooch in 2016 and to my delight went on to win the National Awards in Wellington.

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Myself with Jenny Malcolm on the left

Jenny has kindly allowed me to reproduce her speech here. all contestants were given the same topic from the annals of history.

Captain Lawrence Edward Grace “Titus” Oates (  1880 –  1912)  was an English army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition. . Oates, afflicted with gangrene and frostbite, walked from his tent into a blizzard. His death is seen as an act of self-sacrifice when, aware that his ill-health was compromising his three companions chances of survival, he chose certain death.  As he left his tent he said  “I might be gone for some time”.

Topic “I may be gone for some time….” Time 3-5 minutes.

Here is Jenny Malcolm’s words  and interpretation of the topic; and I can assure you her delivery was exceptional. 

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Rural Women New Zealand – stand out performance!

 I blogged about the Rowley Brooch in March. This is a follow up.

After publishing my blog I was invited to Alexandra by the Rural Women Committee to present the Rowley Brooch at the Otago – Southland regional conference. I thought how crazy to fly to Queenstown collect a rental car and then subject myself to having to speak in front of people renowned for their speaking abilities. I need my head read!! Anyway I decided to do this in memory of my Mother.

I arrived on a very wet and cold Autumn afternoon thinking again “I must be mad flying to Alexandra for this 30 minute stint”. Continue reading

Secret Garden in Atlanta Georgia

imageIn the heart of downtown Atlanta lies a garden covering an acre of land. Nearby a four lane road carries traffic at a frenetic pace backwards and forwards; allowing little time for motorists to catch a glimpse of the colourful flowering azaleas at the entrance to the longish driveway.image

The house has a slightly Dutch styling to it with ornate decorations on the highest point- step inside and immediately you’re transported to an art gallery- colourful and eclectic. Continue reading

Best Blogs 2015 – holiday reading


imageAs I reflect on 2015 I have to say it was a brilliant year. I spent time with my much-loved family, I acquired a new darling little Chinese grand-daughter, I travelled, I had time with friends, I  pushed myself photographically and I’m still here. The aches and pains become insignificant when you weigh up the good times.

Many of you are too busy to read blogs throughout the year and I understand that. However I have chosen 6 of my most popular blogs from 2015 to give you some holiday reading. A little like  short stories. Click on the blue links to be taken to directly to my blogs. Enjoy

Read more here Continue reading

Youthful, Chinese and enthusiastic to succeed.


“My way, I loved, I laughed, I cried, get satisfied and down. I never feel ashamed, cause I live in my way. I have regrets, but only a few. I have done things I have to do, although didn’t avoid anything. Yes, a few times, I face challenge. I swallowed them, standing with my head up. I will leave this world one day. Say goodbye to all ones I loved, loved me or hated me. But I have had a complete life, in my own way”. – ‘ Remember English  her second language’.


Photo by Lynn Clayton – Vivian relaxing without a special ‘face’.

Vivian Tian Yuan left mainland China aged 18 to travel to New Zealand to study. Thousands of young Chinese do this annually and many of them return home, however many find a way to stay here.  Vivian hopes to stay here – or make it to Hollywood. Now aged 20 she has found her mojo and is enthusiastic about her future. She has also found her faith which plays a large part in her life and influences her choices daily. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. I was intrigued as to how a young Chinese girl manages  to survive and get noticed in the city of Auckland.

Vivian’s parents, despite the fact this is their only child, have supported her adventurous streak. Her mother lectures in maths at a university and her father is in ‘investments’. Back in China Vivian did modelling and photo salon makeup. This is her passion and by all accounts she is making her mark on the New Zealand scene. She is found  most weekends painting faces whether it be for Ghosts and Ghouls parties or a model shoot; she is in demand.



Photo by Manasee Joshi – Model makeup by Vivian Tian Yuan.

I persuaded her to paint herself ‘crazy’ for our weekend shoot and I tell you she can transform a face in minutes. Something about Vivian reminded  a few of us of an Oriental Dawn French. I wonder if she can act??


Photo by Lynn Clayton – Vivian in her ‘crazy’ face

I asked Vivian a series of questions largely to understand her life in NZ. Living in a University hostel in the bottom of Whittaker Place is not her dream home but will have to suffice until she graduates her BA in Marketing.  Then she will take on the world.

