Photographer Captures Eerie Photos From Inside Gloriavale

A photojournalist has been given full access to the daily lives of Gloriavale residents as part of a project to document the reclusive Christian community in a book.

Cameron McLaren spent two days in the isolated West Coast community last month and is planning more visits.

The 31-year-old Aucklander said he was made welcome throughout his stay.

He ate with members of the community and slept in the same communal living quarters as the families.

"In many ways Gloriavale is like another world. It was a very different experience for me. Initially I could feel eyes on me, but this isn't surprising at all.

It's a closed community where everyone knows each other, so they were obviously wondering who this unusual looking guy with a camera was."

McLaren said after spending "a good few hours" with Gloriavale leader Hopeful Christian it became clear he was free to take pictures as he pleased.

Some of the older men were reluctant to have their portraits taken, but this happened in "the outside world" as well.

Despite negative attention on the community, McLaren saw "nothing but a city of children running around being happy kids".

"Sure the place is unusual compared to the rest of the world, the people are very religious and take the Bible literally. And, yes, the way of life is very different, people work very hard, some work throughout the night."

His book would take at least another year to complete. Although some documentary work had already been done, McLaren said there seemed to be almost no still photography from within the community.

"The fact that they are almost entirely self-sufficient yet have such a high population brought up many questions for me.

"I wanted to know if the people of Gloriavale have a decent lifestyle and get everything they need as human beings. From what I saw, it looks like they do."

McLaren was amazed by the facilities available and said many were "state-of-the-art and very modern". The community had commercial kitchens, multiple dairy farms and a fully operating abattoir. He left feeling envious of some aspects of the way of life.

"Imagine living surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes you might ever see with a whole bunch of your friends and family. It would be great."

- NZ Herald