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Modelling Agency Scam

RiK ! - Monday, August 21, 2017

Updated - Mon 4 & 8 September 2017 - see bottom of blog for latest

I am very empathetic. I pride myself on being able to put myself in different people's situations & see things from their point of view. But I find it almost impossible to understand someone who sets up a business with the sole intention of scamming young women, exploiting their vanity and ambition at an age when they are most impressionable. What sort of person can sleep at night knowing that their business is preying on people, living a huge lie & hiding in the dense electronic jungle?

the lovely Rose Halfpenny

Certainly no scam with this lady! The gorgeous Rose Halfpenny

We have all been there, I'm sure. Taken in, or nearly taken in by a scam that we really want to look real because it appeals to us so much in some way. Of course, if your inner voice is sensible enough to listen to the whispered words, 'if it looks too good to be true, it probably is', then you can pull yourself back from the brink. But all of us at some point are vulnerable to being exploited. As a group, young women wanting to be models are probably amongst the most vulnerable, which is why people who set up fake 'modelling agencies' are so awful. Of course, it isn't just fake agencies. The world is full of fake photographers as well, who simply want to exploit young women for their own nefarious ends. As a professional photographer, I am sometimes hurt by the actions of others, just as accountants must feel slight embarrassment when one of their own is caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Actually no, that comparison is not valid, since most of the fake photographers are just that, fake. The word 'photographer' should not be applied to them simply because they wield a camera.

Words are powerful, and just as we shouldn't endow the shysters with the title photographer, nor should we normalise the scam artists by calling them modelling agencies. They are simply thieves. I've often wondered why the world allows our current batch of loonies to be called 'Islamic State' when they are patently neither. Surely it would be better to call them DMs, the Delusional Murderers, or some such derogatory title, then we could all look at them as they really are.

I digress. I was contacted last week by a girl I photographed a short while ago who wanted to know whether an offer she had been made sounded genuine or normal to me. Of course, it didn't! Everything about it screamed scam, but then I was not looking at it through her eyes. She wanted it to be true because she wanted a modelling job & of course, if she turned it away there was always a chance she'd be turning away the opportunity of a lifetime, right? Well at least she was sensible & did turn it away, but I wanted to alert potential models out there to this scam & to watch out for others. She was approached in May & all the information is from then. She turned the offer down then, but was approached again last week for an apparent Gucci offer - same company, same agent, same terms!

She was approached by an agent for Silverline models & basically she was supposed to pay US$500 up front, or possibly $US700, or possibly even US$800 - there was confusion over the amounts - to cover costumes & travel expenses. OK, I know, the biggest red flag of all! A model, paying up front a sizeable amount that would then get reimbursed with the fee at the end of the shoot? I didn't have to do much checking, did I? So, models; never, ever, ever, ever pay anything up front for a modelling job. If you are paying a photographer for portfolio shots, that may be different, although personally, I would advise not paying up front for those either. The screenshots my lady took of her messaging conversations with the agent are bizarre (I attach just some) to say the least & the contract reads like a badly written comedy script…


 

Not much checking was really required, but I did do some & I'd like to explain what I did because this is the minimum a model should do when presented with anything like this.

  • Check on the sources of all communications. Emails - check the actual email address, not the 'name' that appears. Doing this varies between systems, but right-clicking on the email name should reveal it. Do this for all potential scam emails & unless it's from a proper domain - apple.com / Microsoft.com / .govt.nz etc, treat it with extreme suspicion.
  • Check the country source for any phone number given. Go to countrycode.org to find it. In this case, the number given was from Nigeria, ostensibly because the agent was there doing a Unicef shoot. +2348154783867...
  • Keep copies of all communications & screenshot any messaging to ensure it's kept. 
  • Ask for identification. My lady did & got a photo of the agent's driving license. I can't check the validity of it, but at least it gave up some useful info.As it turned out, this lady's name is actually Jody Louise Corcoran. No possible relation of the Natascha Corcoran listed under contacts on the site (separately from Jody Louise) or the Natascha van Heerden on the about page as one of the founders, surely? I think you can see how these lies are all intertwined. What is it they say? If you are going to lie, keep it as close to the truth as possible? I think this lady has kept things a bit too close! Certainly, her address doesn't look like the residence of a successful NY agent!
  • Check the website address. In this case, the URL was www.silverlinemodel.com even though they called themselves Silverline Models. www.silverlinemodels.com is not owned by them but is for sale. You can check ownership of website addresses by going to the whois checking service  - they are the organisation that manages all website addresses (or URL's). From here, I established that Silverlinemodel.com is owned by Sophie Reid, 16 Thirsk Gardens, Bletchley, Milton Keynes UK. Sophie.Reid@gmail.com. Silverlinemodels.com is owned by Domain Registries Foundation - e.g. For Sale.
  • Check the website detail. While browsing through the pages, I noticed different URL's flickering on & off, especially for the FAQ page. The address www.steelemodels.com appeared briefly then disappeared & was replaced by a silverlinemodel.com address. This can happen if someone is using a web page but 'masking' the real address with another one, or has copied the content. Using a web inspector, I confirmed this & discovered all the pages were actually copied from this domain (but I wouldn't expect you to be able to do this without instruction). You shouldn't be able to see the real one, but with faltering connections & speeds, you can sometimes see the transition - worth watching for. Steelemodels.com is not currently being used & is owned by Mario van Heerden in South Africa. The reason I mention these names is that often different scams like these are run by the same people, so it's worth having question mark names to look out for. Also, variations. As it happens, the agency photographer named on their site is called Mardo van Heerdenk. A coincidence? I think not.
  • Check the website content. If you read the content in detail it is badly written & isn't really coherent, leading me to think it has been pulled from different sources. There are no terms & conditions on the site - a big flag. There is no way of contacting anyone real. The address for the agency is a 52 apartment condo block in New York, not a top notch agency location. Then look more closely. The gallery of photos on the home page - the Prev & Next buttons don't work because there are no more images. They have misspelt their own name - "Welcome to the home of Silverlne Models'. The contact email is info@silverlinemodel.com.com. And if you try & log in, you should get an authentication warning about a site called Steelemodel.com! Always look carefully at the detail… there is a lot more too!
  • Check all other available electronic sources, such as FaceBook & Instagram. In this case, their FaceBook page - @silverlinemodels (plural again) goes back to 26 Sept 2015 but has very few posts, only 183 likes & 185 followers. Not a good sign for a thriving agency. Even worse, the website link from their FaceBook page goes to silverlinemodels.com (the one they don't own, that's for sale). Pictures are dreadful, information is sparse & language is entirely uneducated. One of the 'likes' was by a photographer I knew online from New Zealand, so I asked him about them. He had no knowledge of the like or who they were, so if you have any people in common, ask them. You'll also find Silverline Models' (note the plural) Scout, Jody Louise who was the one communicating with my lady, on FaceBook at jody.louise.585. A similar story of sparse information. I didn't befriend her to get more info as I really didn't have the stomach! On to Instagram, they have only 6 posts & 24 following…. 
  • If you go so far as to get a contract, then simply read very carefully (or better still get someone independent to read it without those rose coloured specs) & check all details. The Silverline contract was written by a child & one without any knowledge of any legal contractual terminology that exists anywhere. Apart from the whole payment thing, I checked the address that the 'model' was supposed to go to for the shoot, which apparently was the address for Mary Kay Collections in Wellington. It is actually the address for Space Place at Carter Observatory

So, beware. Once you've stripped all detail down it does become quite obvious that it's a scam, so please do tear apart anything you are offered & protect yourself. There are thieves out there, hiding in plain sight.

