Shibani Bhave, who was raised in Singapore, now works in Auckland, New Zealand. Her love for her adopted county has led her to record through photographs the special nature of New Zealand, with its beautiful beaches, gardens and foods.
Despite her good intentions, her photographic journey never quite reaches its goal. The problem is that Bhave’s photo album is no different than what any ordinary tourist might compile on a trip, minus the smiling fellow travelers. The author seems unclear on whether her book is a casual insider’s guide to Auckland or a personal look at whatever struck her fancy.
Hence, the reader gets an array of loosely organized photos with short captions that alternate between the voice of the starry-eyed New Zealander and that of the helpful tour guide. Under one photo, for example, she notes, “Definitely visit the Cathedral Cove (next to Hahei beach) which is best seen if you take the track down towards it.” Under another, “During a lunch-time duty on the Junior playground where I used to teach, I noticed a single stemmed pohutakawa growing along the side of the playground.”
Aside from scenery, the author is obsessed with food and cocktails, and there are numerous photos of each. When you’re a tourist, it’s always helpful to discover where those-in–the-know eat, but the photos never do justice to the subject. Her photo of a passion fruit mojito, for instance, is a muddy brew of yellow, brown, and orange while a restaurant saltshaker takes pride of place.
Clearly Bhave’s heart was in the right place, and her book reflects that. Readers planning a trip to New Zealand might want to give the book a cursory glance, but armchair travelers will have to look elsewhere to whet their appetites.