Guest Post: Caroline Thomas on working as an Image Researcher in NZ

April 1st, 2010 § 0

Image Researcher!? We’ve worked with Caroline over the years – first crossing paths when she worked for the Guinness World Records when she needed an NZ photo, and now with her living in Wellington we’ve recently worked on the new Zealandia displays. Last week, while sitting enjoying a coffee on the deck here at Nature’s Pic Images we were discussing ‘Image Researching’ with Caroline, and felt the world needed to know of her work & unique profession. So, here’s a guest post from Caroline Thomas, Image Researcher Extraordinaire….

Love it or hate it; think it’s a waste of money or money well spent, the new Visitor Centre at Zealandia cannot be ignored. I spent a couple of hours at the Centre the other day, getting a preview of the exhibition as a result of the small contribution I made, through my job, to its creation.

The job I do could politely be described as ‘niche'; people often look at me nonplussed when I tell them what I do. ‘That’s a job?’, they think and, often, say.

When I first arrived in New Zealand to live, I was uncertain that I would be able to continue to work in the mysterious profession that I had been practising for several years in London. What is this esoteric activity you may ask? I work as a freelance image researcher, sourcing appropriate images for publication in books, newspapers and exhibitions. One of my more memorable contracts was for Guinness World Records where there was always a chance of meeting some extraordinary characters (pictures of the world’s most tattooed man anyone?) (ROB: Whoa, did you introduce him to your Mum Caroline!?). And one of the least memorable? How do you fancy spending all day seeking sufficiently interesting pictures of “nuts and bolts” for an educational textbook.

In the expectation that New Zealand was simply too sparsely populated to sustain a …

rarefied profession such as image research, I had prepared myself to think laterally about how I would earn a living once I got here. Maybe I would re-train, write a book, study, walk dogs? Luckily for Wellington’s dog community, it soon transpired that the job of an image researcher does exist in Wellington and in the past couple of years I have been involved in a number of fascinating and rewarding contracts. If anything, the scale and cultural profile of NZ has delivered a more varied, and interesting set of assignments than I would have experienced in London during the same period.

Top amongst these assignments has been my work with Wellington company Story Inc, in the image research for Zealandia, formerly the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, due to open tomorrow – Please have a look here. This has been a large and complex project in which I have undertaken a crash course in indigenousNZ flora and fauna(I now know far more about native NZ plants and NZ animals than I ever knew about their British counterparts because, as a hardened city dweller, I never had the need to know whether I was looking at an oak or an elm). I have also had the privilege of encountering a number of dedicated and talented Kiwi photographers, Rob Suisted included, all of whom have impressed me with their knowledge and passion for their environment and their subjects and the consistently high quality of their work.

Story Inc artists impression of Zealandia. Courtesy of Story Inc

Story Inc artist's impression of Zealandia. Courtesy of Story Inc

So, doubtless you will have heard many positive and negative views about the Zealandia experience. Whatever your viewpoint, I can simply say I hope you enjoyed your visit as much as I did.

Thanks for the great post Caroline, it was a real pleasure working with you on this project!
If you’d like to get in touch with Caroline for her to image research for you, please don’t hesitate to send her an email:

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