Love the lookout

A pash spot, a burnout zone, a place to watch the sunset – Te Motu o Poutoa, or Pork Chop Hill, in the Manawatu has been the region’s park-up spot for years. Photographer Catherine Russ began documenting visitors to the lookout in 1998.


Reviving her original series alongside photographs of today’s visitors, her new exhibition Park Up, opened at Te Manawa in Palmerston North last year and has now toured to the Wairarapa. It features a menagerie of characters accompanied by accounts of why they’d come to the lookout.


Catherine Russ, Kaitlyn and Samara, 2020, Park Up photographic series. Image courtesy of the artist and Te Manawa

Art Zone first spoke to Russ in 2004 (AZ#3). She was interested in communities (hair salons, student flats, hobby clubs and ballroom dancers) and said she always tried to photograph people relaxed in their own environment.


“Some of the biggest changes over twenty years would be the encroachment of suburbia, new roads and housing nearby as opposed to being ‘out in the country’,” says Russ. The car park is closed at night and people use the place as an exercise circuit. Then there’s the appearance of the mobile phone, more visible tattoos, and the obvious fashion changes.


“Generally though, it seems that life is much the same. Kaitlyn and Samara were hanging out with mates at the end of the day. Security turned up while we were there and waited for us all to leave. The sun had not yet set when the last of our carloads were escorted off the hill and the barrier arm closed at the road entrance.”


Park Up is at Aratoi Art Museum until 20 June 2021.