Despite the tech world’s movers and shakers flocking to New Zealand for the tranquil way of life, the Land of the Long White Cloud isn’t all farms, entrepreneurs and rolling hills.
Despite being underground, Sydney photographer Casey Morton managed to pry open a window into the lives of member with a set of candid portraits.
Morton earned the trust of the notorious mob – made up of mainly Maori and Polynesian members – in order to shed light on their story.
What followed was a striking glimpse into the gang.
Sydney photographer Casey Morton captured candid photos of members of Black Power, one of New Zealand’s most infamous gangs
Bearing full-face tattoos, the gang’s appearance lives up to their brutal reputation
Photographer Casey Morton’s desire to capture gang members was to ‘show them for who they really are’
‘I have some relatives who are associates, so I used them to bridge the divide,’ Morton told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I wanted to show another side to what Black Power is about. The idea was to show them for who they really are and let people make up their own mind.’
He jetted to Christchurch to meet with members of the local chapter and shoot them in a clubhouse.
Wearing blue and black gang colours and bearing full-face tattoos, the gang’s appearance matches their fearsome reputation. But Morton said he felt safe.
‘Beforehand they laid the ground rules. At times I felt very intimidated by them, but I never felt unsafe,’ Morton said.
The tech moguls hot-footing it to New Zealand
PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel has gushed about his ‘great pride’ in his New Zealand citizenship and how he has ‘found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future’.
Perhaps what he really meant was exposed, after one of his Silicon Valley chums, the venture capitalist Sam Altman, revealed that, at the first sign of global disaster, he and Thiel would fly to New Zealand.
Other uber-rich Americans who have recently bought homes there include the billionaire hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson and the Hollywood film director James Cameron.
Local estate agents say their U.S. clients rarely intend to live in New Zealand, but cite reasons for their purchases such as the toxic presidential election and the spate of mass shootings in America.
In the first ten months of last year, foreigners — mainly Australians and Americans — bought nearly 1,400 square miles of land there, more than four times what they bought in the same period the previous year.
The photos offer a striking glimpse into members of the notorious Black Power gang
Who are the bikie gangs of New Zealand?
Gangs in New Zealand have been blasted as a severe social problem, with reports of violent brawls, murders and rapes sparking fear in local communities, since the 1960s.
The three largest gangs are Black Power, the Mongrel Mob, and the Nomads – and there is fierce rivalry between them.
The groups first formed in the 1950s and by the 1960s even the country’s then prime minister, Rob Muldoon, had partied at a Black Power residence.
Muldoon formed a close bond with Black Power, encouraging them to form work trusts and assisting them to find accommodation.
A ‘Maori urban drift’ in the 1960s and the rapid immigration of Pacific Peoples in the 1970s is said to have bolstered their membership – joining a gang was often seen as a solution to the problems people faced.
By the 1970s, the gangs had turned further towards organised crime and now they have stringent codes against outsiders.
As well as donning menacing face tattoos, some of the Mongrel Mobs, for example, use reviled Nazi symbols as an act of rebellion towards authority.
The gangs are influenced by their American counterparts, such as Hell’s Angels, but also have their own unique codes.
The patched vests, in the same way as outlaw bikie gangs in the US, signal the members’ status. In order to earn them they must endure a gruelling initiation period that can span a year before they are officially welcomed.
The Black Power was founded in the 1970s to counter the Mongrel Mob, with whom they have a bitter and decades-long rivalry.
Tensions boiled over last month, when shots were fired at a Mongrel Mob member’s funeral stormed by Black Power members in Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty Region in the North Island of New Zealand.
But Morton believes BlackPower are not as violent as they once were, and says there is more to the group than meets the eye.
‘The gang is not as violent as they once were, and what I saw on the day felt a lot more like a brotherhood than anything else.’
‘At times I felt like I was just hanging out with family, uncles and brothers, but at the same time you also knew and could feel that there was a dark side to them.’
The members are reminiscent of characters portrayed in the 1994 New Zealand film, Once Were Warriors, about life in the slums of Auckland, including an eldest son who leaves his family to join a gang with facial tattoos.
Black Power members are shown wearing blue and black, the colours of the gang
The Black Power gang is made up primarily of Maori and Polynesian men
A patched vest shows the status of members within the Black Power gang, in the same ways as outlaw bikie clubs
Photographer Casey Morton managed to pry open a window into the secretive lives of Black Power members
The photos shed light on the secretive lives of Black Power gang members
Photographer Casey Morton flew to Christchurch to take photos of members of the local Black Power chapter in a clubhouse
The Black Power gang has been described as ‘more like a brotherhood than anything else’
Black Power members were photographed over a day and a half to portray their story
The aim of the photos was not to portray the gang members in a positive light, but to photograph them for who they really are and let people make up their own mind
Black Power is said to be ‘a tough group who live by their own creed’
New Zealand News