Cell towers are inescapable - and after this, you'll see them everywhere

by India Hendrikse / 05 October, 2017

Herbert, Otago, May 2015. “Just south of Ōamaru, this pastoral scene has quite a passive feel,” says Nyberg.

Staying in touch

Like steeples reaching for the heavens, cell towers are constant reminders that even when we think we’re escaping, we very rarely are.

Cell towers are ubiquitous, but we mostly ignore their presence. They’re amalgamated with the anatomy of the land, but Auckland photographer Tony Nyberg can’t help noticing them wherever he goes. “Once you start seeing them, you see them everywhere,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter where you are – the towers are among us. When you leave the city, they become more apparent. Their modernity… that contrast.”

Once you start looking, it’s easy to see how Nyberg became fascinated with the towers: They’re like omnipresent miniature versions of the alien interlopers that ravaged landscapes in the War of the Worlds. Nyberg’s images of them became a larger project, pictured across these pages. Their straightforward style was partly inspired by photographer William Jenkins’ New Topographics movement, which came out of 1970s America and was notable for its documentation of everyday, mundane landscapes. “I have always been interested in documenting what some may see as boring landscapes – common views which are a large part of road trips,” says Nyberg. This series of photographs was taken across five years, captured spontaneously as Nyberg drove about Auckland or left the city for holidays with his wife. The presence of the cell towers makes it clear that we’re entangled in modernity – and that our getaways may not really be getaways at all.

Napier, 2015. “At the time of making this image, it was unusual to see two towers so close together,” says Nyberg. “The extremities of vast open skies and bone dry landscapes indicative of Hawke’s Bay summers are challenged by the imposing stature of these towers,” he says.

Te Aroha, August 2014. “Te Aroha still has a very traditional New Zealand look that proffered the obvious references to New Zealand photographers Robin Morrison and Laurence Aberhart. The shapes of the building façades combined with the grain tower structure provided a very graphic context for the tower.”

Matamata, February, 2015. “The irony here certainly wasn’t lost, in memorial to both war and technology – war often becomes the benefactor of technological advancement. Both the cross and the tower sort of mimic each other in their form,” says Nyberg.

Sunset Road, North Shore, May 2012. “I find this one quite humorous as the tower looks like it desperately wants to be a palm tree, it wants to belong.”

Hokianga Harbour, August 2015. “It doesn’t really matter where you are, the towers are among us. This is one of the most stunning harbours in New Zealand and, quite coincidentally, this one was directly across the harbour from our rented bach,” says Nyberg.

Rotorua Airport, November 2015. “Appearing to sprout from nowhere, this tower out-towers the air traffic control tower which would traditionally be the tallest structure at any airport. This is emphasised by the fact that everything apart from the tower sits below the power lines. This is definitely one for the stamp collection, made more so by the fluffy white clouds.”

Dunedin, October 2013. “The everydayness of this location initially attracted me, but as you look around the image you’re met with a slightly unruly mix of building styles so often seen in New Zealand towns.”

Whanganui Heights, December 2015. “Summer was well underway, with its comforting aroma of burnt grass in the midday heat. This is a simple image with a strong sense of familiarity, with the coastal foliage offset by a tower that has no desire to blend in,” says Nyberg.

Ranfurly, Central Otago, October 2013. “What really attracted me to this scene was the radical mash-up of forms and structures in the one street. To best configure these in a single image I was able to play with the scale of the big sky, the tower, telegraph pole, trees, mountains and the small wooden building fronted with the white picket fence.”

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