Hugh Bland was born on a farm in Shangani, Zimbabwe, near the ancient Dhlo Dhlo Ruins. “I was fascinated by these ancient ruins, which sowed the seeds of my interest in heritage,” he says. “In 1979 I emigrated to South Africa, and I have lived in Durban ever since.”
Hugh’s busy career in a family retail and hotel business diverted his attention from his passions of heritage and photography for a while. “After my retirement, I was able to pursue these interests. KZN has a rich cultural, historical and architectural heritage – with a strong military bias.”
Hugh was concerned that in the mêlée of the current politics, much of our heritage was being neglected and disappearing forever. “I decided to set out and record as much of KZN’s heritage in image format as I could,” he says. “Over a ten-year period, I have taken over 85 000 images around the province. My intention is to create the most comprehensive image-based record of KZN. This record is unique in that every image is mine, over a specific period of time, which cannot be replicated.”
The free access site is www.kznpr.co.za. “Advertising funds received from my site are dedicated to cultural organisations,” explains Hugh. In the years to come, he hopes this digital record will become a useful reference of the past.
“The knowledge of KZN gained, led to me doing the photography for a book authored by Jacqueline Kalley, called Farmhouses of Old Natal. I then went on to author three books of my own,” says Hugh. Each of these books are rich with his images and tell the story of valuable treasures that have architectural, cultural and historic significance.