PŌ Uri- making an art work

PŌ Uri- making an art work


Pō Uri, Piopiotahi

Fujifilm X-H1, XF 16-55/2.8
ISO 1600, 1/280s @f8

“Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don’t know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.”
― C. JoyBell C.


The negative is the score, and the print is the performance.

-Ansel Adams




Sometimes the whispers just come, those subtle breathings in my head (or is it my heart? It is hard to tell). Of course, I have the option to respond and follow them, or to be my wilfully stubborn self and ignore them. This time I chose to follow, albeit grudgingly.

We had gone over to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) for the day on a photography trip. As you do. Sarah had turned up the day before and it was planned. We would go, no matter what the weather might offer us. Anyway, it is nice to go with someone whose work you greatly admire, to look through their eyes and compare it with your own vision. And then reject it. On such things is hubris fed.

 But it was a meh day. Pretty and as chocolate box as it gets. Mitre Peak was laying down the wero of cliché at our feet.  Perfect reflections, fluffuy clouds, Mire Peak serene and smiling. We ignored it. Anyway, there were other photographers taking that responsibility from us. We could see them out on the point, tripods turned at right angles to the light, creating postcards. Good luck.

 We picked our way among the foam on the incoming tide, gave it two hours and a cup of coffee, and then we left.

 It was as we looped around the café that the whispers began. Come to the Chasm. Bring your camera. A picture of the long lens appeared in my mind. Yes, you only need that one. I focused on my driving and went into hoha mode. Lalalalala. I can’t hear you. The voices grew louder and more insistent, the closer I got to the turnoff to the carpark. LALALALALA. I CAN’T HEAR YOU! Then, just as I thought I had won one, the car lurched right, turned into the carpark, and came to a halt.


I got out my camera and followed the whispering up the track. We were lucky. It was mid-afternoon and there were no tour busses, only a couple of families. And it wasn’t raining. All the gushing creeks of the previous week had dried up. The light was soft and curved, drifting softly down in translucent, gossamer feathers between the trees. Here and there a bird called. Ah. The green energy of trees.

 And then the earth began to whisper, to vibrate. A dark, black rushing sound, a hissing and seething. A frustration of energy.

 We drew close to the water, where the happy, tumbling nonchalance of the mountain stream was suddenly seized by the hair and dragged down through a gap in the rocks, swirled, shaken and twisted, and abruptly spat out. I looked in horror and fascination, wondering how many mobile phones had fallen in to suffer a terminal shredding. All those memories, chopped up and spat out into the fiord.

And then, off to one side, on a rock ledge above the water, a small elegance of rock pools lay shimmering in the late afternoon light. They slowly turned with the passing of the day. I sensed a meaning, a lesson. I made a likeness.




 As so often happens with my  art work these days, understanding comes in post-production. I have learned to…allow …my works to express themselves, rather than to cram a square peg into the round hole of my prejudice. I allow the image to weave its own way through the mire of development.

 And so I followed their lead, allowed tones and textures to fall where they might.

 And when it was done, I asked the question: who are you? I was looking for a title. And, as any artist will tell you, titling a work is a dangerous business, for in agreeing with a work to a title, you are defining it, it is defining tself and, in a way, constricting its possibilities of interpretation for the future. Choose wisely, for here be dragons.

 So I allowed it to tell me.



Pō Uri


That resonates.

So many te reo Māori words are compound nouns, made up of smaller pieces which, when combined produce a new meaning. Sometimes by disassembling the word, understanding will come.

Pōuri by itself means sad, dark or mournful. However, when we break the word apart, its meaning becomes clearer.

Pō means darkness. It also means chaos. It also refers to one of the three states through which, according to IO Matua Kore, the ancient Māori spiritual tradition, each of us cycles many times during our lifetime. The other two are Te Kore, the All, the Void, and Te Ao Mārama, or Understanding. While Te Pō is darkness and Chaos, it also is Creativity and Creation, Energy seeking Form.

Uri means seed, offspring, progeny and sperm. Which meaning is conveyed is contextual. It also implies birth, creation, new life, and hence continuation of the Cycle.

 I looked at the image and saw a metaphor, a life lesson in the title. Or a lesson about life.

 Chaos is energy unchained, and life begins in a state of chaos. Darkness is the necessary other side of Light, and the one depends on the other, for existence and for meaning.  All things are binary in Nature. The One splits and becomes Two. And two are required to form a new One.All of us when we are born, emerge from darkness and then return to it. Out time comes, we emerge, and for a time, we wander in the light. And then we are are gone, returned to Te Pō. And the cycle renews itself.

Pō Uri. The joyful melancholy of Being.



I hummed and haaed about this post, and whether or not to publish it, mostly because I wondered if it would be of any real value to you all.

 If you have the time, I would love feedback on how you found it, whether it was of any value to you, and (obviously), whether I should continue down this track. All thought and opinions (however Trollist) appreciated.


16 Responses

  1. Lynn Clayton says:

    Beautifully explained

  2. Alan Dunscombe says:

    Very interesting as always, thanks for the detailed explanation which I found fascinating.

  3. Neil says:

    I always enjoy your writing and images, Tony. Please continue!

  4. I love to read these posts, so refreshing to hear images from the heart and the stories behind them. And as ever I love your ‘non postcard’ images of NZ.

  5. Jane Sheers says:

    Love this. It’s only through the listening and seeing with an I]open heart that things appear. You just write about and create an image from it so well.

  6. Tony Bridge says:

    Thank you so much, Charlotte. I hope al is well with you.

  7. Tony Bridge says:

    Blessings and thanks Jane.

  8. Ellen Hampson says:

    I actually (just now) read this for inspiration Tony as trying to write a blog on a difficult topic! What I got from your writing personally was ‘honesty and trust’. Thank you!
    The introductory quote is also very beautiful.
    A blast from the past Tony – would be 35 + years since I saw you last.

  9. Max Ross says:

    Perhaps the fantail questions the twig in the fog? Thank you – and keep on Tony.

  10. Marty Golin says:

    Anyone, using any medium, who can be self-aware enough, objective & honest enough, & creative enough to communicate one’s internal process to produce one’s art is, by my definition, at its bare minimum, “of any value,” which is in addition to the value of the artwork itself.

    I personally very much respond to your dissecting the Māori words. Take care & please continue.

  11. Tony Bridge says:

    Kia ora Marty:
    Blessings and thanks. i know there are emails from you to which I have not yet replied. I will!
    ka mihi aroha ki a koe, e hoa. Much love to you, Dear Friend.

  12. Tony Bridge says:

    O, of course, Max, of course. Many thanks.

  13. Tony Bridge says:

    Many thanks, Ellen. Sadly my memory of you is deficient. *cough*

  14. Brian Rope says:

    Loved this Tony. Wonderful emotive writing. Oh, and a great image too.

  15. Tony Bridge says:

    Thanks, Brian. Appreciated

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