My journey into photography (and life) has gone through many successive waves.
I started learning photography on 35mm. In my mid twenties, I found my passion in digital photography when it was fresh on the scene. It offered a new paradigm to photograpy – moved from chemical processes to to electrical (digital) process. It greatly reduced the barrier of entry for photography; it didn’t require a darkroom: all that was required was digital camera and computer (and now, just digital camera). I loved the simplicity, and when I immigrated to New Zealand, I dived into photography (I even toyed with the idea of becoming professional!). My website here at vonnagy.com even ranked first for ‘new zealand photography’ gathering up to 35,000 visitors a month in the early 2000’s.
This was a huge period of growth as an artist for me. During this time, I made from friends from all over the world. I’ve had the opportunity meet people in real life. I travelled to Australia, Canada, Poland, Portugal, and Ireland to meet other photographers. Many of these people, such as my friend Troy Moth, have become close friends.
But after several years, my passion for photography dried up. I was also wrapped up very deeply vested in the start up Online Republic, this was taking up as much as 80 hours or more of my time. In 2007, I I took my digital camera on a much needed holiday to Europe. I remember taking some photos in beautiful Northern Ireland. After that, I didn’t pick up my digital camera for a long time. In fact those photos from Northern Ireland are still residing on an unviewed flash card somewhere! My wordpress blog also got hacked via the comment plugin I had, and start pumping heaps of spammy links into my sites and others. I eventually fixed it, but the damage was already done, my site when from 35,000 visitors to about 35 visitors a month afterwards. I just figured my time with photography had run its course. I was nearly 2 years before I picked up a camera again.
Then, I heard that Polaroid was no longer going to manufacture their film. That caught my attention.
I bought a Polaroid camera in an auction and took a roadtrip to the central North Island to pick it up with my girlfriend. After the first photograph I took (which was literally a chicken that had crossed a road), I was hooked. . Though I had no preview for how the film would turn out, and quirky nature of polaroids gave me unexpected joy in shooting photographs again. I realised that it was the medium of digital photography had sapped my passion for photography, not photography itself. Film renewed my passion.
With my website in shambles (though I later restored it), I decided to create a new website for my second life as a photographer. I toyed with many new ideas, but the answer came unexpectedly from my father. My father is a photographer as well, he’s taken nature photographs his whole life and has never deviated from that course. When he visited me in New Zealand, he would always point out to rubbish on the side of the road or flotsam on the beach. In his view, all I photographed was ‘junk’.
At the time, I was thinking about the Austrian word rubbish (in dialect ‘Klumpert‘). But since I was in New Zealand, I tried to find a local word that had the same meaning. I found the word ‘Parahanga‘ in the Maori Dictionary online and thought it was a suitable reference to my dive into analogue photography:
parahanga 1. (noun) rubbish, litter, scraps, rubbish dump, pollution.
So in 2009, I launched Parahanga.com, and started my commitment to analogue photography. This was a deep dive. During this time, the process of learning was very zen-like. Analogue photography forces to slow down and be patient. You contemplate carefully. In the case of polaroid film, there are 10 or less prints to be made, it was expensive, and the fickle nature of expired film often meant that that not every exposure will turn out. Sometimes whole packs could be ruined. But the results could turn out to be other-worldly. An unlike digital, completed tangible. You could hold them in your hand (not computer screen or iphone).
My success with Online Republic allowed to buy all sorts of crazy and wacky cameras. Although I didn’t have space in my home for darkroom, I soon learned how to at least developed negatives, including colour C-41 negatives in my kitchen. It a labour of passion and I loved that I was involved in nearly aspect of photography. The process didn’t stop at the rendering of light by a CMOS chip or abstract 0’s and 1’s that could be manipulated by PhotoShop. It was a physical object that meant no layer of abstraction with me and the final image.
In addition, I found the community of analogue photographers very endearing; I was quite involved on Flickr and Polanoid, the latter site I won Shot of the Day six times. I relished the days I could go out and take photos again.
But all things change. In 2013, I only had 3 posts on my Parahanga.com site. In early 2014, my mum had a very serious auto accident which shook my world. Very fortunate for us, my mum turned out to be okay, but we decided that we should spend at least part of the year overseas. Photography took a backseat. I posted my last post on Parahanga in June of that year. Over the next couple of years, I sold the majority of my cameras and packs of film.
Previously I stopped photography because lack of passion, but now I didn’t have time. Life happens; however, life does come around in waves.
Its August of 2020, I am a currently overseas waiting to come back to New Zealand. My wife (my girlfriend when I bought my first polaroid camera) and I have decided that after trying hard to balance two countries for last 5 years, to return home to New Zealand for good. I had a look at a parahanga.com the other day, and I decided to migrate it away from the Google corporate blogging platform into wordpress site. I am glad I did not let parahanga.com expire; the common practice by many search engine spammers is re-acquire old domains, and redress them spam until the domain is not worth anything anymore. Though I am not sure if I will continue my photography on parahanga.com, but at least I can keep it from deteriorating on the web.
Although I am still months away from reaching my camera and film, there is still fuel in my tank for photography. Let’s see what happens.