Weekend Sun   

Rena photo exhibition launches

Graeme and Ross Brown next to the Rena exhibition at Coronation Park. Photo: John Borren.

An exhibition marking the 10th anniversary of the grounding of the Rena has opened in Tauranga, a decade to the day since the vessel hit Astrolabe Reef.

A collection of photos, taken by brothers Ross and Graeme Brown of Vision Media, is on show at an outdoor display that will extend across October and November in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga city centre.

The exhibition launch at Coronation Park, which started soon after dawn on Tuesday exactly 10 years since the grounding, included exhibition sponsors and representatives from Maritime NZ, the University of Waikato, local iwi, councils and community organisers.

Ross and Graeme were commissioned by Maritime New Zealand to keep a photographic record of the disaster response back in 2011, and their photos and videos were subsequently seen by millions around the globe.

“The Rena exhibition came about after having hundreds of thousands of photos that Graeme and I had taken as official photographers for Maritime New Zealand,” says Ross.

“It was interesting how it started. I had a phone call from Maritime New Zealand asking if we could do a contract for three or four days.

“At that time I was also working at Sun Media as a general manager, and I had a few other things on as well. With our company, Vision Media, Graeme was based in Palmerston North and he got a call from me in the middle of the night.”

Graeme remembers that call.

“The Rugby World Cup was playing, and Ross phoned to say we’re possibly getting a contract from Maritime New Zealand,” says Graeme.

“He rang me back, and I’d already made the decision to come up and help Ross take images. He said: ‘We’ve got the contract, the bad news is they want you here at 7am tomorrow’.”

Graeme drove through the night, and as soon as he arrived he was flown out to the Rena with  Maritime NZ staff who were dropped onto the ship.

“It all started from there,” says Graeme. “Over the next four months, which we thought was only going to be four days, we covered the events as they unfolded - as you’ll see in the images on display.”

 “It was an awesome experience to fly out there and record it photographically,” says Ross. “The idea of an exhibition came about to show a collection of photos all in one place that tells the story of the Rena.”

Ten years on, they began the task of short-listing 400 from thousands of photographs. They finally selected 20 that will be displayed on billboards at Coronation Park from October 5-18.

The display will then switch to The Strand from October 19 to November 15. Each of the 20 boards is being sponsored by individuals, businesses and organisations.

“What we’ve tried to do in this display isn’t just to show the break-up of the ship,” says Ross. “It’s also to show what the community did, and how fantastically the community responded to it.

“In a lot of ways, that was one of the most amazing things - how everybody took ownership and said ‘this is our beach, we don’t want oil on it, we’re going to get out there and do it’.”

“With the hundreds of images we’ve gone through, I think we’ve come up with some real gems,” says Graeme.

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