 

Update - Mon 4 September 2017

Since I wrote this blog, I've had a great deal of positive feedback, both from those thanking me for simply detailing an ongoing scam and those who have also been touched by it. Over the weekend I received an email from Kath in Canada who has been approached by a scout for none other than Silverline Models! This time the scout said her name was Diana Budiachenko. Kath kindly provided screenshots of her conversations, and this is just one of them...

screenshot of conversation with the fake Diana Budiachenko of Silverline Models

Now, there is an active profile on FaceBook from a model of that name & one of her photos is exactly that used as the profile photo of this lady. However, I have no way of knowing whether she is the one operating the scam or whether it is our good friend Jody Louise Corcoran who has hi-jacked Diana's name. I strongly suspect the latter, because Diana's FaceBook profile looks genuine to me. If you are or know of, the real Diana Budiachenko, do let me know if she is the latest victim of this fraud... 

I also then received an email from Mardo van Heerden of Steele Model Studio. Mardo, as it turned out (and I spelt his name incorrectly in my blog, apologies) is the real deal, as is Steele Model Studio outside of Pretoria in South Africa. Their site, which wasn't responding when I wrote my blog, is operational again & you can see where Silverlinemodels ripped off most of its resource material! Apologies if I maligned you, Mardo, you are a victim in this as well. Mardo is working through the internet registrars to try & ensure his logos and content & details are not misused any longer. Of course, Ms Corcoran & Silverline Models will undoubtedly pop up with different content ripped off from somewhere else, so do keep an eye out! If you are a model & have had any experience with Steele Model Studio, do get in touch; I'd love to confirm some real life contact! And if you have been contacted by Jody Louise or Diana Budiachenko or anyone else from Silverline Models, keep details & do let me know. I'm happy to keep everyone updated on the actions of this predator.


 

Update - Fri 8 September 2017

I have been amazed at the extent of this scam. Of course, I shouldn't be since the web is international... This week, Steele Model Studio have been pressing forward to get their ISP to stop Jody Louise & I was contacted by a representative from StarNow in the US. They have alerted the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in the US and eConsumer in the UK. So I have communicated my concerns to the Commerce Commission here in New Zealand. Amongst other girls who have contacted me, my favourite has to be Ewelina who actually used my blog to call her out - yess!

screenshot of conversation with Jody Louise of Silverline Models

What can I say? Keep it going. Keep alert & keep spreading the word. The more information there is out there, the less chance this predator will have of finding success. This is what Jody is offering:

screenshot of conversation with Jody Louise of Silverline Models

RiKmediaStore Launch

RiK ! - Thursday, August 10, 2017

Today I am launching my new online store. Decisions, decisions! Do I fully integrate it into my main site, RiKmedia, or do I launch a separate store? I'm selling things that I'm showing on RiKmedia, but I'm also going to sell things that won't be on RiKmedia at all... I have advised people what to do in circumstances such as these - never easy, but absolutely impossible when it is your own business! Just try arguing both sides with yourself if you aren't schizophrenic.


I eventually decided that the best approach was to launch the Store independently, but link all areas that mattered... complicated, I know! So, if I'm selling anything from RiKmedia, such as prints, then you will either be directed direct to my online store or, if they are limited edition art prints, to Saatchi Art online. If you go direct to the RiKmedia Store & browse, you will find things not mentioned on RiKmedia, clear? As mud, I know. Well, early days. There is one great gift idea on the Store now, so go & have a look, you can't miss it! Oh, and do let me know what you think.... (if you know what the welcome message refers to, you're probably older than I am!)

Saatchi Art - 'Blue Trees'

RiK ! - Saturday, August 05, 2017

'Blue Trees'. Available as a limited edition print (series of 8) or as open edition prints...

'Blue Trees' Limited Edition Print

'Blue Trees' Open Edition Prints


I've just added 'Blue Trees' to my Saatchi Art collection.

You can follow me on Saatchi Art or see my work on my website gallery...


Featured Model - Dee

RiK ! - Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today I am launching a Featured Models section to my new Art Gallery. It has been a privilege working with some fantastic people over the years, most of whom are not professional models, just ordinary people wishing to try something slightly out of the ordinary. Well, ok, maybe 'ordinary' is a pejorative term for most, since I suppose Burlesque Performer, which is the preferred activity of my first featured model, Dee, is not exactly your average profession! Be that as it may, it is very hard for me to repay these artists. They are hard-working, generally uncomplaining unless I dunk them in really cold water, and very accommodating. My new Art Gallery is a place for me to publish those works that I'm really proud of & that are really special. In achieving these, I inevitably bypass hundreds of, in themselves, excellent works. The Featured Models page will be a growing archive, catalogued by model, so I can show everyone just how fantastic they really are.

Dee (aka KikiKisses)


Working with Dee is always an absolute pleasure. As a dancer, Dee knows her body & certainly knows her mind! I first worked with Dee 3 years ago, messing around with 4 other girls in a furniture showroom (long story!). Since then she has moved to Melbourne, moved back, started a job that she loves, perfected her Burlesque performances & fallen in and out of love several times. No, I'm making that last one up, but it's probably true! When I suggested doing a whole day shooting outdoors in the middle of winter, Dee was not only willing, but enthusiastic. When I further suggested she might like to swim under a waterfall in a freezing cold mountain stream, the energy waned very slightly but, she went and did it! I had to reject the shots with blue lips & clenched teeth, but there were enough genuinely fabulous ones to make it worth it.

Spending a whole day shooting with someone allows you to understand their true character, especially when they are naked & it's freezing cold! Dee's enthusiasm was infectious. Sometimes I am hesitant asking a model to do something (like strip off underground & hold still in a freezing stream for 30 seconds!) because of the reaction I think I might get. After all, I value my life! With Dee, it was often her own mad suggestions! I did a video interview with her, mainly because I wanted you to be able to see her true personality. It was intended to be about a minute, but, as you'll see, it got longer, simply because she is so irresistible. Watch it (below) & I think you'll fall a little bit in love with this bubbling ball of enthusiasm, just as I have. If you get the opportunity to go & see her on stage doing one of her burlesque performances, don't pass it up! You can keep up with her on Facebook & Instagram.

Featured Models

Launching Today, with Dee

Go to Featured Models Page

images by RiK

from this page you can open up the gallery of images that showcase just how good the models are...

Interview with Dee

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video by RiK

a challenge... if you can watch this entire video with no hint of a smile, tell me. I'll officially classify you as marble!

Art Gallery Online - new!

