Today, Friday 21st December 2018 CE is the winter solstice. Traditionally a time of the year for celebration (it isn’t a coincidence that Christmas Day happens to be celebrated on the 25th December although there is actually no reason to believe that Jesus was actually born on this date, or indeed even in December). However this winter solstice, on a personal level, is very different because 6 months ago, on the summer solstice, my best friend Acki, was laid to rest after an early death from an extremely aggressive, and rare, form of Cancer.
2018 has been a bittersweet year. It was the year that I finally returned to New Zealand after a 11 year absence. Three weeks in what has to be considered one of the most photogenic countries in the world… With the sole aim of making photos. However whilst I was there, I received a number of calls and messages informing me that Acki’s health had taken a serious turn for the worst. I had spoken to him shortly after he was diagnosed at the start of the year and to be honest there was no reason for anyone to think that he wouldn’t have a fighting chance to survive. And if anyone was going to fight something like this, it would be Acki. One call is particular will always be a painful memory. I was standing on Farewell Spit waiting for the sun to rise when I answered it… and I quickly found out that the doctors had given him just two days to live. Taking the sunrise photo all of a sudden seemed inappropriate and quite pointless… But taking photos is what I do, in some ways it’s the way that I convey my own personal feelings. The beautiful sunrise never happened… just storm clouds on the horizon.
The next couple of days I was alone in the Abel Tasman National Park. And by alone, I mean alone – No phone signal, no signs of civilisation. No way to contact anyone. But plenty of time to think. I expected to hear the worst when I did finally reach civilisation again… But Acki was a fighter… and he fought. I was hopeful that I may actually get to see him one final time when I finally got home but unfortunately he passed away the day before I was due to see him.
It is probably inevitable that the sudden loss of a close friend (in many ways more of a brother than a friend) should make you question your own life and what you want to achieve from it. Of course, work is a huge part of most peoples lives and I am of course not really an exception. I do consider myself very lucky that I can make a living from taking photographs – And that I have been managing to do this for nearly 20 years. However my life / work balance had started to tip into the situation where I was increasingly doing more paid jobs on weekends instead of spending quality time with my family. So I decided that I wanted to spend more quality time with my family, and that I wanted the us to have means for us all to go exploring with ease. Meet Terry who definitely is the 6th member of the Friend family!
So what is the future? I suppose in some ways we never really know for certain. But I know that I need to sink my teeth back into the Legacy Project if only for personal satisfaction. And hopefully I will return to New Zealand but this time with my family. Whatever happens in the future it will be with my family.