Vivian, why did you decide to come to New Zealand and not Australia? “I decide to come to New Zealand instead of Australia, just because I heard that there is no snake and other scary animal here before I come.”

Do you have family in New Zealand? Not many family, but just an aunty which is my dad’s cousin. Our family blood relationship is far away.

How hard was it on arrival here if you knew no one? I didn’t feel it was hard at all. Life is much easier in New Zealand. I have more freedom to do what I want. I have ability to express myself and choose the right thing to do.

 Did you already speak good English? Yes, I have been training my English for ages before I move to New Zealand.

What lead you to study art and design? “I like art, I think it’s a way to express myself. All my design inspiration come from my day-dream and my politics perception.”


Vivian posing in her ‘crazy’ face  and below arm ‘tattoo styles’.


IMG_4904-EditOne of Vivians’ Halloween creations on model ‘Emily’. Photo Lynn Clayton

Are your parents artistic?  No, they are not. But they mostly support my art, although they don’t understand my art meaning.

I know you are very talented as a makeup artist, what other art forms do you enjoy? Tattoo art, illustration, photography and jewellery making.

Where do you hope to be ten years from now? I will have been traveling around the world and probably have my freelance job or company and running really well.

You are someone with your own individual style which is a great asset I am sure. How did you develop this? Just keep trying new things, in my own style.


Photo by Lynn Clayton

Vivian is available to paint faces at your next event – email her.

Please leave a reply below –


Abandoned Beauty


Andre Govia is renowned for his Abandoned Interiors from a Europe long forgotten. I would be too scared to enter these old derilect buildings, to start with I don’t like spiders, however he doesn’t show us any creepy crawlies. Andre shows us the beauty in these deathly empty interior, his images ask the viewer questions about these abandoned ‘scapes’.WHY? WHERE? who knows,  After all they are trespassing with what they say are good intentions. Legally they walk a fine line; Andre and his  fellow explorers  share his passion and explore the forgotten, locked up, heart breaking architectural gems long left to the ravishes of nature and time. Some folks call Urban Exploration a sport, not yet included in the Olympics. Andre is one of numerous Urban explorers residing in the UK, he is  one of the best.

I asked Andre a few questions…

I read somewhere that Andre isn’t your real name, perhaps that’s why the authorities haven’t caught you trespassing, is that true??

Well Andre is my real name and authorities don’t have anything to do with what myself and other explorers do, most locations are private and fall outside any government interest. I have been caught like most others who participate in Urban exploring, That is one of the attractions, the challenge of getting into guarded locations taking photos and getting out again. Getting caught is part of the possibilities but me and other explorers always show respect to guards and police if found as they are only doing their job .


 Have you ever been caught trespassing and if so what happened?

Yes I have been caught like many others in abandoned buildings in more than one country. The police are often very interested why we go to so much risk and drama to get into buildings sneaking around alarms and cameras to get a shot but understand once they see out passion and determination to complete the task. As soon as they search us and see that we are not taking goods from a location or have damaged the building in any way then we are normally asked to leave, the same for guards who just want to keep us out of a very dangerous building.
One of the golden rules is never name the locations, selfish yes, but necessary. After al they are trespassing with what they say are good intentions. Legally they walk a fine line between creativity and vandalism although they never touch or damage the interiors. abandoned-childrens-Tuberculosis-sanatorium

Why were these buildings abandoned with no one trying to sell the piano, light fittings etc.? 

Buildings are often left for many reasons so hard to say, we love to investigate before going to a good abandoned building, an abandoned metal hospital and old school or mansion house in the woods all have a history that adds to the experience and why they are closed and abandoned, I explore around the world and countries have different laws about what happens to buildings when their purpose in no longer required and what becomes of them after that. Myself and other urban explorers document decay and abandoned buildings without damage or theft .Then you have another fraternity who just find out where a location is and steel whatever is left for personal gain (hence why I never give location information) Then you have Another group who just arrive at a location and smash and vandalize everything, People who tar urban explorers in the same category as vandals and thieves really have no idea and I have no time for shallow people like that . Yes we are trespassers and yes we are often are in places we should not be taking photos and exploring but that’s all