RiK ! - Friday, July 21, 2017

How I have procrastinated! Would I ever actually publish any of the thousands of images I've been creating for nearly a decade! Well, yes... here, now! Every year I said I was definitely going to do something this year and never did. I've had one major physical exhibition, but it's an interesting concept, selling photographic art online. Firstly, what makes it art? I've pondered that one for many years. Secondly, how can you publish works that you think will sell? Both are big questions and both have pre-occupied me for nearly ten years.

I now think I have the answers...

My new Art Gallery is online now!

The answer to the question of what makes art is so simple that I had to go round in massive circles before I arrived back at where I started. The answer is that I do. I must not try & copy others I see; I cannot force my style into a pattern that I think will be perceived as art; I can only do what I believe is great work. Like everything else I have done in my life, I have practised & practised, learning mostly from experience (I am extremely self-critical) but also from other people's reactions. It is my own instincts that tell me when to listen to & when to ignore others' advice. At times I'll get it wrong, but hopefully I eventually learn from that. So, I have honed my skills for the last decade & I am confident enough in my own work to bring it out of the shadows... Be kind, gentle viewer, be kind...

The answer to the commercial question of what will sell is pretty much the same. If I wanted to sell art solely to make money, I don't believe it would be my best work, because I would have to bend & manipulate my artistic instincts to fit into a pre-conceived mould, even if I could actually judge the mould correctly. I love what I do with a passion. Why would I dilute that just to try & make a fast buck? I work as a commercial photographer and designer and copywriter, so I'm happy making money that way. I work as an artist because I not only want to, I have to...

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the models I photograph & the other artists, body artists & stylists I work with. All of us do it for the love of the enterprise & I have been promising everyone for years to find the right forum & method to display & sell selected works. I have created a gallery section on my site, but I have decided to pass over the commercial aspects to Saatchi Art Online. They can handle enquiries & orders from anywhere in the world, a reach that sadly my site cannot yet equal! I doubt this will be the only outlet for my work, but I think it's a pretty solid start. Only 18 pieces are up for the launch, but I will be adding one or two each and every week, so keep tuned! Love to hear what you think.

p.s. If you missed the link in the text at the top, click on the image, or here...

World Masters Games 2017 Roundup

RiK ! - Friday, June 30, 2017

All done & dusted, packed away & pushed to the back of the top shelf. The medal I won is hanging off a curtain rail in the studio, alongside other historic, useless but precious items, like the binoculars my father gave me when I was nine. The World Masters Games (WMG) was all about endurance. Well, it can't by definition really be about world beating performances, can it? But it was also so much more than that. It was a community, a gathering of like-minded people bent on giving their best but also encouraging others to do so as well. It was fun - how many international sports competitions can that be said about! It was a reunion, a celebration, a sharing of aspirations, skills, knowledge. It was strange yet inspiring, basking in this collegiate atmosphere amongst octogenarians. And from the mouths of many, it was by far the best Games ever!

Congratulations, Auckland!

Yvonne Cattrall

 

Before the World Masters Games came to Auckland, I had never really heard about them, why? Well, possibly because I had moved away from any form of competitive sports many decades ago, so without being spoon fed the information, it was not going to appear on my radar. Possibly also because I wasn't old enough? I do find that recently, even before WMG2017 came along, I have been paying more attention to the issues of getting older in our society. Because I am! Historically until quite recently, certain activities in our society have been deemed suitable for youth & others for statesmen. There, that word gives it all away, Statesmen. Political & Social leaders can be old. Not so old they can't appear vigorous, but old enough to have absorbed the wisdom of the years. Athletic prowess; well, that's the domain of our youth… Now, we are seeing more young people entering politics, thank goodness, as the wise has to be balanced with the vision, and we are seeing more older people remaining physically active for much, much longer.

I had the privilege of hearing Lisa Tamati deliver an inspirational talk the other week. One of the perks of the job. I get hired to photograph an event, then I can listen to the speakers. They aren't always interesting, but she certainly was. There is a world outside our comfortable bubble, a world that is harsh & unrelenting, where absolute extremes can tear you apart physically & exhaust you mentally. And neither age nor sex are any boundary. She ran La Ultra - the High Race, a 222Km gruelling race over two of the highest passes in the world (in the Himalayas), just to try & be the first woman to complete it. She was over 40 and she finished - second - beaten by a 55 year-old woman. Her list of extreme accomplishments is humbling - see lisatamati.co.nz - and she is living proof that we can accomplish far more than we believe, and age is no barrier.

I photographed mainly badminton play (as this was my sport & I highly recommend you go along to Badminton North Harbour & give it a go!), with some swimming & the opening ceremony during the WMG. You can see all the images in this gallery. (It's quite large, apologies, because when I tried to break it down it became even more unwieldy!) Please just browse through & request any image you want for your own personal use. (If you want any for commercial use, you know what you have to do!) Ideally let me know using the gallery's selection tools & I'll send you the unwatermarked image file, free of charge. All I ask in return is that if you share them anywhere you credit RiK of RiKmedia.nz…

I intend never to retire. Never to stop playing sport. Never to behave as if I'm older than 30. Never to give in to my body complaining that it wants to stop & rest. Never to gracefully fade into the background… This is what the World Masters Games means. This, plus a community that supports each other even in competition.

World Masters Games 2017

Auckland - March 2017

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images by RiK

depending on your connection speed, the galleries can take a while to load.

This Is Me - Geoff Burne

RiK ! - Monday, May 29, 2017

Being a relatively recent immigrant to New Zealand (2005), it is easier to view Kiwi lifestyles, habits & characteristics than if I was born here, being careful to avoid the bias of my own cultural background, of course! The phrase a 'self-made man' is today dated & rather pompous, conjuring images of Victorian 'working class Gentlemen' but one thing New Zealanders are very proud of is the 'number 8 wire mentality', a more fitting description for the ingenuity & resourcefulness required to create great things from virtually nothing. No-one I have met in New Zealand so far more embodies this spirit than Geoff. He has a timeless drive and determination that has allowed him to carve out his place in the world.

Geoff Burne

 

I have an 18 year-old son, who is three years older than Geoff was when he left home to go & work on commercial fishing boats. I think it is only when you put things in personal contexts like this that you can appreciate the difficulties he had to overcome at a very young age. Many kids, especially of today, would simply have given up; not Geoff. He moved where opportunities presented, first by and because of an accident, into farming where he found his ideal profession - save for the money - as a shepherd, then into insurance, which he moved to because his ambition required him to earn more money. Success in this field ultimately led to redundancy which afforded him the next opportunity. Always harbouring an ambition to work for himself, he decided to start a sporting goods trade show. Why? Because he wanted to go to one & discovered none existed! He launched and ran 3 shows over 4 years on his own, literally. Ask any organisation running trade shows how many people they need & I doubt they'll say just one!

