Book Reviews: High Country in New Zealand, by Alison Dench, and Historic Places of New Zealand, by Dr Sven Schroeder – photography by Rob Suisted

cv_high_country_in_nzAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

Rob Suisted is a renowned photographer of New Zealand’s exceptional scenery and the wildlife and human structures that inhabit those landscapes. His partnership with New Holland publishing has spanned fourteen books to date, including the award-winning Majestic New Zealand.

In producing these two pint-sized glossy publications, Suisted has been teamed up with experts in their respective fields, researcher Alison Dench and archeologist Dr Sven Schroeder. With these reputations behind them, the books arrive at the reader’s fingertips freighted with a certain factual and aesthetic authority.

High Country in New Zealand presents images and written descriptions of landscapes that might be relatively foreign to most New Zealanders, at least in terms of personal encounters. The reader who is moved by images of the types of structures that signify a pragmatic, humble engagement with a vast and energetic world (tents on plateaus, huts in the tussock) will be drawn in. As will the reader who responds to images of wild horses in the Kaimanawa Ranges or the karearea/falcon on the wing. The side-effect seems to be an instinctive longing for the conservation of the habitat, the structure, the species, followed, perhaps, by an urge to witness it all for oneself. One senses that Suisted would be at ease if the reader was affected thus.

Alison Dench’s introductions and photograph-accompanying short texts contribute to the allure of this book. The written style is poetic and factual, and consistently reflective of the bilingual naming of the land. “On a clear day, the sacred peak of Tapua-O-Uenuku, standing tall above the Inland Kaikoura Range, can be seen from as far away as Christchurch to the south and Taranaki in the north.”

cv_historic_places_of_NZHistoric Places of New Zealand follows a similar format − images of gorgeous places allied with informative and insightful text − though the photographs do not appear to have been reproduced as crisply: there is the odd warp or elongation, and the photographer Suisted does not appear to be as comfortable amongst monuments and leisure seekers as he is when surrounded by mountains and working people.

Nonetheless, as the book moves the reader from north to south, from Ruapekapeka Pa to the whaling artifacts on Stewart Island via the old wooden Government Buildings in Wellington, an effect can be registered. The reader may well reach for a map of New Zealand and a calendar, start dreaming of being out under blue skies with white clouds in constant movement, of treading on historic piers and the Bridge to Nowhere.

The effect of both books could be summed up as follows: You’ve seen it in a book, now experience it for yourself, and most importantly, conserve it for all to come.

Reviewed by Aaron Blaker

High Country in New Zealand
by Alison Dench, photography by Rob Suisted
Published by New Holland Publishers
ISBN 9781869664152

Historic Places of New Zealand
by Dr Sven Schroeder, photography by Rob Suisted
Published by New Holland Publishers
ISBN 9781869664169

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