While at University, Neil was a founding member of the artist collective City Group. During this time he made a series of experimental films and photographic installations including Pier, Tracking Dirt, Flight Crowds, Ditch, Valvegrind and North-South Project, which was selected for the National Art Gallery's 1986 survey exhibition Content/Context.
In 1986 he moved to Whanganui and began working with a large format camera, completing the series Local Anxieties, documenting buildings in a city affected by the recession.
A move to Wellington in the late 1980s saw his work in film and photography merge into installations and photographic series that used multiple images to explore ideas of narrative.
Throughout the 1990s he focused on narrative filmmaking with his partners in MAP Film Productions. In 1994 his short film The Dig was selected for Un Certain Regard, Cannes International Film Festival. In 2002 he produced the feature film For Good.
In the mid 1990s he began working with a 35mm camera and moved from staging and constructing his photographs to a more direct, responsive approach - leaving the studio to find his imagery in the outside world and combining his interests in documentary and conceptual photography.
In 2003 he returned to large format photography, immersing himself in the world of hospitals and medical museums. The work that resulted from this, The Clinic, was featured in two major survey exhibitions of New Zealand art the following year - The 2nd Auckland Triennial, Auckland Art Gallery and Telecom Prospect 2004, City Gallery Wellington.
While still working on The Clinic, he began shooting The Vault in museum and art gallery storerooms. The series was developed into a major touring exhibition and publication with Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. Works from the series also featured in Mortality at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. The Vault tours nationally until 2012.
Neil studied at Elam School of Fine Arts and has a BFA from the University of Auckland. He is of Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Kati Waewae and Pakeha descent. Neil lives in Wellington with his wife Amelia Minty and daughter Billie. Neil's career as a photographer has developed alongside his work as a graphic and exhibition designer. He is considered one of New Zealand's foremost designers and is the recipient of numerous national awards. He currently divides his time between his art practice and his role as a creative director of the design agency Base Two.
Read commentary by Ewen McDonald from the publication Contemporary New Zealand Photography