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Photography pop-up part of CBD revitalisation initiative

Waitaki App

13 June 2024, 1:31 AM

Photography pop-up part of CBD revitalisation initiativeMartin Horspool is taking part in the Waitaki District Council's Revitalise Our Places Ōamaru (Ropo), with his photography pop-up on Thames Street. Photo: Ashley Smyth

Most of Ōamaru has heard of Martin Horspool and his retro “buggyrobots”, but a new pop-up initiative in town is allowing him to showcase another talent of his - photography.

Martin became aware of the Waitaki District Council’s Revitalise Our Places Ōamaru (Ropo) programme - an idea to turn empty shops from “vacant into vibrant” - and thought it would be a good chance to exhibit some of his prints.

The council says Ropo is a “significant milestone” in the plan to revitalise the town centre and bring life back to the main street.

The six-month pilot project is designed to fill commercial spaces for 30-day periods in-between the times when they are tenanted long-term.

The programme acts as a sort of “broker” between the landlord and the pop-ups. 

The idea is to help people present their ideas and concepts to a wider audience, and at the same time, it helps showcase the empty spaces, highlighting the opportunities within them to hopefully attract new long-term tenants.

Martin has been taking photos since he was a teenager, and has 34 prints hanging in 145 Thames Street, opposite the Boer War memorial.

“I like to see people's unusual fashion styles, and I have visited, in the past, a lot of places where people like that accumulate, or sort of gather . . . whether it's festivals or hot rod shows, or just travel,” he says.

The Welsh-born artist says mostly the photos have been taken in New Zealand, but some are from Japan and America.

He has captured people from a number of events, including the Beach Hop at Whangamata, a KISS concert, an axeman competition in Puhoi, a hot road convention in Auckland, and even an Elvis tribute show.

His favourite photo in the collection is of a man, who was part of a gang of dancers in Yoyogi Park, in Tokyo.

“There's a big group of them . . . and they don't talk to anybody. They just do their thing. They hang around, they dance in public. But you know, you can't talk to them.

“I saw this guy turning up, and he had a big, full length, like, Matrix coat. And he had the biggest hair in the world. And he had this, like, walking cane, and he turned up all staunch, and I thought . . . this guy, I must get a photograph of him, but they're very unapproachable. 

“I know a little bit of Japanese, and I say, ‘excuse me, can I, I'd love to take your photograph. You look amazing’...

“I had to work really hard to get that.”

He also enjoys taking photos without people seeing he’s there, so they’re not posing. 

In Japan it is polite to ask, but usually he waits for his subject to approach, gets “low down”, takes a photo, and "then I’m off”, he says.

The photos Martin has on display, he had printed off during his career as a printer in Auckland, before moving to Ōamaru in 2022. Now anything he takes, he just pops up online.

While Martin would love to be able to sit at the venue and talk to people who pop in - his day job dictates otherwise, so he will be in the space on Saturdays between 11am and noon, while the pop-up is running.

Outside this time, most of the photos can be easily viewed through the window.

Asked what advice he would give to people wanting to take a good photo, Martin says to “get close”.

“I see a lot of people with telephoto lenses, and you don't need a telephoto, you just have to get close to somebody . . . just walk up, sometimes uncomfortably close,” he says.  

Martin is happy to share what he knows about taking good photos to anyone who pops in for a visit on a Saturday.

“There are like easy, easy rules to get better photographs. Which I will divulge to anyone who wants to come and listen.”


The photos are hanging in the building until at least July 7.

Other pop-ups taking part in the Ropo programme, is Us. - a collaboration of three artists, at 167 Thames Street, and Waste-Free Waitaki, at 179 Thames Street.