Photographing the US/Mexico border wall at the Algadones Sand Dunes, California

Photographing the US/Mexico border wall at the Algadones Sand Dunes, California

I spent a large part of my working life as a brand and identity consultant. Only in my later life did I build up enough courage to shake off a commercial life and pick up my camera. I’ve been an obsessive photographer ever since studying design in my late teens, but returning to New Zealand in 2010 after a decade in Australia was the ideal time to combine a focus on photography with a need to rediscover what it means, to me, to be a New Zealander.

At times, I’ve been distracted by things that I couldn’t get out of my head. In 2017 I travelled along the US/Mexico border photographing stretches of the existing barricades from both sides and considering the depths a country plumbs when it wants to wall itself in. I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit traveling the subway systems of the great cities of the world, photographing an underground world I find fascinating. But my ongoing preoccupation is with my home country, Aotearoa, a young country with an identity still half formed - or at least half understood.

Photographing its landscape and its people (indigenous and otherwise) has become a personal journey of self-determination for an aging white male of colonial origins who feels an inordinate sense of pride in belonging to a set of islands in the South Pacific with such mystical proportions. A country small enough to feel like people are united in their consideration for each other, and smart enough to know that diversity is a strength not a threat.

Of course, I can’t easily shake off years of over-analysis as an identity consultant for large corporates. I’m told I do too much writing, in and around my work, instead of letting the images speak for themselves. I can hear my gallerist now saying I’m droning on and who wants to read all this. Quite right.

Nigel Swinn