© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Awareness key for photographer

Brad Christensen
Farewell Spit
It was first thing in the morning when Iain arrived at Farewell Spit to photograph a mass whale stranding. He and the man photographed were among the first people on the scene that day.   Iain McGregor

A good photo has to be real, says 2016 Photographer of the year, Iain McGregor.

"It could be really simple like someone going about their daily lives or it could be an event or it could be sports, but something that's not been tampered with," said McGregor. 

It's this kind of candid photography that won him the coveted overall prize of New Zealand Geographic's Photographer of the Year award,  last October. 

McGregor said it was both flattering and surprising to be awarded the top prize. 

He explained how the diversity of his job as a photojournalist for Fairfax Media has allowed him a broad scope of subjects to work with. 

"I cover everything from social issues, to business, to news, to sports, to environmental stuff, anything really," he said. 

A seal seeking shelter in the city centre is the subject of a photo that could see McGregor take the top prize two years running. Iain McGregor

This means his job isn't always as quirky as reaching under cars to photograph wildlife. 

McGregor recalled rushing into the city following the February 2011 earthquake. 

"You're a human being before anything else. There were people getting pulled out of the rubble, the first thing I looked at was: Does anybody need help?" he said. 

"The first person I photographed had about 8 or 9 people carrying them, so at that point, it became clear to me that my job was to document it."

McGregor remembered the earthquake as one of the most enduring memories of his career to date. 

Prince Harry shares a moment with one very excited baby during his tour of 'Quake City' museum in May 2015. Iain McGregor

He went on to explain the added pressure he feels when realizing the historical significance of certain scenes. 

Having shot major events like Olympics, World Cups, and city-destroying natural disasters, McGregor knows this kind of pressure all too well. 

"You definitely want to get it right and get the right stuff out to people, you don't wanna c**k it up," he laughed. 

McGregor believes, as a photographer, you have to be bold in order to effectively portray what you're seeing and feeling at any given moment. 

"People say you can hide behind your camera, well I don't think you really can if you want to get that empathy across," he said. 

Fox Glacier
One of McGregor's submissions to 2016 Photographer of the Year competition displaying Fox Glacier. Iain McGregor

McGregor told me he gets the most satisfaction from publishing photos that hold important messages. 

Having recently returned from Antarctica, he is set on educating people of climate change's impending relevance to all of us. 

"This stuff around sea ice and climate change, that's a global issue, if things don't slow down then long-term we're gonna see a global sea-level rise of about 10-meters which is going to change the maps of the world. So, it feels important to get that across," he explained. 

I asked McGregor whether he ever feels bound by his job, or tempted to pack it in and pursue life as a full-time freelance photographer. 

He informed me his feeling was quite the opposite. 

Another one of McGregor's submission to last year's Photographer of the Year awards. Mike Clarke does his bit to help fight a fire near Rolleston. Iain McGregor

He said working for an organization like Stuff, who's website receives 2-million hits per day is kind of the ultimate platform he could hope for. 

"It's cool to have all these amazing images, but it doesn't really matter if no one is looking at them," he explained. 

Reaching massive audiences is one perk of McGregor's work, but they come in many shapes and sizes. 

"Working for an organization like this, y'know who gets to walk into the All Black dressing room in Twickenham straight after the grand slam, that's stuff you can't buy a ticket for," he said. 

All of New Zealand Geographic's photo entries for the 2017 awards are currently on display in Cathedral Square. 

The exhibition will run until December 15th, encouraging viewers to cast a vote for their favorite photo online.