Geoff has the restlessness usually associated with driven & ambitious people, but possibly unusually for this genre he also has great humanity. It isn't just money & results that he cares about, he also enjoys and trusts people. I suspect a great deal of his success has been because he likes people & people like him. Splash, the company he owns, exhibited at his trade show & he liked it so much he sold the show & bought the company. That was 19 years ago and today, after many successful years, Geoff is looking to move on. Splash is an underwater & diving equipment company, one of the foremost distributors in New Zealand, with brands of its own, and it was Geoff's passion for diving & spearfishing that led him to it. The diving world is a close community & Geoff is well-known & well-regarded, a testament to his people skills.

A recent health scare - a serious one: he had a heart attack while waiting for a bypass - came out of the blue for this fit & healthy sports fanatic. Geoff played semi-professional tennis for a couple of years stepping back from the business & then was forced to discover that he's genetically inclined to a natural build up of cholesterol in the arteries. Almost fully recovered now, Geoff has set his sights on living life to the full.

Geoff is resourceful, driven - he's proved that in spades by achieving what he has - but he also hates being tied down, so I expect that whatever he decides to focus on next it will allow him more freedom. He certainly deserves it. Throughout all the difficulties he's had to work through, he's remained optimistic. He believes in looking on the bright side, that there is always something good just around the corner. He's definitely resourceful enough to make it happen, so I can't wait to see what it is!

Geoff Burne

Auckland - March 2017

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images by RiK

depending on your connection speed, the galleries can take a while to load. If you are on a mobile device, they might not autoplay, so you will have to touch one of the images & either swipe or press play.

Geoff Burne Interview

The video is Geoff talking about his life, his struggles & his achievements

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video by RiK

ThisIsMe - Man Kaur

RiK ! - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It is easy when faced with a 101 year-old athlete to forget that her son, who has been competing for many years will be 80 next year, and is still training hard & winning medals. But I'm afraid impressive as that is, and it surely deserves a blog of its own, it is eclipsed by this unassuming, sharp, active & fit 'old lady'. I use that term with respect because it is probably the only time it can be used politely and meaningfully. Over a century is definitely old, and to be running round a sprinting track? Disgracefully wonderful. She has set the bar so high none of us can ever hope to reach it. This lady only started running at the modest age of 93 & is now the world record holder in a number of events.

Man Kaur - at 101 the oldest female athlete in the world - with her son

Her son, Gurdev, normally does translating for her as she is fluent in just her native tongue, but the interview was conducted in Punjabi by Gagan Rayat, a lifestyle & fitness professional keen to pick up any tips he could to pass on to his audience. Gagan runs a FaceBook Group page called Vand Chhako (the third pillar of Sikhism) where lifestyle and fitness tips are shared freely. Check it out on FaceBook now. Man Kaur also set another record while she was in Auckland for the World Masters Games. She became the world's oldest skywalker, stepping out onto the Sky Tower's walking track. She credits her good health to excellent nutrition and regular exercise and I have no doubt that is true, but she sparkles with something indefinable - I can only describe it as a joy for life - that affects all around her. It isn't just her body that is strong, it's her spirit as well. How else would she be able to compete in the way she is when she has severe osteoporosis of the spine? The doctors are baffled, but she just keeps on living life to the fullest.

She captured the hearts of everyone she encountered here. Inspiration is such an inadequate word for someone who has achieved what she has, and is not finished by a long straight yet! In my own experience, her son is of an age where he should have been 'taking it easy' in our normal western parlance for a number of years, but they are both living proof that this approach simply leads to deterioration. 'Use it or lose' is the appropriate phrase here. Abolish 'retirement' and all such age-defining barriers and simply keep on striving. You too could be setting records well into advanced years. Having recently been on a 100-day diet-redefining exercise, I am more than normally open to the ideas of simple natural nutrition, but this pair's healthy lifestyle is impossible to refute. It takes effort & focus, but we can all lead much longer, healthier lives if we simply paid attention to what our bodies really need, and don't need.

A great deal has been written about Man Kaur - just Google her - and she added to the story here in Auckland by breaking world records and collecting 4 more Gold medals. It was an honour for me to meet her and her son. I hope you enjoy the interview we recorded (sub-titled - thank you Gagan - for those not fluent in Punjabi) & below you'll also find some of the images I shot in the short time we were together.

Man Kaur & Gurdev Singh

Auckland - May 2017 

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images by RiK

depending on your connection speed, the galleries can take a while to load. If you are on a mobile device, they might not autoplay, so you will have to touch one of the images & either swipe or press play.

 

Interview - Man Kaur & Gurdev Singh

Interviewed by Gagan Rayat close to the Sikh temple in Takanini where they stayed while in Auckland

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video by RiK

ThisIsMe - Bob and Andy

RiK ! - Monday, April 24, 2017

Wearing all the years they have appeared in the World Masters Games on their sleeves, it was not hard to spot this pair in the crowded Auckland Badminton Centre. With movement around the court belying their true age, they are joyously defying the years. At a time when it - at last - is becoming the norm to simply push through the boundaries of aging, Bob and Andy must surely epitomise that spirit. They are both 73 years old, although Andy proudly proclaims himself the older, by a few months! They have had a lifelong relationship which started in college when they were adversaries & although Bob apparently taught Andy to play, Andy eventually got the better of his early coach.

Bob Cook and Andy Gouw at the Auckland Badminton Centre

The thing that struck me most about this doubles pair? How genuinely nice they are. Nice is often regarded as a bit of a non-descriptive word, but here it is so apt. They are all-round nice guys; quick to smile, slow to judge; comfortable with who they are & what they do; inclusive in a way that only experienced people with a real interest in other human beings can be. They have both spent lifetimes connected to sport. Bob, amongst other things, is the former CEO of Badminton Pan American Confederation (BPAC) & has started & run various competitions & Andy is the owner of Asby Sports in San Jose (since 1982). Although Andy declares himself 'semi-retired', I think that just means he is picking & choosing when to be involved on a day-to-day basis & when to travel & play badminton. I think he will take the 'semi' part with him to the grave. Probably not in the best taste talking about the grave with two 73-year-olds, but they are apparently comforted by the fact that whoever goes first, the other will take their ashes with them to the next World Masters - now that's commitment!

It is quite a record for them to compete - successfully, they have won numerous medals - in all the Games so far; it is quite another for them to have competed together. Andy has had both hips and a knee replaced & still races around the court. As Bob tells it, he insists that Andy has a surgery just after each games, so he then has 3 years to recover before competing in the next one! Easy for him to say, he hasn't had to replace anything. The competition has started well for them, with their team overcoming their closest rivals in the opening game. When I interviewed them, Andy was full of joie de vie because they had just managed to overcome the pairing that included Richard Purser (New Zealand), a player that Andy rates as probably the best & one he has been trying to beat for over 3 decades. It is impossible not to feel his infectious spirit in the video.

This is their ninth World Masters Games, but it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Apparently in the last Games in Italy, badminton was only included as a sport at the last minute due to pressure from the players. Well, when did you last hear of a world-class Italian badminton player? It would be a shame to allow local sporting traditions dictate which sports participate, but I understand moves are now afoot to solidify the program. When such enthusiasm & skill are available, why would you not harness it? Bob & Andy are unique in the history of these Games, but they are not alone in their passion for sport. It is gratifying (being a badminton player in Auckland) to hear Bob declare that the scale & enthusiasm for badminton here is by far the best they've encountered. Badminton, indeed sport generally is a family, and it is fabulous that it is embracing the elders in its community properly & there could be no better exemplars for this than these two inspirational guys.

