Looking Back

By: Gemma Bridge, Photography by: Wayne Stevenson

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With so many different incarnations, the Bedford has become “the motoring equivalent of number 8 wire”: practical, versatile and reliable. After collecting a number of images over the years, a new book by Wayne Stevenson offers a peek into the private lives of Kiwis and their Bedfords

Looking Back
Looking Back

The very first time I saw a Bedford was during a lazy summer holiday on the East Coast as a child. Our next-door neighbours at the camping ground, which consisted of little more than patches of sun-browned grass dappled with shade from sprawling pohutakawas, were staying in a converted bus called Rollin’ On.

To us, it was a magnificent beast, battle scarred and bristling with the souvenirs of its travels, and certainly more exciting than our bland tent. Especially when the owners would delight us with long bursts on the spectacularly loud horn.

Wayne’s new book, Bedfords Kiwi Style, captures these kinds of anecdotal memories through photographs – a compilation of people who have created truly individual and uniquely Kiwi vehicles and homes with their Bedfords.

He has always been fascinated by the make’s many different models (and was an owner of a Bedford truck), but it was an encounter with a great looking Bedford at Te Kuiti airport while he was showing his kids some aeroplanes that really sparked his passion for photographing them. Since then he has travelled far and wide, collecting pictures and the stories behind many of these vehicles.

He photographs them "as is, where is", capturing the essence of the vehicle and its owners; many subjects were happy to pose with their beloved Bedfords, lending the book a charming, emotive quality.

"The background, the lighting and the people all add texture to the photo," Wayne explains. "The range of models and variants, plus the age spread of the models is fascinating."

There is literally a Bedford for every job.

The book documents its various guises; work horse, ice cream truck, ambulance, bus, campervan... the list goes on.

You can find them in places you’d least expect; embedded in people’s front gardens, acting as permanent dwellings or hiding in old sheds, but more often than not they’re out and about, especially in popular holidaying spots in the summer.

The Bedford conjures up nostalgia with its quirky characteristics, easily recognisable style and often whimsical colours.

While a lot of the models he photographed remained as what they were designed for, Wayne also found that some had started their second lives as blank canvases – their owners literally turned them into whatever they wanted.

The introduction to the book echoes this diminishing creative instinct of Kiwis: "The enthusiasm for both do-it-yourself building and exploring New Zealand merged into one when people began turning their trucks and buses into mobile homes, permanent seaside baches or outback hideaways. Crafted with love, skill and the kitchen sink, these Bedfords became as individuals as their owners."

Asked which his favourite photograph was, Wayne was hard pressed to pick. "I like them all…each and every one tells a story."

Wayne Stevenson is a family man who loves photographing vehicles that make Kiwis ‘who they are’, and has written two other books, Holden: Everybody’s Car and Holdens on a Plate.

Bedfords Kiwi Style will be available from November 1 at all good book stores.

Quotes are from the author and Bedfords Kiwi Style.

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