Andre’s day job is being a film cameraman for a TV company. He does film editing for US and UK networks.I first discovered his work on Flick’r a photo sharing site we both enjoy. Yes his real name is Andre Govia.
I mentioned his book Abandoned Planet in a recent blog.
Andre’s work is haunting, compelling, frightening and so much more. On one page of his book ‘Abandoned Planet’ there were marble memorial slabs, so I googled the names to discover these were long forgotten headstones of prominent aristocratic men who lived in Belgium in the late 1700’s. I had always thought of marble headstones as a permanent memorial, but maybe they are not! Theatres, hospitals, schools long abandoned but not empty, wheel chairs and hospital beds slowly rusting. It challenges ones ideas of waste that is for sure! Sad that no one has restored them to their magnificence. Maybe one day…maybe never.blog4blog10 blog9

Some of the interiors are quite dark; how long are the longest exposures?   Taking photos in boarded up abandoned building with low light is a challenge that I have mastered in my own way with a mix of long exposure and light painting if needed . Others use a way that works better for them to create a style they like. All buildings have a different issue to get the shot you desire from moving floors to no floors and total darkness and the danger from falling roofs and chemicals in the air.


Two more questions –  Do you have a favourite building? If so where and why? 

My favourite location so far has been West Park Asylum (name given because it no longer exists) , A vast complex of buildings set in Woodlands in the UK , On my 43 visits there I still managed to find areas of the hospital that I had not seen before and it almost became an addiction , the musky smell of damp and decay along with that sterile hospital smell was unique and kept myself and others coming back for more , I was even there on Christmas day once for 7 hours in -6 temperature in the snow . It had it all, cctv long corridors, guards with dogs great creepy wards and danger. I had been caught there a few times and the guards even knew my name from past encounters but the game of cat and mouse continued up to the demolition and conversion day.

 How many Urban explorers are there in the UK these days?

That is a difficult question to answer to be honest. Its matter of separating urban explorers and people who find an abandoned building and take photos in it because it’s in fashion. Urban explorers are people who explore taboo locations and often document them with photos and video anything from drains to rooftops and buildings. Then you have photographers who go into abandoned building to only take photos (sometimes with models etc.) But yes it is popular at the moment but many people have been injured by just walking into buildings without taking time to prepare for the dangers within. Urban exploring is dangerous without a doubt and you only have yourself to blame if you get hurt or even robbed within an abandoned building that often  could have drug users unstable floors , Asbestos etc .


There are more hauntingly beautiful Andre Govia images here and his Flick’r site email Andre  andre.govia@usa.comblog8 blog7 blog6


Thankyou Andre for sharing your adventures  and the fact that you don’t like spiders either!   We have perhaps 5-6 older  buildings ( 100 years) in New Zealand, Government built , plain architecture.  Kingseat, Hokitika Govt. Building.   Give them a few more years 🙂 Internationally the game is on. More and more sites are being invaded such as this remote site in Kazakhstan. I can’t imagine the consequences of being caught there!!

I also enjoyed an exhibition in Auckland  a year or two ago of Detroit’s abandoned landscape by Frank Schwere.

Guest Photographer – Jenny Couldrey

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Jenny is not your ‘normal’ photographer, anything but. Jenny is in a class of her own. Her mind is churning out creative ideas daily when most of us sit around hoping for some inspiration. Not only does Jenny think creatively, she acts on her ideas. While living in Rotorua Jenny held a very successful exhibition at the local Arts Centre. If I use the word miniatures some of you will switch off, but don’t. These were miniature photographs on glass, they almost could be called Medallions, after all you can hold them in the palm of your hand. As a group they make a statement, individually they are delicate and are part of a story. Mashkio Medailles in 2008 said “Medallions and Medals are 2 and 3 dimensional works, they are small enough to be appreciated in the hand, as if one is holding the entire idea of the artist” ( NZ Contemporary Medallion Group Jenny’s miniature works were on repurposed glass plates, with natural timber used to display these delicate morsels; in a play with scale, others were printed on large (600 x 600mm) glazed ceramic tiles and as framed art prints.


Artists Statement…

“We must live with the earth and deal with each other with compassion. If that word was a rule for living war, conflict and insults to Gaia would be irrelevant concepts. Difference would be accepted and respected. Violence would have no place. Balance would be a realistic goal.

Since I can remember I have felt very close to the earth and the natural world, Artemis is my muse. The explorer in me wants to understand all the whys and wherefores of this life. Art making allows me to make a translation of what I find. It’s a cleansing process. It allows interpretation of that which can’t be explained. It tells my stories.

