David Cook


I’m a New Zealander making images in my own backyard; searching for significance in my everyday travels.  I’m also an ecologist of sorts.  I can’t help but see things through an ecological frame.

This series of images is based on a journey through my world; following the parallel arteries of River Road and the Waikato River as they snake their way from my home city of Hamilton to Ngāruawāhia. It’s a journey of only 20 kilometres, but the mosaic of shifting ecologies in these spaces is magnificent.  The journey was repeated many times, in the hunt for images that speak about the ecological past, present and future.

Being a trained ecologist I took a ‘transect’ approach, pausing to take photographs at 600 metre intervals on this route. The method is a type of sampling that builds up a sequential, linear picture of a space. In reality I applied the method in a pseudo-scientific manner; taking liberty in straying from these points, directed by my intuition and knowledge.

In the course of my journey I discovered that I may have an innate nostalgia and longing for an ecological past that I didn’t know.  This journey wrestles with that sense of loss.


DAVID COOK is a New Zealand based documentary photographer and lecturer in the School of Media Arts, Wintec, Hamilton. His photographic projects are based in his immediate environment, and deal with aspects of ecology and community. During his former job as a photographer at the Waikato Museum, David launched a long-term project exploring the impact of coal mining at Rotowaro, just north of Hamilton.  This project has continued since 1984, resulting in various exhibitions and the book, Lake of Coal: The Disappearance of a Mining Township (Craig Potton Publishing/Ramp Press 2006). His latest project, River Road: Journeys Through Ecology (David Cook, Wiremu Puke, Jonty Valentine), was published by Rim Books in 2011.

David studied ecology and botany at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (B.Sc. 1984). He gained a Master of Fine Art through RMIT, Melbourne, in 1998.