Ruapehu dawn. Road-trip with the boy-child. Image: Su Leslie, 2017
“The journey not the arrival matters” – T.S. Eliot
Eliot’s words are particularly true when the journey is made in good company. This shot was taken last year when the boy-child and I were on a road-trip to visit family in Whanganui. A-typically for a teenager (but typical of the photographer that he is), he insisted on an extremely early start so that we could experience sunrise on the Desert Road.
Living further north – and on the coast – I am always exhilarated by the mountains, especially the spare and rugged plant life. I loved the gorgeous lichens and heathers I found.
Heather? Or some other tough high altitude plant. Mt Ruapehu, North Island, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie 2014
But perhaps the best “close-up” was the Chateau itself. Built in 1929, this hotel is a New Zealand landmark (I hate using the word “icon” – but it is). It was designed by New Zealand architect Herbert Hall, but modeled on the resort hotel at Lake Louise in Canada. From the 1930s until 1990, the Chateau was owned by the New Zealand government through the Tourist Hotel Corporation, which ran a number of hotels around the country. Since privatization, a new wing of 40 rooms has been added.
I’ve only stayed at the Chateau once; several months into my first job out of university I was sent to a conference there. Young, gauche and slightly out of my depth, I nevertheless had a wonderful time – feeling very grown up and sophisticated.
First glimpse: approaching the Chateau Tongariro. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014
Up close. Definitely one of my “happy places.” The Chateau Tongariro, North Island, NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.
The Ratana Church, Raetihi, New Zealand. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.
I’m not religious – nor even particularly spiritual. If asked I’d probably describe myself as a Presbyterian aethiest with catholic tendencies. I like the socialism of christianity — and I absolutely love old churches.
I encountered this Ratana church in the North Island town of Raetihi on a still, perfect morning. The Ratana Churchis unique to New Zealand (although there is a branch in Australia). It was founded in the early twentieth century by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, a Maori prophet who had a vision instructing him to unite the Maori people in a single Christian church.
This particular church — perhaps because of its hilltop location — is an almost iconic example of Ratana architecture (sort of Romanesque revival), and has been extensively photographed so I felt as though I already knew it. I was on my way to see my dad, not quite sure where I was going and a bit pushed for time. Normally, I’d drive on by and “promise” myself that one day I’d come back and take a photograph, knowing that actually, I probably never would.
I’m not sure why that day was different; why I turned around and made a detour. The church gates were closed and it was difficult to find a good photographic vantage point on the side of a busy road, but I was happy with this shot. I don’t mind that my image is only one of thousands; it’s mine and it will always remind me of a good day; a day of stillness and joy and some reconciliation. A day of eternal blue sky.