Although the work I make has it’s beginnings in camera I don’t always feel a need for the endpoint to retain direct connection with the conventional idea of a photograph. Adding a third dimension is often more satisfying and relevant. Conceptual threads, weaving themselves through the timeline of my life, are related in some way to the human/earth/universe balance.

Capture is intuitive, and sometimes at the moment of pressing the shutter it is not always clear what it is that is connecting, or how the frame will be woven, although there is a thought running through me. In production I become aware of frames that have significance. From there I continue the intuitive process and find that the pictures largely make themselves. Sometimes they come in dreams. All are a response of my subconscious to concepts that have been developing from a point of observation of without from within.”


These works might only measure 2cm each. Collectively they make an intimate statement hung in small groups at eye level where one can enjoy the intricacy of the patterns.

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Jenny, you grew up in a family where your grandfather was keen on photography, what are your first memories of using a camera?

I don’t remember being very old, but I was always fascinated by Grandpa peering down into the ground glass screen of his Rollei as he recorded our family life. I can remember him carefully fitting the strap around my neck and letting me look into it, and my surprise at the milky, upside down vision that revealed itself. I’m not sure he ever let me press the shutter though! Film was a bit precious. Later I found Dad’s old box brownie, he bought me some film, and I was in heaven! One clear memory is a picture I made of my friend, sitting cross-legged on the path running around our house with a lap full of baby bunnies, and more of them perched on her shoulders. Our dog had dug up the burrow so she and I had rescued them and had them living in the hot water cupboard. I photographed everything I could when I had that camera, with no knowledge of any of the “rules” pertaining to the medium. It was just my way of making sure I could treasure, and relive, a moment that moved me.

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Do you have that photo to share with us?

It is definitely still around, but like most photographs from the days of film, if not in an album tucked away, I’m pretty sure it’s floating with other black and white, and sepia, gems from my parent’s and grandparent’s days, in a very special suitcase at my Mother’s place, to be dragged out every now and again on a rainy day and pored over.

From all your photography years do you have a favourite genre?

I guess abstract photography has always attracted me for the questions it raises. Conceptual for the same reasons. I like photography that encourages the viewer to want to raise dialogue with the artist. Documentary for the storytelling and awareness of important issues that can be opened up.

Can you name 2-3 photographers who have inspired you other than your Grandfather?

Some of the early photographers, Paul Strand and Alvin Langon Coburn to name a couple.


A fascinating abstract by Alvin Langon Coburn especially back in those times.circa 1916

More contemporary photographers are Edward Burtynsky, Lewis Baltz , Donovan Wylie and Megan Jenkinsen I know that’s more than 2-3, but I’m inspired by many, many photographers and artists really. It’s very hard to condense that inspiration down to even these ones.

Talking about your creativity Jenny, after your Rotorua exhibition I hear you hit a flat patch. Can you elaborate on this please?

Ha ha, I hit flat patches all the time, and I think everyone does. It can be a challenge though, if you believe that you must always be producing, and making “the best”. Sometimes allowing that flat patch its space allows the subconscious to process much of that we’re unaware of. Sometimes it’s ok to put down the tools. In hindsight, I think I didn’t realise that the energy that I put into putting the exhibition together, and the growth that came from the pressure cooker way it was done, was unsustainable. I made all the work for the exhibition in a period of three weeks. Luckily my husband was away much of that time; I don’t think he’d have enjoyed the activity at 2am on a regular basis. I would have loved to keep going, I just felt as if I was hitting my straps. Making art isn’t a full-time occupation for me yet, and I needed to refocus my energy onto other things. I guess that’s one of the things that does keep driving me to keep trying to make new work – I would love to make this a full-time occupation!

Isn’t it normal to have ‘writers block’ or a creative block from time to time?

Yes, it definitely is, and I believe that our development goes in steps rather than any sort of curve or linear increase. We push ourselves along until we hit a brick wall that seems to stall us, but it’s the pushing against this, and then the frustration of not being able to move on that finally gives us the impetus or “breakthrough” that gives us the next boost in development. I used to observe it with our children’s development, too. Sometimes it’s hard to get going again, and, with me particularly, I tend to go into “overthink” mode, so spend too much time trying to decide where to next. It’s known as paralysis by analysis, and my constant battle!

