Fo­lio | Guest Stars

Some of South Auck­land’s most promis­ing fe­male pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dents get the chance to shine in a unique pho­to­graphic project launched to mark the 125th an­niver­sary of women’s suf­frage in Aotearoa

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This year marks the 125th an­niver­sary of Aotearoa be­com­ing the first self-gov­ern­ing coun­try in the world in which all women have the right to vote. Many events up and down the coun­try have cel­e­brated the moves to­wards true equal­ity that have taken place since 1893. One pho­tog­ra­phy project, on the other hand, de­cided to use the oc­ca­sion to look for­ward, cel­e­brat­ing the young fe­male pho­tog­ra­phers who are poised to take the art into the fu­ture.

The Guest Stars project came about when cel­e­brated art pho­tog­ra­pher Edith Ami­tu­a­nai de­cided she wanted to try con­nect­ing with young pho­tog­ra­phers out­side of her own com­mu­nity. Edith’s award-win­ning work has most of­ten fo­cused on her im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings, doc­u­ment­ing her fam­ily and com­mu­nity and their deep roots in West Auck­land. Al­ways in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing things from a dif­fer­ent an­gle, Edith de­cided to try en­gag­ing with a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity, as an out­sider and us­ing pho­tog­ra­phy as a bridge; the seed of Guest Stars was planted.

“I was keen to work with lo­cals from South Auck­land, so I con­nected with Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy [MIT] stu­dents through pho­tog­ra­phy lec­turer Cary­line Bore­ham,” says Edith, “work­ing with ris­ing stars, you could say. The ‘guest’ part ac­knowl­edges my pres­ence as a guest to

tara.”

Cary­line, pro­gramme leader for the Diploma in Pho­tog­ra­phy course at MIT, in­tro­duced Edith to an ar­ray of fe­male pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dents in the Bach­e­lor of Cre­ative Arts and Diploma of Pho­tog­ra­phy pro­gramme. The idea was that Edith and Cary­line, as es­tab­lished pho­to­graphic artists, would guide the stu­dents through se­lect­ing work for a group ex­hi­bi­tion that would show­case the sto­ries of these emerg­ing fe­male artists, pri­mar­ily from South Auck­land.

“The stu­dents were very ex­cited,” Cary­line tells us. “For many of them, this was the first time that they had ex­hib­ited work in a gallery. I thought it was also an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity for them to share their work with their friends and fam­ily.”

With a project an­chored so firmly in com­mu­nity, the artists needed an ex­hi­bi­tion space with the same set of val­ues, and they couldn’t have hoped for a bet­ter fit than Fresh Gallery O ¯ tara. Lo­cated close to MIT, the art space was de­vel­oped to pro­mote ex­hi­bi­tions, work­shops, and pub­lic pro­grammes that specif­i­cally re­late to the gallery’s lo­ca­tion and its com­mu­ni­ties.

An­nie Bradley, an Auck­land Coun­cil pro­gram­mer for arts and cul­ture, who had been in con­tact with Edith for a few years, con­nected the artists with the gallery space. She was ex­cited to help unite the the­matic strands of the suf­frage an­niver­sary and pro­mo­tion of lo­cal up-and-com­ing tal­ent. “Fresh Gallery O ¯ tara has a com­mit­ment to men­tor­ing and giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to emerg­ing artists, and we were sup­port­ive of the idea that pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dents from Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy would be able to work with a renowned pho­tog­ra­pher, such as Edith, on the process of put­ting the ex­hi­bi­tion to­gether,” An­nie ex­plains.

The re­sult­ing ex­hi­bi­tion was one of pro­fes­sional qual­ity and artis­tic so­phis­ti­ca­tion, de­spite the fact that most of the stu­dents were in their first year of study and had never taken a pho­tog­ra­phy course be­fore.

“There are a range of themes, from in­te­ri­ors and do­mes­tic space to por­traits, sub­ur­ban set­tings to the ru­ral land­scapes of South Auck­land, so vis­i­tors have a va­ri­ety of ideas to re­late to,” An­nie says. “I would like to think that vis­i­tors might leave with a sense of be­ing in­side some­one else’s life — the small mo­ments that we can ap­pre­ci­ate and that could even make us see the world dif­fer­ently.”

Cary­line says that the stu­dents en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence of pre­sent­ing their work in a pro­fes­sional man­ner and the ben­e­fit of work­ing with a re­spected artist and gallery.

“I was ex­tremely proud of the way these stu­dents stepped up to this op­por­tu­nity, and also the hard work they put in to cre­ate each se­ries of work. Edith was in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous in her of­fer to in­clude these young artists in this ex­hi­bi­tion,” she says.

For Edith, shar­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion process and ex­pand­ing her cre­ative com­mu­nity was an en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: “What I was look­ing to fea­ture in the show was a range of voices and an au­then­tic en­gage­ment with the pho­to­graphic medium. I hope the show is af­firm­ing to those who were in­volved, that it en­cour­ages mak­ing, and [that it] ac­knowl­edges that their work is im­por­tant.”

Looked at from the con­text of cel­e­brat­ing the suf­frage move­ment,

Guest Stars seems very much like a gift to pho­tog­ra­phy of the fu­ture: these up-and-com­ing pho­tog­ra­phy stars have been af­forded a peek into what might be­come their pro­fes­sional lives, while the au­di­ence now has a list of names to keep watch­ing in the years to come.

HUIA TAY­LOR

DARIEAN JOHN­STONE

ATANISHA FIFITA

GRACE TANGIMATAITI

PARIS JAMES-IOANE

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