By Tony Orman
Moving around with the job
Alan Gibson has been a photo-journalist for Auckland’s New Zealand Herald, a job which he revelled in. Frequently it took him into the rural heartland — a return to the environment he grew up on in the Waikato. His newspaper job took him on assignments to a variety of place from high country stations, to aquaculture enterprises, horse studs, deer, dairying and other pastoral farming styles, orchards, vineyards poultry farms, apiarists and others. All feature in this book.
The world of a press photographer
Alan Gibson was introduced to the world of photography by his father who initially worked for newspapers in New Plymouth before returning to the 500 hectare family farm. “Through his guidance I also came to see the extraordinary beauty in shafts of light piercing the dust as a mob of sheep are driven down the lane,” recalls Alan.
Alan went on to a career as a press photographer first with the Waikato Times then for the NZ Herald and even for a time at London’s Fleet Street.
His love of rural New Zealand always beckoned with the rugged landscapes and also often rugged yet always generous people. The rural folk were always warmly welcoming when Alan asked if he could photograph them and their farming operations.
The result is the collection of photographs in this book. Accompanying the photos is concise written text gleaned from talking to the rural people featured.
Not accurate on deer farming
I was interested in the Deer Farming chapter and in introducing the subject, a jarring note for me occurred with the description of wild deer having “wreaked havoc in native forest, on pastures as well as affecting young exotic trees in plantation forests.”
The truth is the country’s native forests can carry deer browsing vegetation within the habitat’s carrying capacity. After all for some 60 million years, several species of moa browsed vegetation from lowland forest to scrublands to subalpine pastures. It is now well documented that deer browse is “not dissimilar” to moa browse as one scientist put it.
But that’s just one page and arguably a small point to cavil over.
A nice balance of the visual and the written
The book largely features the many excellent photographs Alan captured but there’s “fat captions” to photos and interviews that give a judicious balance of the visual and written. Alan Gibson has been awarded “NZ Press Photographer of the Year title — junior and senior, six times. It is an impressive book.
For the Love of Farming: Celebrating Farming in New Zealand by Alan Gibson is published by Exile Publishing. RRP $59.99