Bishopdale 2017: The Christchurch Documentary Project

Going beyond the iconic elephant slide and the suburban mall, five photographers from the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts immersed themselves in the public and private lives of Bishopdale residents to create the latest instalment of The Christchurch Documentary Project - Bishopdale 2017. Vew the exhibition at Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre. or online. The exhibition opened at 6pm on Tuesday 28 November and runs until Friday 22 December.

Janneth Gil, Liam Lyons, Elise Williams, Lucas Perelini and Thomas Herman photographed the people and physical environment of Bishopdale between March and September this year, building a collection of over 350 images that capture both the history of the area and the often overlooked moments of community life. The gathering at the fishing and casting club meetings; new mums learning baby massage at the Plunket rooms; a father and teenage son watching the All Blacks over a pint, a Coke and a bowl of chips — for the photographers, these were some of the moments that conveyed the deep connections people had in Bishopdale, to each other, and to the place.

"Going to a community like that and noticing that there are so many things going on and people getting together - it opens doors and gives the feeling like you can belong to a place," Janneth Gil reflected after completing the project. Like Janneth, all of the photographers discovered a vibrant and inclusive community in Bishopdale, and were humbled by the generosity people showed as they were invited into their homes, workplaces and clubs.

For Lucas Perelini whose only experience of Bishopdale before this project was Saturday morning rugby at Nunweek Park, he was inspired by the richness of life that exists in suburban Christchurch if you only pause to look: "Sometimes you can walk around a place and it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot going on - but there really is. There's so much going on that you can't always see at first glance."

The Christchurch Documentary Project is a collaboration between Christchurch City Libraries and the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts that began in 2015. Internship positions are offered to photography students in their 3rd or 4th year of study with the brief to create a documentary photographic record of a Christchurch community. The photographs are then included in the Christchurch City Libraries Digital Heritage Collection, acting as an important social record for generations to come.

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