MeIn 1992 Estonia was liberated from the Soviet Union and its borders began to open. I wanted to see with my own eyes what was happening around the world. I started in Ireland, then Europe.I went further and I discovered new zealandIn 2009 I moved to the South Island town of Riverton and in 2016 I moved to Stewart Island with my partner Thomas.
I was apprehensive about moving to such a small community and isolation. I wanted to move north where the climate is warmer. I didn’t know the character of the island.
That first day of crossing the Foveaux Strait by ferry was really windy and terrible. I got really seasick – it was my first experience here. We went to Observation Rock, a beautiful lookout on the island, and it was rainbow after rainbow. Walking through these little bushy paths overgrown with ferns, birds chirping and waves lapping in the background. It looked like a postcard.
I didn’t know anyone other than my partner on the island of over 400 people, and I wasn’t very good at English. I showed up with his 20kg backpack and left everything behind. However, I discovered this other beautiful place.
If I had just moved from Estonia to Stewart Island, it would have been a huge culture shock. Rubber boots everywhere you go. Behind doors, boats and bars everyone wears it. It was these little things that I noticed.
Everyone was very friendly, but I learned a lot. I remember someone coming up to me and asking, “Bring me a plate.” Arrived with an empty plate.
When I first came to the island, I was full of anxiety, wondering what would happen. But here you have it all. Great medical center, shops and if anything happens the whole community will come together.
Here you will find pristine nature. This little place at the edge of the world probably still has what he looked like 100 years ago. Nature has taught me many things. Here we have to think about how we use water, what we eat, garbage and waste. Your lifestyle will change.
Island life is not for everyone. People who move here have a slightly different mindset. It’s been hard sometimes, but now I’m living a peaceful little life with photography, community and nature.
I’ve always taken pictures, but I wasn’t a professional until recently. When I arrived in New Zealand, I started photographing sheep and cows. I was fascinated because I had never seen so many sheep before. When I moved to Stewart Island, I turned sheep into birds. Birds are everywhere.
During the first part of the Covid-19 pandemic, I started photographing people stranded on the island. . I started putting them on Facebook and started getting messages from locals asking if they would take pictures for me as well.
Sometimes, after a photo shoot, I would come home with a bottle of wine or a woolen sock as a gift. That community became my big family because it was so far from home.
I photographed a quarter of the island’s population (about 100 people) and compiled them into a book called Copeisolation. Looking back now, it’s a very important history.
Laire Purik is an Estonian photographer living on Rakiura/Stewart Island, New Zealand.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/06/rainbow-after-rainbow-finding-a-home-in-remote-and-windswept-stewart-island Rainbow after rainbow: Find a home on remote windswept Stewart Island | New Zealand