Small town revelations : a dramatised, photographic retelling of regionalised histories, legends, myths and past characters within small town Aotearoa New Zealand

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Austin, David Fergus
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Master of Design
Unitec Institute of Technology
Williams, Marcus
Downie, Julie
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
small towns
narrative photography
historical re-enactment
local identity
story telling
New Zealand photography
photographic tableaux
small town history
regional history
New Zealand
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Austin, D. F. (2013). Small town revelations : a dramatised, photographic retelling of regionalised histories, legends, myths and past characters within small town Aotearoa New Zealand. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design). Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
This Masters of Design by Project is a heuristic practice-based research undertaking that investigates perceptions of local identity and sense of place for residents of small town Aotearoa New Zealand. Through establishment of an interactive collaborative methodology this project seeks to derive potentially viable illustrative subject matter based upon folklore relevant to the local residents of small towns and remote communities. This exegesis documents an investigation that encompasses those within society who choose to attach themselves to distinctive places within the landscape and how they might identify themselves within it. Both this document and the project’s photographic works evidence a journey of discovery ; a journey that looked to uncover small town history, myth, and legend, the known and little known, the past and bygone, the people, lifestyles and place. These are places where the residents feel very much of, in contrast to being merely from. Appropriately then it was the residents of small towns who became storytellers, revealing folklore that informed the narratives underpinning each of the works which are intended to portray a sequence of events that reflects a local story. Significant challenges lay in reinterpreting verbally recollected stories into something visually tangible and engaging. As artistically motivated reinterpretations of folklore the works expose an inherent acuity for stereotype, sentimentalism and nostalgia. However, instead of detracting or distracting from the storyline these cognitive characteristics potentially become contributory facets that add new layers to the narrative. Along this journey I became many things more than simply an empathetic photographer. My function progressively developed from that of outside observer to include the roles of listener, facilitator, negotiator, translator, activist, director, digital technician and, ultimately, that of a visual story re-teller.
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