The Christchurch earthquake of 22 February 2011 caused widespread devastation, resulting in the deaths of 185 people, injuring thousands and leaving a city traumatised. Almost five years on, much of Christchurch has been transformed. Thousands of irreparably damaged suburban homes and central city buildings have been demolished and the rebuild is underway. But there are other places in the city - in red-zoned suburban streets and downtown blocks - that seem to be frozen in time. Officially deemed too dangerous to occupy, many are in a kind of suspended animation - the people are gone but everything they left as they fled remains there, in the same place, moved only by the thousands of aftershocks. Intrigued by these abandoned spaces, photographer Glen Howey noticed that they weren't being recorded, and believing it was important that they were, set out to do just that. The result is Please Demolish with a Kind Heart - a moving and at times eerie homage to Christchurch's abandoned homes, buildings, recreational spaces and iconic cathedrals; confronting reminders of how in seconds, people's lives were changed forever.
Featuring over 200 images, with accompanying text by Canterbury journalist and television producer Tony Benny, Please Demolish with a Kind Heart is a poignant and important record of one of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, and a timely tribute to the indomitable spirit that is rebuilding Christchurch for future generations.
Award-winning professional photographer Glen Howey grew up in Kaiapoi, a town on the northern outskirts of Christchurch, and as a boy he played rugby at Lancaster Park, the AMI stadium which was damaged by the 2011 earthquake and is now closed. A full-time professional photographer, he specialises in wedding, commercial and landscape photography and also teaches at Massey University. In his own time he's always loved photographing uninhabited buildings, finding "an eerie beauty in things that are abandoned". When he first decided to photograph Christchurch's abandoned buildings he sought official permission, but after being rebuffed he decided to do it anyway, often starting working at four in the morning so he could make the most of the light and to go undetected. However, when media broke news of his exploits in December 2014 - filming him in action and publishing his photos from inside the badly damaged and absolutely out-of-bounds ChristChurch Cathedral - Howey nervously awaited a visit by the police or CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) officials. He didn't hear from either. While Howey is aware that his photographs and the way he took them could offend some people, he says the reaction to the media stories about his exploits has been comforting: "Someone wrote on the comments page, 'These images are important now, but think of them in 50 or 100 years and that's when it came home to me, they're important now but they'll only get more important as these places disappear and they have started to disappear." "I genuinely feel like I'm walking through an unseen history here. History that has been hidden from us, not deliberately, just for safety reasons - but it's a story that needs to be told and I keep stumbling across the importance and relevance of what it is. I feel exceptionally privileged, to be seeing the things that I see. It's sad, it's fascinating ... I'm in people's homes, you know? I'm stumping around inside their worlds and that's why I walk very delicately. I'm very gentle the way I approach things because I think it deserves that, it needs that. You are walking round in people's memories." Tony Benny has worked for Country Calendar for 22 years and now reports and directs most of the programme's stories in and around Canterbury. He has a background in newspapers and radio and has also worked for other television shows including Rural Delivery, Agritech 2000 and Air New Zealand Holiday. His documentaries include 'The Toughest Tunnel', about the Manapouri power project. Tony says working on Country Calendar is quite special. "I'm constantly meeting interesting people who've got some great ideas - about farming and about life in general." Tony knows rural life well - originally from South Canterbury, he now has his own small farm in North Canterbury.