Hahei House – Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects
Photographed by Simon Devitt

We’re a week into lockdown now – How are you coping? Have you started baking banana bread or resorted to giving yourself a haircut yet? 
I've found the lockdowns to be a really productive time. And they give some useful distance and clarity from the usual headspace. My partner Dee is also A VERY GOOD COOK and BAKER!!! I'll look very different after this lockdown but I'll be very happy! Currently no homestyled haircuts but one makeover on me by Charlie and Margaux (Dee's girls, 5 and 6).

Can you tell us a bit about your background? What drew you to architecture photography?
It is fair to say that I grew up on the set of The Days of Our Lives. My home and my back yard were in a brand-new suburb called Conifer Grove in South Auckland, New Zealand. Built on flat, ex-racehorse land and crop farms on an inlet deep in the Manukau Harbour—it was cul-de-sac book ending cul-de-sac, each named after an old racehorse.

Perhaps the most inspiring memory with which I left high school was that of a teacher who opened my eyes to how I could view the world through a camera. This made a lasting impression and I gradually started imagining what it might be like to be a photographer.

I blame my Dad for my love for photography. He always carried an SLR loaded with slide film. This slides invariably ended up in family slideshows. Boring as shit for most kids, I was ENTHRALLED. I got to see how we all looked and where we went, AS PICTURES! 

I had a curious beginning printing forensic photography—while not for the faint-hearted, crime scene pictures revealed stories which unfolded from minute detail into a full account. I later experienced the thrilling challenge of capturing energy and decisive moments in a foray into professional sports photography.

I have developed a unique approach from the combination of storytelling and dynamism of these early professional experiences and the processes which have evolved from them; all of which has informed my current practice as a photographer of architecture over the past two decades.

Are you currently working on anything exciting? 
I love having a few pots on the stove simmering away. My current crop of projects include (at varying stages): 3 books, a new talk for a big event in October, 3 new Reading Room interviews, creating a new and very exciting workshop for 2022 with a good mate, preparing for the 14th running of the Simon Devitt Prize for Photography at the University of Auckland.

Preparing jars of delicious Devitt Farm honey to gift to family and friends. And when we're not in lockdown I'm visiting far flung parts of New Zealand for my wonderfully talented clients. I'm very grateful and honoured to work with some amazing humans!

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I think about beauty and how the last hard-earned layer of beauty is decay. When people move, buildings remain, they stand and gain the mark of time. They decay and show age, they become embedded with signs of life.
Simon Devitt
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What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a photographer today?
For me the biggest challenge has and always will be having fresh eyes on the world. For me that's a certain headspace I occupy and that involves me thinking (and not thinking) about certain things while I'm on a photo-shoot.

I think about calm and quiet
I like that we know what music is because of the silence between each note. And how important it is to listen…. And wait.
I think about being present
And think about things like how we only see something because of its ability to absorb or reflect light.
And then I try not to think
And be present
I think about engaging my other senses. I think we trust our eyes too much. The other senses are profoundly important in how we view a scene.
My brief to myself always, is what does it feel like to be here.
I always spend time sitting still in the environment I’m charged with photographing. 
I listen as much as I watch. 
This is how I find what is really in the space.
I listen
I wait
I watch
My work is as much about the landscape as it is the people that inhabit the structures.
Nature is a container for these things.
It moves around it, underneath it and through it in unpredictable and curious ways.
I think about the concept that time adds a layer of depth that cannot be faked. Photographs are, by nature, made of time.
Started by the photographer and then exposed to the alchemy of time, to become charged with meaning.
I think about what I do is a lot like fishing or a treasure hunt. It can’t be about ticking off a list of shots. Photography for me is a lot about exploration and building a narrative.
I think about walking, and in a sense, getting lost. And how the pace of walking is in sync with the rhythm of our heartbeat. I walk on average 10km during a shoot day. I’d like to say carrying lots of heavy gear. But my assistant does that. Good on you Hamish.
I think about how I make it up as I go. We don’t know what we don’t know. Discovering knowledge through naivety. For me its always about learning by necessity, that naïve energy is really important. Learning, applying and absorbing what you need when you need it.
I think about story telling. And about how important it is to make pictures that aren’t too ambiguous or too descriptive. Too ambiguous and you risk confusing someone. Too descriptive and the viewer has nothing to engage with.
I think about sense of place.
And how where we have all come from and where we have been informs the sense of place we feel when we encounter somewhere for the very first time.
I think about beauty and how the last hard earned layer of beauty is decay. When people move, buildings remain, they stand and gain the mark of time. They decay and show age, they become embedded with signs of life.

Storey House – Eels Nest, designed by Anonymous Architects
Photographed by Simon Devitt

Photographed by Simon Devitt

My work is as much about the landscape as it is the people that inhabit the structures.
Simon Devitt

Photographed by Simon Devitt

What are some of your main sources of inspiration? Other photographers, creatives, or references you are regularly drawn to?
My venues for inspiration and influence vary greatly. I find it in the extraordinary ordinariness of the ritual and routine of the everyday (daydreaming out the bedroom window or a moment of clarity while I drink my morning coffee in a local cafe. AND I find inspiration in the sublime (the magic of nature, rain pelting down on a swollen tide). And, I find endless inspiration working with many of New Zealand's incredible architects. And I'm inspired greatly by looking at and learning from other artists like Anselm Kiefer, Bill Viola, Derek Henderson and Fiona Pardington.


What are you most proud of professionally? Do you have a favourite shoot/project so far?
The cumulative affect of being able to reflect on the past 26 years of being a self employed photographer is a great feeling and one I'm very proud of; recalling so many significant memories, the places I've travelled to and the people I've met. 


What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
My current dream project / collaboration involves working with my partner Dee designing and building a new house somewhere near a large body of salt water!


If you hadn't devoted your career to photography, what else would you be doing?
I tried my hand at drawing for an interview with the Denizen a few months ago. Lets just say I'm thrilled I'm a photographer!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, personally or professionally?

Trust your instincts. There is no right way to do things. Just your way.


And finally, (we have to ask!) what are your top 5 picks at Good Form right now? 
N-CT01 Coffee Table
T1 Armchair
A-S01 Sofa
Denim Rug
Trapeze Quartette Pendant Lamp


A big thank you to Simon for your thoughtful and in depth answers.
View more of his work at
simondevitt.com and Instagram
Image credits:
Simon Devitt © Courtesy of the artist.

Photographed by Simon Devitt

Trust your instincts. There is no right way to do things.
Simon Devitt

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