UPDATE (Tuesday 25th April): With their team, they won Gold! (Photos added to the gallery.) The medal tally continues & they are now playing in the individual events.

Bob Cook & Andy Gouw

Auckland - April 2017 

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Interview - Bob Cook & Andy Gouw

Interviewed at the Auckland Badminton Hall directly after their opening match

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video by RiK

World Masters Games 2017 - Opening Ceremony

RiK ! - Sunday, April 23, 2017

The press around the World Masters Games has made a great deal of the fact that it is the world's largest multi-sport event. Larger than the Olympics. Well, it is in numbers. Of course, it does not attract the spectator (or sponsor) or national attention that the Olympics does, but that is because the Olympics showcases the best in the world, period. The World Masters cannot break world records without qualifying them with "well, it's the fastest, furthest, longest, from anyone of that age". The point is, and I think this is for people of all ages, the World Masters embodies the spirit, the passion, the drive, the pleasure & most importantly, as the slogan rightly states, the joy of sport. The Olympics is about watching the best of all time do impossible things (out of the reach of everyone else). The World Masters is about everyone else taking part & doing impossible things - for them personally.

World Masters Games 2017 - Opening Ceremony

There are Masters Games Associations around the world, but there is nothing quite like bringing the World together to share in the joy. Even with many athletes staying away from the opening ceremony because they had to compete early the next day & needed their rest(!), Eden Park was humming with a party atmosphere. The anticipation was huge & everyone was there simply to enjoy being with their fellow competitors. Jenny May was flawless, as usual, not just because she is an athlete herself, but because her presentation style is so polished yet relaxed (sorry, but I am a fan!). I was also impressed by Phil Goff who, as mayor of our fair city gave a pretty rousing speech. And Monica Mercury showed not a shred of the nerves she must have felt reading the oath. Formalities dealt with, the festivities kicked off, including the largest laser light show ever seen in New Zealand.

The opening ceremony was unashamedly about the participants, designed to allow all athletes in each sporting discipline to intermingle & parade together around Eden Park. As each sport was introduced with its symbol being zip-wired across the stadium, all the competitors rose from their seats & walked down to the pitch, around & off into the night. This was repeated for every sport until the stadium was filled with just the volunteers clearing up. The volunteers. What a fabulous group of people they are. Possibly even more than the competitors, they devote their time & energies just for the love of sport. Fantastic. The atmosphere is difficult to convey, but it was a warm enveloping feeling being surrounded by like-minded & welcoming people, from all across the globe.

Hopefully some of the photos I took capture some of the atmosphere if you weren't there. If you are in any of the photos & would like copies, just email me & I'll send them to you. The video is of the entire event (from a single perspective) & is so long, I suspect only people who were there might fast forward to re-live specific instances! But it is definitely worth a peek… A fitting kick-off to a games to promote sporting competitiveness in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation & friendship. Very glad to be a part of it.

World Masters Games Opening Ceremony

Auckland - April 2017 

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World Masters Games Opening Ceremony

The video is the entire opening ceremony from one perspective.

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video by RiK

ThisIsMe - Kirsty Cameron

RiK ! - Saturday, November 12, 2016

What a role model Kirsty is for young women. Rarely have I met someone of University age that is so considered, talented, compassionate & ambitious. Kirsty is all of that and more. She recently shaved all her hair off for cancer, raising over $5,000 so far & now is auctioning some fabulous images from the experience on TradeMe, who have kindly agreed to waive any fees.

Kirsty Cameron post 'Shave for a Cure'

 

Kirsty is quiet and thoughtful, but that belies some very strongly held beliefs. She describes herself as "not very motivated" until she is given a little helping hand & makes up her mind to do something, then "it will get done!" She fell in love with the Spanish language as a child, but it is mathematics that has sustained her, leading her ultimately to study mechanical engineering at Auckland university where she has just finished her third & penultimate year. She is not a campaigner, preferring to set examples that people can then make up their own mind to follow. Her entrance into a male dominated course (25% of the intake in her year were female) is one example of how she determines her own course & then never deviates. Her entrance into the North Shore marathon this year is another. She runs for fun & health, having moved on from Surf Lifesaving, but decided she should try a marathon. Of course she ran all the way & finished. She wasn't competing against anyone else, just herself.

She is a vegan by choice, a couple of years since. However, she is not a strict, follow all the rules, vegan. She has adopted the primary & most important aspects which she can see makes perfect sense, but ignores others while she ponders their importance. Kirsty thinks it all through. She does not follow dogma, she takes it apart, morsel by morsel, examining every piece in different lights before re-assembling in her own unique way. This is independent thought. This is why she is a role model. Her compassion feeds her thought & her logic drives her compassion. See what you think in the video interview.

She wants a family, children, good job, all that stuff, but she is young & curious & has yet to make up her mind what she'll do when she finishes her course. She wants to travel & live because ultimately she wants her life to make an impact in some meaningful, but as yet undetermined, way. Knowing Kirsty, she will start unravelling all her experiences in a few years time, pondering their meaning, then decide what she wants to do & simply do it in her calm, strong, unfussy way.

I photographed her journey along the 'Shave for a Cure' path & you can see some of the images in the photo gallery. She was a fabulous subject, trusting my every suggestion, enthusiastically experimenting with me. Her confidence in herself, her body, her journey was absolute, calmly controlling the inevitable nerves so you'd hardly know they were there. We had help from the fabulous, world-class hair stylist Natasha Boustridge & the superb Henna artist Rozeena Parikh, both of whom donated their time to the cause. We have chosen four representative images from the sets to auction off for the same charity (of course, you can simply go to the page & donate anyway!) & you can find the auction on TradeMe here. These are the images…

Kirsty Cameron TradeMe Auction Images

The auction is for one (up to) 10"x10" art print of each image, which I will print to the winner's specifications, plus a worldwide commercial license to use the images in whichever way the winner wants for one year (so high resolution files are available). There are some restrictions on use, in line with Kirsty's beliefs, so if you have a purpose in mind, just let us know what it is & we'll confirm if it's ok. We'll be asking the winner to donate their winning bid directly to Kirsty's Shave for a Cure page. Go on, make her day!

 

Kirsty Cameron

Auckland - November 2016

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Kirsty Cameron Interview

The video is Kirsty talking about her life & her beliefs, and why she shaved her head!

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video by RiK

ThisIsMe - Lisa Schady

RiK ! - Friday, October 14, 2016

Lisa is a free spirit, with caring embedded in her bones, concepts beyond her years & ideas well above her current status. A new graduate in Social Work from Massey, the idea of joining a government agency both repelled her, based on her brief work experiences, but also sparked the germ of an idea to transform the sector. Bold? You bet. But she might just be the person to carry it through.

