His photographs have been printed on commemorative NZ stamps, his LOTR Guide books have won international awards and are NZ’s top selling non-fiction. Peter Jackson, himself, allowed him to photograph LOTR in the making! He co-produced the documentary “The Real Middle-earth” and has appeared as a co-presenter on NZ’s Discovery Channel. Working for Hobbiton Tours, he gets to walk the Shire everyday, and in 2005 he became a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for Services of Tourism for the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Meet Ian Brodie: Tolkienist, photographer, author, producer, presenter, and pilot!
You first read LOTR when you were 14, what was your reaction and how did that carry over to your love of Tolkien’s work today?
When I first read Tolkien I was immediately drawn into the world of Middle-earth. It was so complete with a history and a geography that was so real. The way Tolkien describes the country is breathtaking. I immediately wanted to explore more of Middle-earth and soon realised that I was actually living here. My first reading coincided with a family holiday which included a stop in Tongariro National Park and a walk to a waterfall. That walk immediately became a stroll through Ithilien to Henneth Annun. We also went down to the South Island and I was not seeing New Zealand as we travelled but Middle-earth again. In homage to my first walk in Tongariro and that first reading there appears in my extended Location Guide an image of Tawhai Falls. Some 28 years later when it was announced that The Lord of the Rings was to be filmed here I knew immediately that the country would be one of the major stars. I also thought that there might be some people that might like to visit the locations, such as I had in my mind all that time ago. The book was written with a love of my country and a love of Tolkien. What I totally underestimated was the interest there would be. Ten years later and we have sold 450,000 copies of the guide, making it the most successful of all The Lord of the Rings film tie in books and one of the top five selling books in New Zealand history. It shows the power of Jackson and Tolkien!
It says on your website that your love of photography began when you started taking pictures from airplanes. Can you take a moment to tell us about your passion for flying?
My love of airplanes started when I was about five, with the photography love coming along a couple of years later. I was very fortunate to be able to combine the two when I started taking images of aircraft air to air in the 1980s. There is something special about being in an aircraft with either no door or canopy and being 10 feet from another aircraft. Air is fluid like water and to watch the other plane move up and down with the movements as you fly with beautiful scenery as a backdrop is a truly amazing experience. Photography is my love and I really enjoy sharing my images. I try to put at least two images a week up on my Facebook page which links back to my portfolio. If I get any comments about the images it makes my day!
You hold the current title of “Media and Communications Manager” at the Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours. What’s it like working and living life out in what many call the real Middle-earth, New Zealand?
I believe I get paid for my hobby and there is nothing better than that. Occasionally I do get to take tourists on our tours and that is a real tonic as I get to see it through another fans eyes. The ability to visit Hobbiton Movie Set whenever I feel like it is priceless. I have a large number of images taken of the set over the last 18 months which I am hoping I will be able to release after The Hobbit films come out.
Not only are you a photographer, but an an award winning author as well, can you take a moment and give us some incite on what the book-writing process is like?
For me, writing is a discipline and it is writing early morning. I tend to get up at 4-00am and go for it. Planning is important and if you have not gathered the information in the field you will find it difficult as you start to collate and turn thoughts into words. Writing Cameras in Narnia was easy for me, mainly because it was using the words of the brilliant people working on the film from many interviews I undertook.
Richard Taylor, of Weta Workshop, wrote a raving review about your writing and photography. Who else has your job brought you into contact with?
Working on the LOTR location guide brought me into contact with many of the cast and crew. As a fan, I was like a kid in a candy store. Peter Jackson graciously allowed me to be on set for a few weeks during pickups for The Return if the King. Not only were my son and I allowed to sit in on filming we both also ended up with small extra parts. It was like being part of history. I will still never forget the look on my 9 years old daughters face when we met Orlando Bloom! Proudly hanging in my office is a copy of my guide surrounded by signatures of many of the cast and it is a constant reminder of some of the happiest days of my life. I loved being in the set of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and watch such clever people bring a film to life. I don’t think that many people can comprehend the amount of sheer hard work that goes into the making of a film. I was also fortunate to be allowed to photograph The Waterhorse whilst it was filmed in NZ and Scotland. I have so much gratitude to people like Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Andrew Adamson, Barrie Osborne and Jay Russell who gave me these opportunities.
The Hobbit is currently in production, and many of the shooting locations have been chosen, do you plan on writing a location guide for the film, as you did for LOTR?
I would love to and I guess all I can say is “watch this space”. My fingers are crossed.
What scene from The Hobbit are you most looking forward to?
I can’t wait to see Smaug but for me it will be how New Zealand is again interwoven with Middle-earth and the landscapes that will again appear.