Exploring our environmental history though the remarkable photos of Wildbore

Bush-whacker camp

Now that ‘Beyond Manapouri’ is safely out into the world, some of you may have been wondering what my next book project is.

Well, since you asked ;-), it is a book exploring the life and works of a man called Charles E. Wildbore, who emigrated to New Zealand as a boy in 1874, and settled in the newly-opened Pohangina Valley, in the Manawatu. Wildbore was unremarkable in many ways. Like many other settlers of this era, he and his wife Jane owned a small farm, with a small herd of dairy cows, and some chickens. He also had an apiary and produced honey for the local market.

But what does make Wildbore remarkable are his photographs. These captured the landscape as it was undergoing transformative change: from a densely forested valley to settlements and farms. He is perhaps the only photographer to capture this process of transformation at every stage of the process: bush-whacking, timber-milling, bush burning, sowing of grass seed, farming (among the stumps and incinerated trees) and harvesting of grass seed. A number of his photographs featured in my 2014 book Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu, but his work is deserving of a book all to itself.

Read more about the book in the Manawatu Standard feature of March 2018.

Release date July 2018. More details to come.

Image: Bush-whackers’ camp at Komako, Pohangina Valley, ca 1904, taken by Charles E. Wildbore. Palmerston North Library.

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