Some time ago now, through my day job as a ‘digital nerd’ at Archives New Zealand, a project rolled in through the mist that I was asked if I wanted to be a part of. Little did I know when I said yes exactly what I’d be letting myself in for…
Ray Waru is a TV producer in New Zealand, notable for his influential role played in promoting and building Maori broadcasting in the country and he has his name behind a few of the more significant TV series produced here. A few years ago now he was escorted down in the repository spaces within New Zealand’s national archives by another ex TVNZ figure, my boss Alan Ferris. What Ray saw there prompted ideas and made him pitch to do a TV series based on the hidden treasures that lay within. Unfortunately, TV these days needs models, recipes or ‘reality stars’ so the pitch didn’t work, but the idea of a book was thrown back, and so began the journey Ray embarked upon in writing his first book ‘Secrets & Treasures.’
When the ideas were forming into something stronger, backed by the commitment of assistance from Archives New Zealand, the book started to really come to life, but one thing was missing; images. At the time I was first approached, I was a newbie within Archives New Zealand, yet I knew I could take photos, and the simple truth was that if I didn’t do it, the publishing budget certainly wouldn’t cover some hot-shot commercial photographer charging their hourly rate.
What came to be was something special.
When I write about this project here, I take on a slightly different tone to how I’ve spoken before. I’m not speaking on behalf of Ray, nor my day job, but as someone whose life is photos… The project pushed me hard, made me learn things about jobs like this I didn’t know mattered, yet one real truth became clear to me – by being both an employee of Archives New Zealand and the photographer for the book, I had an utterly unique perspective. And honestly, I can’t emphasise that enough. I doubt any photographer will get access to the national archives in quite the same way for a very, very long time, and I suspect the way those images were formed teamed with Ray’s TV background fueled entertaining narrative makes the book unique. I really don’t know if anything like this has been done anywhere before in quite the same style.
It makes me proud to know I was part of this. I could have sat back and seen the project mature with a dry, visually arid look, but that’s not my style and I’m pleased to say it simply isn’t the case when you see the end result now. It’s not ‘my’ book, but it feels pretty close. ‘My’ first book then: Secrets & Treasures by Ray Waru, published by Random House (ISBN: 9781869796891)