We catch up with photographer, Mark Smith and chat all things lockdown.
Mark tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m an Auckland based father, partner and photographer. I spend a lot of time at Te Henga on the West Coast where I surf and enjoy the extraordinary nature thats on tap out there. I’ve been a photographer since the late 1970s.
What was the inspiration behind mrmrsmithnz?
Instagram is a natural platform for photographers but I’d almost lost interest in it before the Pandemic turned up and Bauer quit New Zealand. Suddenly it seemed vital again and I started posting images from my daily Journal during Level Two of Lockdown. My last post for Level Two announced my Shut the Front Door project. I offered to photograph people at home for $100 a session or for free if helpful.
Shut the Front Door? Tell us more about the name?
This saying can be used in several ways but I employed it as an exclamation, like one that expresses disbelief. A friend suggested I make portraits of people at home during Level 3 of Lockdown, all within the constraints of social distancing.
So for fifteen days I drove around the Auckland region photographing people, mostly at their front door or wherever it was dry and safe.
I wanted to provide a simple record of this piece of history for them, a reminder of where they were when Covid- 19 locked us all up.
In the end it became a Family affair, with Lucy, my partner scheduling times from my Instagram DM and being ultra supportive. Jack my thirteen year old son assisted me some days.
I photographed 130 families or individuals.
Everyone seemed happy in the images – was their smile just for you? (as everyone was in lockdown!)
It must have been the result of my banter, ha! Most people prefer looking happy in photographs, so my job was to put them at ease and then edit accordingly.
Are you planning to produce a book of all these photos?
I thought if Auckland Museum were interested it might make a good digital time capsule for their archives.
What did you learn about yourself during lockdown time?
In our home the word Kind got bandied about a fair bit and having a to do list became important.
Although not everything on that list got ticked off, it certainly gave us all things to aim for.It kickstarted my old love for photography and the pleasure of social contact.
Your favourite food during the COVID-19 time?
Probably chicken soup.
How are you handling all this extra time at home?
I enjoyed Level 4, and then was quite free in level 3. I work from home, so I’m pretty happy working away there.Home has a lovely garden and close proximity to a beach so I am very lucky.
Soundtrack of choice whilst working at home if any?
I made a Corona Virus Playlist that I’d add to, and still do. Prince was on high rotate, Love will tear us apart, by Nerina Pallot, Lovely Day, Bill Withers, Get up off that thing, James Brown Hangin’, Chic were favourites plus Max Richter, YoYo Ma & Bill Evans all got an airing.
What’s for breakfast?
Muesli and fruit.
Where do you like to get your news from?
The Guardian, Radio NZ, The Spinoff, Newsroom and The Herald.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walk the dog, we love our dog Pearl. She was an essential and wonderful distraction during lockdown for us.
Working at home – what’s for lunch?
Whatever I can find in the fridge- lots of soup & homemade bread.
Have you been back to your favourite restaurant?
We went to an old favourite, Mr Zhou’s in Mt Eden last week to meet and eat with a couple of dear friends for a feast of chive and egg steamed dumplings. The food delicious but the company was the true highlight of the evening.
Least favourite thing about working from home?
I’m considering going on the road for a week or so to photograph some people in the provinces during Level 2.Then I’ll be continuing work with my friend Felicity Jones on a collaboration we started two years ago called ‘Case Studies’.It looks at the Wardian Case, a simple wooden and glass case that was responsible for enabling the transportation of flora around the world from the 19th century until the 1960s. We exhibited Part One of this project in Auckland last year. We were scheduled to be meeting up in England about now to continue our story about the New Zealand flora that has ended up on those shores dating back to Captain Cook’s time. Sadly that is now on hold, but there is still much to be done here, I’m excited about it.