International photographer and creative director Adam Bryce has a new exhibition starting next week to launch his new book, Manurewa in My Heart, a celebration of the South Auckland suburb where he grew up.
FTV: Tell us about your upcoming exhibition and book.
Adam Bryce: I grew up in Manurewa. Growing up in an area like that with no money made me really driven to succeed. It created a particular drive to get out of that area and live a life as far away from how I grew up as possible. Having experienced many of the things I dreamed of as a kid and living the life I wanted, a part of me wanted to see Manurewa again and allow myself to re-evaluate.
I guess I realised that all those things you dream of as a kid aren’t always as great as you think they will be – and I remembered Manurewa, whilst hard for me in some ways, was always a really positive place. When I visited the area, I quickly learned that while growing up in tough circumstances isn’t ideal, it has no bearing on the people or the place from where this happened.
People have a really negative perception of Manurewa, it’s portrayed in the media as an area that’s violent, run by gangs, and full of crime and other issues. Of course, like any low socio-economic area, it has its problems, but its also a suburb of over 90,000 people and the negative issues are far and beyond outweighed by the great people that live there. I wanted to show that somehow through images. Essentially the book and exhibition is a documentation of family, community and fun.
The exhibition launches on the 5th of May in Manurewa’s iconic Southmall, at which time the book will also be available. The exhibition will stay in Manurewa till the 1st of June, before moving on to a few other locations, which is exciting and we’ll be able to announce soon.
100% of the proceeds from the sales of the photos and the books are being donated to The Manurewa Business Association in order for them to revitalise Southmall and hopefully kick-start a local economy.
What inspired you to create the book?
The whole project came from me originally wanting to transition as a photographer from Fashion to Art. I have worked in fashion my whole career, and I was starting to get frustrated by some of the issues the fashion industry has. I also just really wanted to explore taking photos in another way. My ‘Vase’ exhibition a year or so back had been really well received and I felt that was a positive sign that my work could transition.
The one issue I have with the art world is its elitism, and I find that art and photo books are a way of making at accessible to more people. As an artist, I’m keen to exhibit my work but just as interested in making books and letting the work be seen far and wide.
The end result of this project, however, is much more of a social commentary than what I had set out to do, but spending every day for over four months in an area that means that much to you, means you have no choice but to pay it its full respect. The resulting photos are very different to what I had planned.
Any stand-out moments while shooting?
As I said, I spent every day in Manurewa for over four months, so I could almost say there were stand out moments every day. I started to get really down when I knew my time out there was to end because I had so much fun in the area and met so many amazing people. If I had to choose a moment, it would be the days spent at Manurewa Central School and at Manurewa Intermediate. I met so many amazing staff at both schools, and incredible kids – their attitudes, talent, energy and brains really blew me away.
Any remarkable characters/stories?
Again, so many! Everyone I met was so generous, so humble and happy. The impact the people of Manurewa have had on me personally is huge. I don’t think I can single anyone out, there are so many people in the area doing incredible things, people who have set up initiatives to make change, people who have gone out and done incredible things to change the community and peoples lives, but also people who just go about their day but in such a way you can’t help but be affected.
What do you want people to take away from the exhibition/book?
I would love for people to see Manurewa for what it really is, an amazing place full of great people. People who value family, relationships and community, people who smile and are content with their lives because they have great support around them. People who don’t care what car they drive, what job they do, people who care about each other. But, at the same time, that Manurewa is a great place with of the best schools I’ve ever seen, some of the most remarkable parks and facilities.
Manurewa by Adam Bryce launches with a public opening at 11 am till 3 pm on May 5th in Southmall, 185-201 Great South Rd, Manurewa. This will include a Q+A with Adam Bryce.