Thu 13 Dec 2018

Glenn's new life focus

He has photographed and been blessed by the Pope, chased fire engines for a living and met every prime minister since Sir Robert Muldoon.

But three years into his sixth decade, Qantas award-winning photographer Glenn Jeffrey decided it was time for a change in direction.

He took a leap of faith and enrolled in a mechanical engineering course at WITT.

And as the year comes to an end, the 54-year-old says he’s found his happy place.

It is standing next to a lathe.

“I am very lucky to have had two passions. My dad, who was a marine engineer, gave me a camera when I was nine, and I joined the New Plymouth Camera Club. But I also did fifth form engineering at Spotswood College and loved it.”

In 1981 Glenn embarked on a photography cadetship after doing work experience for the Daily News and now defunct Taranaki Herald. But the engineering bent clicked in and he went overseas to Papua New Guinea and worked on a pipeline.

“I was doing non-destructive testing and my film processing skills came in very handy as we were using gamma rays to create images as we looked for welding faults.”

He returned to New Zealand and signed up for the territorials, thinking he would get a fitter and turner apprenticeship, but the young man with a mischievous bent found he and the armed forces would never be good bedfellows.

So he began a spell as a cabling technician before meeting up with an old colleague from the Daily News who got him back into print media, initially with the Auckland Star, then the New Zealand Herald.

He met the Pope, Mick Jagger and the Queen, he went to catch harrowing images of the tsunami devastation in Sri Lanka and, in Italy, met remarkable people while covering the 60th anniversary of the battle of Monte Cassino.

But by 2009 the regular diet of covering death and mayhem in Auckland was taking a personal toll. Glenn became a househusband. Three years later his wife Tracey was diagnosed with melanoma. The disease took her life three months later.

He returned home to Taranaki and continued freelance work, citing a highlight as the march led by former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd to Parihaka and, like Andrew Judd, learning what he had missed for more than half a century in terms of Māori culture as he worked for iwi around the mountain.

By 2017 he was ready for the leap of faith.

He enrolled at WITT and immediately became a vocal advocate for the polytech.

“It was fantastically easy to enrol and sort out Study Link – then I had two remarkable men in Michael Loake and Mark Hudson as tutors.”

He has passed his course, and has put his name out among the engineering community, has picked up work with SMS (Superior Machining Services) – and his hope now is to get more.

Glenn has some words of advice for people who are thinking of a career change in later life.

“Think what you want to do, ask yourself if you can make a living from it. Be pragmatic – but be aware you must have the desire and passion.

He will also happily recommend taking a course at WITT.

“People say I was brave and courageous – but you have to have those qualities as a photojournalist, so for me, it was an extension.

“I’m loving it at SMS, I am challenged every moment I am there. It is a wonderful, family orientated company.”


Caption: Glenn, in his happy place.