picture from the series ‘ether’ 2015

The pictures in ether are taken predominantly on coastal areas of the North Island of New Zealand, on west coast beaches such as Ahipara, Anawhata, Piha, Bethells, and Sandy Bay and Tawharanui on the east coast, along with dusk settings around my home and the city of Auckland.

These are places of significance where I can work quietly and for long periods and find how these places affect and shape my thoughts and values. The pictures allow me to explore both imaginary spaces and the often uncomfortable feeling that we as a species are at odds with elements of our own survival. There is a sense of the beauty and terror that natural environments evoke and making these pictures is about finding a way to live with within this, especially as, for humans, significant changes are underway in the environment. How to live in a world in which we are of no concern to the way of nature but are and will be affected deeply by it?

picture from the series ‘ether’

Nature does not depend on humans. We look and marvel at it; turn our backs on it; pollute it and think about it’s supposed destruction, but with us or without us there is a process that just acts and moves uncaringly on. That might continue to include humans or not, continue with an earth that has life or not, but humans, the earth and even our solar system are only a tiny part of what might be thought, in a bigger picture, as the natural world.

A tension exists for me between human activity and creativity and the simple fact that it has no significance in the wider history of the universe. There’s also a tension in each human action, which results in an impact on our environment – each decision to travel, to buy, to print a photograph involves resource use, waste and additions to our carbon dioxide footprint (among other measures). We can choose to limit our impact but following that thought to its logical conclusion can imply that we should not do anything. So like many things, there must be a balance found that meets with our personal integrity.

These pictures are a part of the way I look at my own place in nature, as an observer, and completely engulfed in it. At times, an exquisite phenomenon, at others a transcendence of the mundane but also a reminder of our insignificance.



picture by renske van den brink
picture by renske van den brink

Stu Sontier

Along with a work background in electronic engineering, documentary photography and web development, I’ve pursued an interest in music and other arts, ecological and human rights activism. The core values I return to are a respect for the world we have and the place we find ourselves in, living alongside the other creatures that reside here.