Daniel Benson – New Zealand

8th May 2020

New project from Daniel Benson updated on his portfolio sections.
Bad weather had made Milford Sound only accessible by plane or coach convoy. On the way in we did the latter. Five hours sat on a coach with a largely older crowd, younger people seemingly put off with the loss of freedom of leaving their own camper vans behind in Queenstown. At the head of a valley, the road entered a tunnel. Inside there was nothing supporting it, it been held up by its own strength. A 2km man-made tunnel, a mere insignificance to the scale of the surroundings. The tunnel tipped the busses out halfway up a 2000m cirque. The scale seemed impossible – sublime and surreal to be this high up, in this place, in a coach. During the trip, I’d gotten into the habit of comparing situations to generalisations I’d made about photographers. We spent a lot of time driving and Lee Friedlander’s low slung shots from his car would often come to mind. Now, on exiting the tunnel, it was Todd Hido. The windows, slightly blurred from greasy foreheads and tiny scratches from years of camera lenses bashing against the glass could’ve made the scene appear bathetic, but with Hido’s shots in mind, it only empathised that touch of the sublime. Unlike everyone else in the convoy, we were staying over with Tors’s friend, Rachida, who worked for one of the Milford tour boats and was one of the 150 or so permanent residents at Milford. With the convoys arriving at set times, the daily schedule felt truncated, even more so when the planes couldn’t land because of the weather, which happened regularly. It seemed strange to see this many young people living in such solitude. Werner Herzog, whilst talking about his documentary ‘Encounters at the end of the World’ said ‘everybody who isn’t tied down falls to the bottom of the earth’ You felt that in Milford. ‘No one there has anything in common other than a shared attraction to this immense, unspoilt and untouched area of the earth.’