Contemporary photographic practice has evolved into a field of possibilities, which includes a flux of representational modes that depict experiences, feelings and emotions. This PhD with Creative Practice Components investigates how photography is embedded within ways of knowing, experiencing and making places and the subsequent visual constructions of place imaginaries. Drawing on contemporary photographic practice and theory, I position myself as a qualitative researcher engaged in creative practice, specifically lens-based approaches and modes of photographic representation. In contrast to photography’s dominant discourse centred on indexical and objective assumptions, I understand photographic practices and images as constructions of multiple meanings.
I use Te Awa River Ride as my research locale, a place where different practices and discourses entangle, forming a diverse set of dynamic and intersecting meanings. Te Awa River Ride is a shared pathway, with a planned total length of 70 kilometres, that edges the banks of the Waikato River from Ngāruawāhia to Cambridge, in the central North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. I understand Te Awa River Ride as a place-composite, layered by multiple place imaginaries, including indigenous Māori, Pākehā and European ways of meaning and place-making. In this thesis I draw upon place imaginaries as a way of expressing visual possibilities, constructions and affective responses to my own and others’ experiences at this unique research location.
My photography practice aims to actualise particular place imaginaries through curation and sequencing of lens-based explorations of light, movement and water. This process and the compilation of imagery into curatorial products, such as photography installations, generate novel ways of perceiving the Waikato River and Te Awa River Ride, revealing the centrality of photography in place-making processes.