Humans of Splore, Photographed by Cam Hay

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Imagine if you could wear a a giant banana suit and kiss strangers every weekend.

Wouldn’t that be a life? Let’s face it, we’d all love to, but society says no. You’d end up branded a freak and thrown in jail. But come festival season, New Zealanders rejoice. They can wear spandex, pretend to be a geriatric or dress as a stripping spaceman and no one bats an eyelid. Festivals are a long-awaited opportunity for kiwis to leave their inhibition at home, forget about rugby and get a little wild in the name of a good time.

Splore is one kiwi festival with a proud history of costumed antics. Staged in perhaps the most beautiful festival venue in Aotearoa, Takapakanga Regional Park, Splore is some kind of earthly paradise, well known for it’s colourful and relaxed social atmosphere.

Earlier this year, Cam was asked to shoot a day and a night at the extravaganza. He gladly said yes and left the Mount with his cameras, a g-string and a kilogram of glue and glitter. Call it investigative journalism, call it what you will, Cam was there to immerse himself. Come sundown, he shot a roll of film because the view-finder on his DSLR was clogged with purple glitter.

“On this journey I hid my DSLR and brought out my canon sure shot prima with a roll of 400tri-x film. The night got dark and the flash exposed the negatives. I had no idea what I photographed. I remember shooting a lot of portraits. I didn’t get the roll developed until a month or so later, so it was a bit of a surprise and probably one of my favourite rolls” he says.

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Looks like a bit of a cult doesn’t it? I asked Cam.

“The vibe at Splore is something special. I went there on my own and felt extremely comfortable. I could have probably spent the whole time alone and walked away the next day extremely happy. There’s lots to explore and you overlook the ocean. You’re surrounded by food stalls, amazing decorations and colour. If I had to describe Splore, it would be as colourful happiness… so I photographed it in black and white... there’s nothing cult-y about it. Everyone was on the same page. It’s like when you turn up to favourite colour shirt Friday at work and everyone has red on, the shared favourite colour creates a bond. Splore was red and everyone shared this special unspoken bond”.

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Splore in 2020 will be doing it’s thing on 21-23 February. To buy tickets, or for more info, head on over to their website.

Sam Fraser-Baxter