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Returning to the East

A love of the natural environment is at the heart of photographer Ebony Whitaker’s works which can be seen in his show at Tairawhiti Museum, Returning to the East.

Whitaker’s love for the East Coast comes from a long association with the coastlines of New Zealand as a surfer. He took up surfing in Ohope as a 10-year-old, went on to compete throughout New Zealand before moving to Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

Pursuit of the best waves brought him to Tairawhiti and now, having returned from Australia, Whitaker shares his response to the environment he immerses himself in for his art.

“What particularly catches my eye about the East Coast is the coast itself — the variety in the beaches, headlands, sand beaches, reef beaches, rock beaches that catch different swells and winds.”

Having grown up in the Bay of Plenty, the East Coast’s distinctive light also catches his attention.

“I’m always struck by the visibility of the coastline. You get way less humidity than where I live. You can see for kilometres and everything is crystal clear.”

Photographs from the exhibition are for sale. The lockdown response to the Covid-19 pandemic has hit many businesses so any sales help support not only the artist, but the museum and businesses such as framers who are associated with the presentation of the works.

“Selling artworks in public museums is unusual, but it’s always worked well for the museum and we see it as a win-win,” museum director Eloise Wallace told The Gisborne Herald last month.

“It’s not only a great way to support artists, but it’s also a way for people to enjoy having an original art work at home or at work, at an affordable price.”

Returning to the East runs until July 5.

VIVID GREEN ROCKS: Photographer Ebony Whitaker’s picture of exposed rocks licked by early morning sunlight at Wainui Beach is among a selection of his works on show at Tairawhiti Museum. “I have spent a lot of time at this beach in and out of the water and this is the first time I have seen this collection of rocks exposed,” says Whitaker in his catalogue notes. “What strikes me about this image is the contrast between the warm sun and the vivid green rocks.” Picture by Ebony Whitaker