Lisa Schady at Kawai Purapura

Lisa's lifestyle can easily be labelled 'modern hippy' but she may well be a woman of her time. The realisation that we are healthier & happier & certainly kinder to our environment and each other when we adopt 'alternative' practices is fast gaining traction. Of course, in our higgeldy piggedly world, alternative means out of the mainstream, whereas eating local, natural sustainable food, recycling & repurposing, and paying attention to the energies present in our environment & ourselves is just logical, isn't it?

Born in South Africa, Lisa's spirit was forged watching cripples & beggars on the main street & living with appalling inequality. I, too witnessed the slums and the full extent of human depravity at a young age in Africa & South-East Asia, so I have some inkling of where her compassion springs from. Her mother succumbed to breast cancer when Lisa was two, a tragedy. It feels almost as if Lisa has adopted & developed super strong maternal instincts that she wants to use on the world, to fill the void left by her mother's passing. However one explains it, she is an old soul in a young body..

Raised in New Zealand from the age of 5, Lisa has always confronted authority, questioned the status quo & rejected the automatic adoption of 'the normal'. This combined with her natural compassion has guided her life so far. Her father, a civil engineer, offered her the inspired choice for her to study Social Work, firming up her direction and purpose. Her experience of work placement soured her view of government run agencies ("the distribution of resources is f***ed" & they are now trying to "buy people's happiness") & she started to find her own way. Living in a holistic village & community for the past two years, Albany's Kawai Purapura, has allowed Lisa to examine her vision for her future path, and also explore her own feelings & motivations. In her words, she had "an awakening" there.

Now working with PHAB Lisa is beginning to forge her own views on how disabled youth can be helped to build life skills and emotional awareness, and it's not in regimented half-hour counselling sessions! Lisa is a performer & her natural energy & vivaciousness has rubbed off on some of her charges, so she has begun to see the benefits of expending co-ordinated physical energy. As she explains so eloquently in the video interview, connecting an active mind to an active body is vital in achieving life balance. Obvious, really, isn't it! So she is now taking things a step further forward, enrolling in a circus training school - the Dust Palace  - to expand her knowledge & skills so she can pass that on. Not content with simply doing that, she is hatching plans for a full-blown disabled circus.

Given the deserved attention our paralympians have received this year, it seems that our society is nearly ready to recognise the valid contributions that disabled people can make. OK, it's easier to package up a pole vaulter or long jumper into something we all recognise, measured against familiar standards, but what Lisa is keen to stress is that while most of life is about energy exchange, people with different disabilities have different energies that come from different places & once we can allow those energies a true outlet, we will see disabled people flourish within our society.

Lisa is struggling with that age-old issue. If we are a compassionate race, how can we allow our most vulnerable to be cast aside, and how can we make redress? Sure, she is idealistic, but she is passionate, talented & most importantly, intelligent & street smart. It is hard to say no to someone so committed, so I hope she manages to exploit that, because if her dreams come true, they will affect many lives & hopefully our society, for the better. Purple truly represents her energy, her creative spirit, her life force, her individuality.

Lisa Schady

Auckland - October 2016

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Lisa Schady Interview

The video is Lisa talking about her life & some of her ambitions.

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video by RiK

ThisIsMe - Phil Goff

RiK ! - Monday, September 12, 2016

Phil cares passionately about New Zealand; the place and its people. His lifetime in politics has been driven by an innate sense of social justice & the desire to see 'fair play' for all. Listening to Phil, it is quite obvious how much he cares & in the video you get a good sense of his down-to-earth beliefs. He reminds me of an English politician I met years ago, John Major, who became prime minister briefly. He was not the most media charismatic man, in fact they labelled him the 'grey man'. But meeting him face to face you got a powerful sense of the strength of his personality. Some people are simply better off-camera. Phil has much stronger media skills, but in the news the message that sometimes gets lost is what a 'good guy' he is. And I really do mean that in a respectful not pejorative sense.

Phil Goff & his beloved Triumph Bonneville

Phil has spent most of his life in the community in Mt Roskill where he grew up, retreating to his farm in the rural Auckland suburb of Clevedon when he needed a break. From a strong working class background - his grandfather was a tram driver & his father a fitter & turner, he broke the mould somewhat by being the first member of his family to go to university. Studying politics (what else!) he was lucky enough to be part of the student community in the 70's, the era of protests on just about anything! A lot of his further education was spent on the streets with placards, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Helen Clark, then returning to his flat to discuss the future of the world with flat mate Mike Moore, both future prime ministers.

His father - still going strong at 95 - wanted Phil to be a carpenter, but with his mother's support he chose the educational route. However, working with his hands is in his blood because he likes nothing more than tackling tasks. That could be fixing the lawnmower, which he did shortly after I arrived to see him, or feeding the cows, or erecting a wooden gazebo for a family wedding. He obviously has a practical bent, but it's also in large part because he simply doesn't know how to sit still. Sitting on a beach is not his style. His relaxation is when he's doing something, whether it's horse riding on a beach, or fixing something on the farm, or riding his beloved Triumph Bonneville around the country roads near his home.

He started riding when he was 15 & has only given up twice. Once when his sons were teenagers & he didn't want to give them an excuse to take up a potentially dangerous activity just because 'Dad does it', & again when his previous Bonneville was stolen. He is now the proud owner of a new T100 & his youngest son stables his Triumph right next to Dad's on the farm. So much for taking that break! Motorbike riding is perfect for Phil; perfect for absorbing some of that boundless energy. Retirement? Hah! "60 is new 40," he says with a grin. While he is still fit, energetic & has enormous enthusiasm for his political life, why would he consider retiring? It must be quite tiring being around Phil a lot, because he doesn't stop. It has nothing to do with his job, it is deeply embedded. Sure he has passion for his calling, but I'd say he simply has passion. Whatever he does he throws himself into it. He bought his farm in 1990 after losing his seat & for 3 years before he was re-elected he poured his energy into it. The scenery around there is fabulous - take a look at the photo gallery to appreciate some of it.

He has enormous respect for our armed forces. I have had occasion in the past to photograph him at memorial events & the connection between him and the veterans in attendance is palpable. He is not shallow. Sure, he has to try & please everyone as a politician, but in many areas, like this, he is genuine & truly interested. His grandfather was gassed & was a POW in WW1, and although survived to move to New Zealand, never really recovered. More recently, his nephew was killed in Afghanistan, and Phil more than many appreciates the valour & sacrifice of men at arms.

He met his wife, Mary in 1971. As Phil would tell it, his motorbike played a major role in impressing Mary, but I suspect that may just be just a bit of fantasy. Their ongoing happiness & commitment to each other is not. Theirs is a 'normal' happy household, where you can just drop in & feel at ease. They are expecting their first grandchild soon & although he is vocal in his belief that Mary will adore the role of grandparent, I think that is pure deflection because I'm certain he can't wait himself. Deflection comes naturally to a politician, but Phil does not deflect the hard questions, just the personal ones. An anecdote here, a joke there, is simply a man who is not entirely comfortable talking about himself. Give him a crisis issue & he's in his element!

