Paul Gilbert – Bare Truth

July 28, 2019


August 8, 2019


August 19, 2019

“I am due to be 65 years old (New Zealand’s retirement age) in early December 2019. I have a very aggressive cancer and am in palliative care after two chemotherapy rounds and a failed drug trial. I’m hoping to stay well enough to make that date or better. I have been a “dead man walking” since a burst colon tumour nearly took me out with septicemia, and that certainty transformed and tested my philosophical outlook. I have been very surprised that my previous lip service to my beliefs have now actually been tested and find me in a very rich part of my life. My collateral has always been in relationships, not cash currency and I’ve found this never devalues. Indeed I’m overwhelmed by the support and love returning my way from family, friends and acquaintances, much of it from the many wonderful people working in this often devastating area of care. I have never been more relaxed in my attitude to life and am sensitive to the fact that my calm demeanour attracts simple smiles, gifts and shared enjoyment. Likewise, my forthright opinions and dark humour are often very challenging, but go figure? Why blues music?
Tunnelling down to try to fathom this wonderous shift has not revealed any deliberate or constructed effort. I will take this gift and, while my quality of life is medically managed, try to maintain my voluntary activities with Hospice and elsewhere the need is felt.
Born in a relatively impoverished inner-city suburb with a fabulous mixed ethnicity, I enjoyed primary and intermediate school with good if challenged teachers and a great local library. During my parents’ discord and break up, books were my refuge. It was a household of drink and violence from my father, deep love and sacrifice from my mother.
My life has been strongly influenced by necessity and responsibility. Healthwise I have been free, by and large, of injury or disease and that has allowed me to spot the gap and with some tantalising risk, embark on photographic and maritime adventures when responsibilities lessened. Of course we navigate much of our life with youth’s immortal horizon. I used to say I liked the sound of deadlines whistling by, but no more.
My siblings and I lost our mother to high blood pressure, stress, and little available support, when I was 17 years old. With an absent father, and having just started work, I supported my younger brother and sister through their secondary school years. We ate well on very little because of a socialist food co-operative. My philosophy was forming along with a period of intense and at that time obscure soft-style martial arts training with a weighting toward meditation and energy integration. I have always been grateful that mum passed on her interest in photography, which, at age 7, along with a boat trip, cemented two combined lifelong passions. I have lived aboard yachts, photographed them, and enjoyed that wonderful lifestyle that our sparkling waters provide.
I progressed to a series of technically skilled high-end jobs including teaching. Although low paid these jobs allowed for a parallel passionate development in personal documentary and fine arts efforts. Maintaining an active exhibiting profile fell to one side due to financial constraints. The work however, which is always primary, has continued unabated, if unrecognised, in the fine arts arena. I’m currently looking to house my marine archive.
I became a solo parent to my two year old son after completing a documentary project. He returned to his mother at age 12 and then moved to Australia when he was 17. I have a daughter from a subsequent relationship, access to whom was very sadly limited. I have been recently blessed by Eamonn and Laura gifting us a grandson. Life is a circle.
I am currently very busy trying to organise things for my passing, to save anguish for my loved ones in the rather unknown time ahead. The time feels short, the list long. I’m planning a “Way out Party” to gather with and enjoy my friends and family as soon as is practical, to help them ease into their grief process in a face+to-face farewell, with laughter, ribald stories and much love. Boats will play a part in my crossing the bar.
My very unconventional urn will reside under Mum’s memorial tree, planted by Bruce, Linda and myself when I turned 50 years old. The tree overlooks my wondrous Hauraki Gulf and its islands from above the bay where I lived aboard my yacht for eight years. Traumatised by Mum’s early death it was devastating many years later to return to the cemetery and find they had lost the ashes. The now 3m high tree and its simple bench and plaque, is a place to stand, rest and remember. I am very happy with these arrangements.
Enough of that rough sea!
Being a photographer, I rarely am caught north of the lens hence my appearance here as a record. What have I learned about Photography? Only two things matter:
1. It’s where you stand
2. It’s when you trip the shutter Practice refining this for as long as possible.
Add a decent amount of saltwater. Mix well. Enjoy the Journey.”

6 replies
  1. John B Turner
    John B Turner says:

    Terrific photographs and remarkable farewell from Paul who will continue to be an inspiration. Thank you to all who have contributed to this poignant goodbye.

  2. Hugh Mc Glynn
    Hugh Mc Glynn says:

    Still very inspiring Paul.Rest in Peace
    When Paul visited Dave Morris and myself just a month ago at Takapuna market he was still so positive. ..very admirable indeed.
    Cheers buddy…h??

  3. Linda Gilbert
    Linda Gilbert says:

    Thank you for noticing Paul recently and that face that can tell a thousand stories. Your photos are at his life’s end and it helped everyone come to terms with the inevitable.

  4. craig hilton
    craig hilton says:

    thanks Paul,
    I hope I can learn from you – you are truely remarkable even though you do not think so yourself

  5. Lyn Kriegler
    Lyn Kriegler says:

    Poignantly photographed , simple, unvarnished and direct prose from you, Paul. Will forever cherish our long friendship, shared trips, memories and passages in time. Will keep your gifts of photos and Shards always close to heart. See you again one bright day. Happy trails.

  6. Tania
    Tania says:

    Yes you took good boat photos Paul.
    Pity you weren’t a responsible parent.
    Sending your son away at 12..and never committing to your delightful daughter who gave so much to you.
    You had every opportunity..
    An interesting victim consciousness you possessed.
    Thats the bare truth.
    Your ex partner Tania.


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