Growing up in Northland, I was lucky to have an amazing free and almost wild childhood. We lived in a low socioeconomic part of town where the river came up under the house if it rained a lot at high tide, and with it came the sewerage.
One of my favourite things to do as a child was to climb the sandstone cliffs and watch the sun go down over the ocean. I loved the coolness of the forest and the majestic kauri. I once got lost while mushrooming, wandering along ditches and creeks that drained the farmland, engrossed in the patterns the gentle flow of water made, blending sand and clay. Predominantly living from the land and the sea taught me to be very resourceful.
Nature has always both calmed me and absorbed me, so incorporating social justice, sustainability and the environment into my work came very naturally. It is a means of communication, a way to move senses, of compelling feeling with content.
I’ve always been visual and photography was like magic to me. At primary school one of my teachers had a backlog of National Geographic magazines which I was so captivated by, taking every opportunity to soak up each individual photograph. I also had a friend whose father was a photographer and I remember being at their house and seeing all of these black and white photographs in the process of being trimmed and not understanding how these images could go from being film to photos. Not long after, I was given my Grans old camera with baffles and a little slider to adjust the aperture. I’ve always had a camera since that day.
My mother passed away when she was fifty-five and to lose her so suddenly caused me great pain. I grew to realise what an important role her kindness played over the years throughout our community, as she lent a hand without judgement. To this day she is an inspiration to me to care for others and to never be wasteful. My most treasured possession is a crumpled thumbnail photo of her as a school girl.
Other people who inspire me aren’t necessarily photographers, but their stories that inspire me to have balance and shoot deep from my heart. Jeong Kwan, a monk and cook from Korea whose life is respectfully in tune with nature, has widely influenced me on the journey of my own life and what stories I am motivated to shoot. Another person I greatly admire is Jose Mujica, the world’s poorest president. It was his attitude to wealth that helped in my decision not to be money driven and to shoot what I believed in. From a New Zealand perspective, Marty Friedlander and Ans Westra sit high on my list as documenters of life in New Zealand. They were also from a time when it wasn’t so commonplace for women to be photographers.
Finding a creative spark often happens from people I meet and circumstances they endure, other times, from great things they are doing. When I’m out and about, the intense beauty of a place that is truly special sparks a desire within me to share it with others so they may be encouraged to appreciate and look after our Earth. In contrast, a mar on the landscape or pollution in the water will spark my annoyance and a new project to alert and educate people.
I like to take people on a journey and open their eyes and their hearts, transforming pictures into emotion. Sometimes that journey is a circle, because in the end everything comes back to nature. I also like to challenge people, to push them to the edge, spark emotion, thoughts, plant a seed and even make them a little uncomfortable, in the hope that they will be inspired to make a difference.
As a photographer, my biggest learning curve would be chasing jobs and money. It has sidetracked me so that following my heart and shooting what I love has been a longer road than it should have been. You can’t stare into a subjects soul through video the way you can in a still, which is why I believe stills will always be appreciated. It’s intriguing to catch moments and expressions, otherwise missed. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words.
I adore being a Kiwi. We have a unique culture and lifestyle. I love that we celebrate Maori culture and are increasingly integrating language and culture into our everyday lives. We have a beautiful country, however we need to be aware that if we don’t pay attention, we may lose the pristine state of many places.