Phil made me welcome on his farm & my overall impression when I left was that he really is a 'good guy' as I said at the start. He truly wants good for all, especially those without the power to make it so themselves. He has a good, strong supportive family (except his sons did choose not to follow him into politics because they could earn much more as tradesmen!) and as a fellow motorbike rider, I wouldn't hesitate to join him for a ride... there's not much higher praise than that!

More information about the other side of Phil's life can be found here: Phil for Mayor and Phil as Labour MP

Phil Goff Interview

The video is Phil talking about his life & some of the personal highlights.

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video by RiK

Phil Goff

Auckland - August 2016

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ThisIsMe - Nicky Crocker

RiK ! - Sunday, August 07, 2016

Nicky is a geomancer. Webster's English dictionary defines 'geomancy' as "divination by geographic features or by figures or lines". DC Comics says that Geomancer possesses the power of earth manipulation. He has control over earth and stone, allowing him to telekinetically control or reshape it, and is able to cause earthquakes. I don't think Nicky is a superhero or a magician, but until you really learn & think about what she does, it could be interpreted as either! Take a look at her website or her Clear Energy Homes Facebook page to understand more.

However, that is by no means all she is. She is an artist, first & foremost, but with an artist's sensitivities she has harnessed some extraordinary gifts. For a lady with great talents, she is down-to-earth, approachable & just quite simply very good company. Canterbury born, she has lived her life in New Zealand, apart from a 9 year love affair with the artistic community of Bondi in Sydney. Her paintings from that time are rich, colourful & full of joy & life. She started painting when pregnant with her son because she had been instructed to keep still, which was a bit of an anathema to her. She developed her skills to a point where she taught children at an after-school art class for 14 years. Combining her passion for painting with her love of dogs, she has created a series of paintings of Auckland's north shore where her beloved Jack Russell is in the canvas - "where's Charlie?". Skilled at many subjects, landscapes are her favourite. Her Facebook page shows many.

Nicky also loves cooking, especially for friends & family but it seems that whatever she turns her hand to she likes to do it to the absolute best of her ability. Taking up golf late, because she didn't want to be left at home while her husband spent hours away playing this strange game, she is a now a very accomplished golfer. At the time of writing, she is no. 23 in New Zealand for 9 hole ladies. It's her love of food (eating) & sport that pulls her out of bed at the crack of dawn to get down to the gymn for a full workout before the sun has taken a peep at Campbells Bay. Never one to do things by halves!

Nicky has been married for 36 years (to the same man!) & has two grown children who are also able to douse (locate earth's magnetic lines), although they prefer to call their mum in! Her husband was a 'doubting Thomas' at first - aren't we all - but has grown into a believer simply due to the weight of actual evidence he has witnessed. Nicky loves sceptics because they always turn into her biggest fans. She discovered this whole topic of magnetic fields & the geopathic stress they can cause years ago when she was diagnosed with chronic arthritis in her feet. A geomancer came into her home & discovered an energy line falling across her bed exactly where her feet always were. After that, it was years of (pre-Google) research & training & practise on family and friends. Her real 'Aha' moment though was when she moved her daughter's bed. Watch her explain that in the video interview.

Nicky is on a mission to make people aware of the effects of geopathic stress on our bodies & the importance of taking some simple precautions. She has written & published a book - "What if it was that easy? How to heal you and your home (how earth's energies may be affecting your life)" which is an easy to read & dip into book covering everything you need to know about the negative effects of prolonged exposure to magnetic fields on your body & how to avoid them. Unless, of course, you are a cat, in which case you seek them out! Check it out on Amazon. So in addition to everything else, Nicky is a writer. Is there no end? Well no, because the other side of promoting the message is now a TV appearance, where you can see that Nicky is also a born presenter. Catch her slot on the Global Health Show, part 6, here. The show also has its own FaceBook page if you want to follow all threads, or tune into Face TV, channel 83.

If you ever want a fascinating, accomplished public speaker, talking on a subject you have probably not explored yet, you could do worse than invite Nicky Crocker. As far as I'm aware, she hasn't spoken at any large venues yet, but like every other field she has ventured into, I simply know she will take to it like she was born to it, as she most likely was.

Nicky Crocker Interview

The video is Nicky talking about her life & some of the key moments.

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video by RiK

Nicky Crocker

Auckland - July 2016
(& work from the last few years)

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ThisIsMe - Sally Blyth

RiK ! - Friday, July 01, 2016

Sally is an artist, in the broadest sense. She lives and breathes creativity. Some of it mad, like the insane World of Wearable Arts costumes she conjures up; some of it playful, like the masks she crafts out of paper, old brooches & discarded remnants of cloth and bric-a-brac; some of it serene, like the canvases she floods with light; but all of it, well, creative…

 

You may have seen her on tv recently. She was a challenger on Mastermind NZ, choosing David Bowie as her specialist subject. Brave? I would certainly hesitate (aka run away) before putting myself out there in such an intellectually challenging environment, but Sally did it on a whim! Read what Verve magazine said about that… So why not explore another aspect of life? This says so much about Sally. She likes to explore boundaries & push herself to do new & interesting things. She is writing a cookbook; not just an ordinary cookbook, mind you. This will be a lifestyle cookbook designed to encourage you to have the confidence to make the most of whatever you have in your fridge & enhance your kitchen culture. She also transcribes & edits lengthy & technical documentation - "to keep my brain alive". She writes for Destinations magazine which combines her love of travel & writing. She is a puzzle & crossword fanatic, always challenging her brain to wrap itself around new teasers. Not content with that to satisfy her love of the written word, she has her own blog - "Two Words" - where she expounds on a diverse range of subjects, always interesting reads.

Returning to New Zealand after her lengthy OE, she took courses in both calligraphy & decoupage that stirred her innovative juices. These evolved into glass painting, painting, masks & more. During this period Sally spent a large chunk of time facilitating organisational change & the challenges she faced generating innovation fuelled her personal growth which helped propel her towards her creative dream. I was first introduced to Sally through her mask making. She fell in love with Venetian masks & after several years of experimentation alongside someone local who could provide the bases she quickly built a small business providing the appropriate accoutrements for masquerade balls. At the time, I was experimenting with body art photography & wanted to extend the look. Collaborating with Sally produced some memorable images ( see the image gallery, below). She also created a whole new range of iPatches for me when I wanted to do something for the Rangitoto College Fashion Show, StyleMe & raise some money for the Blind Foundation at the same time. After her years working for them, it was a cause close to her heart.

It is her art for WOW that has the most visible impact, though. Every year she finds inspiration from the strangest places & combined with items she has in her Aladdin's cave of a workshop or happens upon while travelling, she crafts stunning & beautiful pieces of art to wear. If you have never experienced WOW I urge you to go, it is a visual extravaganza & something you will experience nowhere else in the world. I am lucky to have been privy to Sally's creations before they were released on stage as I have been photographing them from the start & some of them can be seen in the image gallery, below.