I hear a friend of yours gave you a daily challenge to help get the creative aspect of your life back on track. Has it worked??And what was that Challenge?

I did make the mistake of moaning to a friend that I couldn’t get motivated to pick up the camera again, or do anything that wasn’t related to just “existing”. The challenge felt deceptively simple, and I didn’t take it too seriously to begin with, but it definitely worked to fan the creative flame again. I got inspired, and I found that thinking about it only made it more difficult. The best results came from just acting in the moment.

I was challenged to photograph a consecutive number every day for thirty days. It made me aware of my surroundings, and to notice patterns and shapes again. At first I was looking at the most literal level, but got bored pretty quickly, and also found it difficult with limited time during the day, so I started creating the numbers, or trying to find different ways to represent the number. That’s when it became fun!

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What will you do with your “number” images? Seems to me a coffee table book might be in the making, have you considered an art number book?

Yes, I think that’s one that might need a bit more time, but I’d enjoy it. I felt a bit lost when I’d finished 30 and really would like to keep going. The pressure to do it daily though is a bit much at the moment, but I haven’t thrown that idea away; as the days grow longer I may be able to make that happen.

The cats eyes with numbers is one of my favourites. I am sure you will agree they are very creative in their approach.


When a photographer runs out of ideas what suggestions can you offer them to become inspired again?

Firstly, be very careful who you tell! Seriously though, I think we only run out of ideas when we are in thinking mode. Often taking the mind out of the equation allows us to move into uncharted territory and we find something completely unexpected. Just committing to picking up the camera and making a picture everyday can help, especially if there is a longer time period involved. The first couple of days are easy, the next get a bit harder, and then frustrating. Suddenly something gives, and that’s about when you start to find new ways of working that break your previous creative restraints. Having someone else set the task really ensures that you don’t either stay in your comfort zone, or allow the mind to have control.

Setting a major project, like an exhibition, or book, or lessons for other people, WITH DEADLINES, can be an amazing way to boost creativity, because suddenly you’re under pressure to achieve. Diamonds are created under pressure 🙂 The other, and I guess most important, action is to keep trying to be inspired by other people’s work. Look at books, websites and ezines, there are some very interesting ones out there. Learn some art history. Even if it’s work you don’t like, it will help broaden your horizons and hone your own creative vision.

I think this is an ideal exercise for photographers suffering from a brain-dead period; do you mind other photographers emulating this project?

Absolutely not! I’m pretty sure a few people have been set this particular challenge, if not very similar ones, and I encourage everyone to use any means at their disposal to spread their creative wings. It’s all too easy to stay with what is safe, with what gets “likes”, and not break out into new territory. I’m not at all afraid of people not liking my work now, as long as it allows me to continue to learn and develop. If it pleases me, then I’m happy.



And lastly Jenny Couldrey…where is your creativity taking you currently?

Everywhere and anywhere. I keep visual diaries and they’re full of ideas of work I’d like to make. The moment something comes to me I make notes and draw pictures. Sometimes something comes of it, and sometimes not. I am keen to make more work with the glass. It’s a medium that I love to work with and it has much that is relevant to fixing an image. It’s sitting on the back burner presently as my real job is working as a builder, and we are currently immersed in a rebuild construction in Kaiapoi. When that requires less of my time I’ll be able to put more energy into my photographic work.

Over the last few years I’ve started working with anthotypes, making sun developed pictures on paper prepared with plant-based emulsion. Exposures can be hours, or days, or weeks. It’s a very organic process, and one I’m still waiting to get a decent exposure from. If I’m learning from my mistakes, then I must be learning heaps!! I’ll be back onto that this summer when there’s a bit more sunshine. At the moment I’m working on another challenge set to get me out of my comfort zone. I have a huge resistance to having my picture taken, it makes me very uncomfortable. So, a task has been set, slightly less fearsome than self portraits (although I can see that coming next!); to make 21 portraits of my husband. Thank goodness, he’s the most wonderful sport, and is allowing me to do what I need to make this happen.

Thanks Lynn, for encouraging me to contribute to your wonderful blog, and get on my soapbox. Creativity and being open-minded in any medium is very important to me, and, if in some small way I have encouraged anyone else to try something new, to break away from what they normally do, I’ll be very happy.

Email Jenny at  if you are interested in her work. It is definitely unique and quite exquisite.


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