Red Bus adventure opens UC student's eyes

Published by Communications and Development

27 March 2006

Doing the big OE is a long-standing Kiwi tradition but Tim Veling chose to do his OE around his home town of Christchurch - and on the city's buses.

Tim, a Master of Fine Arts (Photography) student at Canterbury University, spent two years of a three-year project riding the city's red buses with his Leica camera, exploring the city and photographing sights and scenes that caught his interest.

The journey was part of his masters project and Tim, 25, has just finished putting all his thoughts and images together in a book entitled Red Bus Diary, which he hopes to get published. The book is also part of the A Place in Time project, a School of Fine Arts multimedia project documenting the 21 st century.

“When I started this book it looked as though it was going to be something quite different to what it is now. It was going to be a lot more centred on riding buses and more of a social documentary. But now it's more to do with me and me branching out of my comfort zone.”

Until deciding to explore the city by public transport, Tim had spent much of his life in Burnside and his daily routine of study and work kept him within a limited part of the city. It was when he became quite ill with Crohn's disease while finishing his undergraduate studies that he realised he might never see the rest of his own city let alone anywhere overseas.

“It's so easy to get caught up in that kind of routine and when I got sick I realised how entrenched you can become in that kind of lifestyle. It didn't take much for me at all to jump on a different bus each day and go somewhere I'd never been before.”

For two years Tim often spent entire days, often six days a week, exploring the city on its red buses. His journeys started near the Clyde Rd/Ilam Rd intersection where he would catch a bus into the city exchange and hop on a random Big Red.

“I took photos of everything as a kind of visual diary so I had hundreds of rolls of film. But it was ‘out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye' stuff, and glimpses of interesting things I saw on the buses. I'd also get off when I saw something interesting and walk around. There were days when I'd just walk from Hornby to New Brighton and the amount of photos I'd take depended on the day.

“But I never took notes when I was on the buses. I'd just start chatting to people near me or listen to the conversations around me, or get off and walk around and just soak up the feel of things. Some days I wouldn't talk to anyone but just try and get some sort of feeling for what was happening around me.”

Tim said that working on his book and his experiences on the bus taught him a lot, not only about the city where he lives but also about himself.

“It's really solidified in my heart where my home is and what that abstract idea of ‘home' means to me. I know my heart will always be here, in Christchurch, and this experience has given me the strength to know that I can live somewhere else and know where I belong.”

But although the project became a “selfish diary adventure” and followed a more personal route than Tim originally intended, he said he took great pains in Red Bus Diary to make his thoughts and feelings relevant to the general reader.

“I was always conscious of how, in the end, I could convey my thoughts to an audience in an authentic, honest and hopefully, stimulating way.”

For further information please contact:
Stacey Doornenbal
Communications Officer
Communications & Development
University of Canterbury     
Tel: +64-3-364 2987 ext 3809
Mob: +64-27-284 2408