Christchurch: The re-building of a City

Every time each of us presses the shutter button on our camera we create the potential opportunity to time travel. To go back and experience events and emotions…and to relive memories.

2004 ‘pre-quake’ Christchurch Cathedral

KODAK DX6490 ZOOM DIGITAL CAMERA @ 6.3mm, ISO 80, 1/500, f/4.0

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have visited New Zealand twice. The first time was in 2004 and most recently in the late fall of 2013. During my second visit one of my most poignant memories was walking through the city centre of Christchurch and remembering what it was like back in 2004.

Post-quake Christchurch Cathedral

NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 46mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/8.0

This part of the city was severely damaged by earthquakes that hit on September 4th2010, and again on February 22nd 2011. The February quake was the second most deadly in New Zealand history, killing 185 people.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

The estimated damage from the earthquakes has been pegged at $40 billion NZ, and some economists estimate it will take the New Zealand economy 50 to 100 years to fully recover.

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Visiting post-quake Christchurch was a surreal experience. Entire blocks were cordoned off and buildings abandoned.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/400, f/8.0

Areas where we once saw throngs of people shopping, eating, and enjoying street entertainers, now have almost a ghost-like silence.

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But, the proof of the resilience and creativity of New Zealanders is everywhere.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 28mm, ISO 800, 1/2500, f/8.0

The sounds of construction abound, forming a chorus of dogged determination.

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Steel shipping crates have been reworked and stacked to form retail shops and restaurants.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 85mm, ISO 800, 1/1600, f/8.0

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 85mm, ISO 800, 1/200, f/8.0

Finished restorations, some reinforced with earthquake bolts, are celebrated.

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Massive steel beams are angled to provide support as buildings are restored or await their turn.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0

And, it seems a never-ending stream of trucks and equipment work through the rubble with the promise of hope and a new beginning.

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There is something about the human experience that causes us to want to reach out and let others know that we were here.

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NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/8.0

We want them to know that we have shared at least a fleeting moment of their pain from the past…and that we are united in our hopes for a better tomorrow.

Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved, no use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.