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PORTFOLIO

19.01.2016

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“In May 2015 I travelled to an area deep in the South Island of New Zealand called Haupiri. This place lies amongst towering mountains and lush green fields. This is the home of a closed religious community called ‘Gloriavale’. The group was founded in 1969 by an Australian-born evangelist. He founded what came to be known as the Springbank Christian Community. The community quickly became too big for the property so they bought land in Haupiri and moved there from 1991 to 1995.

This community is very unique in many ways. The families have one of the largest head counts in the world. Many of the young adults will have a number of children by the time they are in their early twenties. They are almost completely self sufficient. With commercial grade facilities it became clear to me how they manage to provide for the residents, nearing close to 600 people. Each member has a role to play: there are skilled tradesmen, teachers, cooks, butchers.

Around the time I travelled to the community there was a media storm across New Zealand. Everyone became obsessed with the people and practices of Gloriavale, yet very little was known about the place. There were allegations that members of the community were being abused and also that people were being held there against their will. Whilst I stayed there I never saw anything but a welcoming, caring and hard-working group of people. In a time of such controversy it was a real honour to be invited and welcomed into the community as a photographer.

This was a chance for me to experience a different way of life. In many ways it felt like a glimpse into the past. Even though some of the facilities are state of the art, there was no cellphone reception and only a handful of computers from what I could see. Despite the mixed opinions of this community, I couldn’t help but but be jealous of it in many ways. Imagine living in a community you built with your own hands. You are there with your friends and family and you have everything you need.

No distractions from the outside world. It is some kind of fantasy bubble that has become a reality.”

Cam McLaren

Born in Canada, McLaren found a passion for documentary photography and photojournalism at a young age. With a keen interest in the human condition, McLaren’s work often focuses on sharing stories of people and communities which are under-represented. His personal and editorial work continues to be exhibited and published internationally.

www.cammclaren.com
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