An exhibit marking the 10th anniversary of the Rena grounding has opened in Tauranga ten years to the day since the ship struck Astrolabe Reef.
A collection of photos, taken by brothers Ross and Graeme Brown of Vision Media, are on display in an outdoor exhibit that will run through October and November in Mount Maunganui and downtown Tauranga.
The opening launch at Coronation Park, which began shortly after dawn today, exactly 10 years after the grounding, brought together exhibition sponsors and representatives from Maritime NZ, University of Waikato , local iwi, councils and community organizers.
Ross and Graeme were commissioned by Maritime New Zealand to keep a photographic record of the 2011 disaster response, and their photos and videos have subsequently been viewed by millions of people around the world.
âThe Rena exhibit came about after taking hundreds of thousands of photos that Graeme and I had taken as official Maritime New Zealand photographers,â says Ross.
âIt was interesting to see how it started. I got a phone call from Maritime New Zealand asking if we could get a contract for three or four days.
âAt that time, I was also working at Sun Media as a Managing Director, and I had a few other things to do as well. With our company Vision Media, Graeme was based in Palmerston North, and he got a call from me in the middle of the night.
Graeme remembers that call.
âThe Rugby World Cup was being played and Ross called to say maybe we were getting a contract, he was waiting 20 minutes for a contract from Maritime New Zealand,â says Graeme.
âHe called me back and I had already made the decision to come and help Ross take pictures. He said ‘we have the contract, the bad news is they want you here at 7am tomorrow’.
Graeme drove through the night and upon arrival he was airlifted to the Rena along with Maritime NZ staff who were dropped on the ship.
âIt all started from there,â says Graeme. âOver the next four months, which we thought was only four days, we covered events as they unfolded, as you will see here in the images on display. “
Ross Brown and Graeme Brown. Photo: SunLive.
âIt was a great experience to fly there and record it photographically,â said Ross. “The idea for an exhibition was born to show a collection of photos in one place that tells the story of Rena.”
Ten years later, they began the task of shortlisting 400 photos from thousands of photographs, with Ross saying they were wondering which photograph to choose.
They ultimately selected 20 that will be displayed on notice boards at Coronation Park from October 5-18.
The display will then move to The Strand from October 19 to November 15. Each of the 20 panels is sponsored by individuals, businesses and organizations.
âWhat we’ve tried to do in this display isn’t just to show the disintegration of the ship,â says Ross. âIt’s also to show what the community has done and how the community has responded in a fantastic way.
“In many ways, that was one of the most amazing things – how everyone made it their own -” this is our beach, we don’t want oil on it, we’re going to go there and do it And Maritime New Zealand was absolutely amazing. They said ‘yes we are going to involve the community’, after a little initial problem thinking ‘is this the right thing to do’. They chose to get them involved and that ‘ was the right thing.
âWith the hundreds of images we’ve seen, I think we’ve found some real gems,â says Graeme.
It’s no surprise that they ended up with so many pictures. What started as two or three days of work in 2011 ended up lasting over four months.
âWe would like to thank the sponsors,â says Ross.
âWithout them, we would not have been able to continue the exhibition.
Each photograph has a sponsor name underneath.
âWe ask everyone to watch this and acknowledge that these sponsors made this exhibition possible, because this is a major undertaking. We had to make the decision to go ahead, and we didn’t really have the sponsorship to do it, but they just came out of the woods and said, âhey, look, we’re going to support itâ.
The exhibit includes stunning photos and close-ups of scenes the public may never have seen before.
“People are going to see photos of bags on the beach, the released birds, the washing of little blue penguins and wildlife, the breaking of the Rena and the changes of the ship, and how the sea can swallow up a huge container ship in about. four months, âsays Ross.
Ross and Graeme’s photo exhibit will be on display during the day, and illuminated at night, on billboards at Coronation Park from October 5-18.
The exhibit will then move to The Strand from October 19 to November 15.
To mark the 10th anniversary, Sun Media released a ten-year commemorative special. See the post here.