Sally is a born facilitator and becomes most animated when engaged in conversation about teaching kids the art of creative thought, or mentoring people in clarifying & progressing their business and individual values & vision. With a fairly unique perspective on life, art & everything (to paraphrase Douglas Adams), Sally never disappoints by peddling the standard view on anything. She doesn't regard herself as an 'artist', I think primarily because she has never been formally trained in any traditional art medium and because she works in so many different mediums. She regards herself as a creator, but as is so often the case, we ourselves are blind to how others see us. She may regard herself as a horse racing fanatic (she owns a horse & Trackside is constantly on in the background when she is creating) but Sally is an artist, in the broadest sense.

 

Sally Blyth Interview

The video is Sally talking about her life & some of the key moments.

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video by RiK

Sally Blyth

Auckland - June 2016
(& work from the last 5 years)

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images by RiK

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ThisIsMe - Amy Oakes

RiK ! - Saturday, June 11, 2016

NOTE: If you are offended by nudity (aka the beauty of the human body) please leave this page & scroll down no more...

I took advantage of the great weather at the end of April & rode my motorbike up from Auckland to meet Amy Oakes. She had taken two weeks to recuperate at her mother & step-father's property on a peninsula just outside Keri Keri. A beautiful location with a fabulous outlook (as you can see from the video & photos) & the perfect place to rest up after several months of aggressive chemotherapy.


Amy has breast cancer. She had grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. She found a lump in her left breast while touring in Australia. It grew fast & large & although she didn't hang around, it was Christmas & so took 3 months from discovery to final diagnosis. "Not too long to make much of a difference" she reckons. But then Amy reckons on the positive side of most things. In her calm, measured way she described the, frankly rather horrifying, process to me. She has the measure of it; she has educated herself about what is going on in her body; she is planning to defeat it on schedule.

According to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (www.nzbcf.org.nz) 3000 women are diagnosed every year. Breast cancer affects men as well - 20 annually. 75% of diagnosed women will be aged over 50, but as Amy has found out, that remaining 25% is a real number.

Statistics help us place a scale on the issue, but I think they also disguise the real effect; the emotional impact on lives. I spent a whole day with Amy, and although her pure strength of character allowed me to forget, temporarily, that she was a very sick woman, when I talked to her about it there was no hiding the real & lasting effect it has had & will have on her life.

If you watch the video interview you will perhaps understand the strength & vulnerability that Amy exudes far more eloquently than I can describe it. And in the many pictures I took, it was always her serenity & inner peace that shone through. Her life has been turned upside down but she is striding determinedly along a furrow that has been ploughed for her. Where it ends, no-one really knows, but Amy does. She will return to her life when this episode ends. Just before the diagnosis she & her partner were on their way to London - jobs vacated, possessions sold - & they will pick up where they left off, but possibly Australia not England. The climate is better & cost of living is lower.

Where does she get her strength from? Having met her mother, I think I know; in part. The quiet determination, the self possession. Amy is her own person but her mother helps guide her from within, now more than ever. Despite some nightmare days of physical incapacity, Amy is mentally strong. She is using some of her 'down time' to create. Painting, drawing, dressmaking. You can find some of her creations for sale amongst her clothes on TradeMe. Search for Amy000 in members & make a bid because you'll be helping her support herself through this nightmare.

As a photographer, I went to take pictures of Amy because of her lack of hair - due to the chemotherapy . Why am I attracted to hairless women (& men)? Apart from blaming the influence of Sinead O'Connor on a pubescent boy, I think it is because without the distraction of hair the true person is exposed. But more than that, real adversity reveals the soul, the human core. And Amy has been revealed to be beautiful to the core.

Amy Oakes Interview

Amy talks to me frankly about life & cancer

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video by RiK

Amy Oakes

KeriKeri - April 2016

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Postscript.

Since I visited Amy at the end of April, she has returned home to Wellington for further treatment & discovered that she has the full BRCA1 gene. Therefore she has made the courageous choice to have a full double mastectomy to avoid any recurrence of a cancer that she is pre-disposed towards.

Typically sanguine, she plans her reconstruction & comments: "It's a bit sad really, my breasts will never be the same, but I have no choice. I just have to roll with it. Rather lose my left arm to be honest, but that's not the problematic body part."


 

Travel Broadens the Eye

RiK ! - Saturday, September 26, 2015

Once you have walked down the central reservation of the Jl. Gajah Mada in central Jakarta, you will never look at a city street in the same way. You can read about it, but if you have never done much travelling in Asia, you can never imagine it. You really have to experience it. Of course, you can look at images and if the photographer is skilled, you can be transported there & gain a good insight. However, this is not the subject I want to explore. What effect does travelling & photographing have on the photographer & other images he or she may take afterwards?


I think that the experience of different cultures & environments informs the observer & alters their perception of what they see "at home". If your knowledge of dogs is gained solely from pets you've had or seen & the worst behaviour has been on the News when the SPCA have stepped in, then you haven't got a clear perspective on what treatment humans are capable of meting out to their canine 'friends'. If you are alarmed by the degenerating condition of inner city streets, then you have not stepped out in downtown Dhaka (Dacca) to witness utterly different priorities in urban planning. Thus, your vision & even imagination is restricted because it does not have enough material to reference. As the old (and oh so true) saying goes, "there's nought queerer than folk..." There are things that people do that could never be imagined by other people, sometimes in their own country, let alone across the globe. Travel = more exposure to strange and different = more brain food. 

There is an argument that by hiding behind a camera, photographers never really 'experience' what they are seeing. They are observers behind a glass wall, literally. That's for another time, but does travel to different places and witness of differing cultures and events alter a person's perception of everyday reality when they return home.  Absolutely. Once you've visited live creature food stalls in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon),you can never go to a Farmer's Market & see it in the same way again. Once you've met real people in the Shan tribes fighting for independence in the north of Myanmar (Burma) you can never look at a politician the same way. But is this a good thing? Yes, because it forces us to question the status quo. Why things are the way they are & why can't they change. Photographers can, and do sometimes without realising it, put a different slant on an image simply because they 'see' things in a different way.

'Seeing' is the essence of photography, and it stems from the photographer's own life experience. That is not to say that if a photographer does not travel, they cannot be a good photographer. Far from it. Sometimes, the more choice we have, the more experiences to draw from, the more confused we get. Clarity of vision is entirely different from breadth of experience & both have their strengths and weaknesses. I was told by a mentor many years ago that he didn't like travelling because it 'confused' him. He had developed a singular style & vision (he was a food photographer) & felt threatened by anything that undermined it.

If you embrace new & different experiences, really living them & absorbing them, your perspective shifts, your imagination delves into totally new territory, you see everything through a different set of filters, and finally, the photographs you take will be indelibly altered. It should be said that travelling through the modern, streamlined corridors of today's tourist brochures will not dramatically shift anyone's axis. In this world, most things are the same with different backdrops. It is in the outback, the off-road, the in-country trips to the out-of-the-way places that you can see the real world & there, maybe, your eyes will be opened slightly to the  world you actually inhabit.  

Welcome to our new website

RiK ! - Friday, September 25, 2015

It's always difficult publishing a new website. How do you get people to pay attention in today's morass of electronic media. Of course, getting people to have a look is only the first hurdle. Enticing them to return again & again is the real challenge. We hope you enjoy it - do tell us 

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