In the run-up to my proposed series of posts on New Zealand, I have decided to look at the 6,000 photos M--- took there. I'd dipped into them before, but never yet - in the seven years since we went - had I gone carefully through the the whole collection.
I had copies of all these shots because M--- relied on me to give them 'minimum processing' on the laptop I took to New Zealand, which meant simply getting them off the memory card in her camera, rotating them to the right way up, and backing them up in that raw state. Nothing was deleted, but I made no adjustments for tilt, no cropping, no corrections for exposure, contrast or colour, and typed in no captions.
That said, she had used a decent Canon compact camera, she had an eye for a good composition, and because they hadn't been processed much, her shots had a strict authenticity that some of my own didn't have. I had, for example, cropped out any untidy and distracting items at the edges of my own shots, such as tourist litter, or the tourists themselves. But M---'s pictures still included them, and therefore contained lots of incidental little details that mine might not, unless they were the actual subject.
And she was able to take shots while we were driving along. Some of these were not by any means perfect, but they are entirely absent from my own collection, simply because I did almost all the driving. She was able to capture the lie of the land, the road ahead, the view from the side window. Perhaps with that travel book in mind, she blasted away, sometimes taking pictures every minute along some stretches of road. Just as well. She captured our slow progress through such places as Palmerston North, a busy but unremarkable city we did not stop at, and because I could not get out and snap a picture or two, her 'action shots' from the passenger seat are the only record of the place.
On the other hand, there are many locations where we took shots together on foot, in parallel. Like two gunslingers entering Dodge City, six-guns in each hand. The curious thing is that by and large - apart from the obvious scenic views - we photographed different things, or she might take many more shots of something than I did. As I began to go through her collection, I was struck just how differently someone else can see the passing scene. And of course, that must affect how M--- and I remember New Zealand. Or Los Angeles, or Hong Kong, for that matter. We must have got very different impressions.
I was on the lookout for certain specific shots she had been able to take that I hadn't. For example, any of the many river bridges - some of them real feats of engineering - which were often single-carriageway affairs on which it was impossible to stop. There were indeed a few of those. I copied them, gave them a full caption, and filed them away in my own collection.
And there were shots of myself that I had quite forgotten. Myself in Old Mode, a year and a half before coming out. Almost the last of the classic J--- vintage, so to speak. I looked like a serious proposition, a well-built regular hunk, and yet with a smile and twinkling eyes. To be honest, like someone who could have been my genial, dependable and capable twin. No wonder M--- was shocked when I told her in July 2008 that the hunk was not what he seemed, and had never been so.
Perhaps unlike many, I can look at the old me without flinching. I must have had an inner sadness inside, but it doesn't show. Not in these New Zealand shots. I found New Zealand exciting, and the only sadness at the time would have been that our two months there would soon be over, and who knows when we would next be back. But at least a return was perfectly possible. Not like now, when it will require careful saving, and will in any case be some years off. That person in those shots, the 2007 me, was unaware of future events and their consequences, and was therefore having a great time. No doubt there were moments when we got irritated with each other, or from missing some amazing sight we could have seen but had to pass up. But we saw and enjoyed an awful lot, and it was truly a shared experience of great importance. And I think we both got some kind of 'feel' for New Zealand. A proper impression, anyway. More on that in future posts.
One odd thing about M--'s shots of me though. She didn't take many close-up shots. Whereas my shots of her were nearly always close-ups. She was more inclined to have me in the middle or far distance, or on the edge of the frame. Using me as a lay figure, so to speak, to provide scale. But I do wonder why she mostly placed me at a distance. An odd thing to do with the love of one's life.