27 Jul 2016

Wellington's signs of dissent

11:39 am on 27 July 2016

Political protest in the art of the capital's streets.


Alexandra Park, Mt Victoria Photo by Alexander Jago

Alexandra Park, Mt Victoria Photo: Unknown

When photographer Alexander Jago left the Marlborough regions sleepy wine town of Blenheim and crossed the Cook Strait to move to New Zealand’s capital city, he had culture shock. The city was buzzing.

Unlike Blenheim, he was no longer limited to taking photos of nature and landscapes and immediately fell in love with street photography.

As part of his first photography project at Massey University, where he’s studying for a Bachelor’s degree, Alexander began to explore Wellington’s political history through photographing protests signs around the city - which he quickly discovered were everywhere.

“I found it’s really reflective of the population of Wellington and reflects the fact it’s the political centre,” he says.

While the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and refugee quota have caused protest and heated debate more recently, Alexander discovered less recent topics of protest and were well documented on the faded posters that cling to walls, fences and windows all around Wellington city.

“It’s amazing, I could tell the age of all these protests via just the state of the signs and how established they looked.”

Reporter Maja Burry talked to Alexander about his project.

Are Blenheim and Wellington pretty different?

Insanely different. I don’t know how to explain it - it’s like going from a tiny wee country school to a gigantic high school or something like that. It’s just a bit of a culture shock.

I’ve lived in Christchurch and Adelaide before that as a kid, but Wellington is definitely something else, it has a lot of culture to it which is something I found lacking in Blenheim.

How did the project come about?

This was my first project in a class called “photography is an agent of change” and the brief essentially said go and record an agent of change via photography and I found that just from getting to Wellington and finding all these protest signs and that sort of community political atmosphere was a perfect thing for me to explore.

I’d just moved to Aro Valley and I’d noticed in Aro there was quite a cool community - everyone is quite open about things and everyone has signs in front of their houses, like TPPA signs, deep sea drilling and all that sort of stuff and I wanted to record that.

What different protest signs you did find?

Most of the historical ones that I could see, the ones that had been there for a long time were deep sea oil drilling, and I found those all over the city and they were generally the big signs, the signs that people had put the most work it - they were in shops and things like that as well.

I also saw quite a few rainforest ones, about deforestation, but they were generally quite a lot older.

It’s amazing, I could tell the age of all these protests via just the state of the signs and how established they looked.

Where there many TPPA posters?

Definitely - it’s such a fresh topic there was so many posters of that, I found the moment I started looking for them they were everywhere on every single street and every single suburb I started seeing them.

There’s still loads of old signs from other protests as well, but it was the TPPA it was quite obvious that’s a current issues and it was all over the media so it definitely was the main one.

Did taking all these photos change your opinion on anything?

It made me realise that people are much more politically active than I realised they were, I mean especially with the TPPA, I thought it was one of those usual things where TV3 will put something on the news and then that’ll be it.

But I actually genuinely saw people out and about putting out these signs and people were engaging with me when I was taking photos of them and asking me what I thought about it, and I found it was a great conduit to bring conversation about the subjects.

More photos from Alexander Jago:

Brougham St, Mt Victoria Photo by Alexander Jago

Brougham St, Mt Victoria Photo: Unknown


Rhodes St, Newtown Photo by Alexander Jago

Rhodes St, Newtown Photo: Unknown


Riddiford St, Newtown Photo by Alexander Jago

Riddiford St, Newtown Photo: Unknown


Riddiford St, Newtown Photo by Alexander Jago

Riddiford St, Newtown Photo: Unknown


Holloway Rd, Aro Valley Photo by Alexander Jago

Holloway Rd, Aro Valley Photo: Unknown