New Zealand D-Photo
A PASSION DISCOVERED
Now nearing 40, Vanessa didn’t seriously pick up a camera until her early 30s. Although she became a photographer later than many, Vanessa tells me she has always been a very visual person with an observational curiosity towards her surroundings.
Most of her life has been lived in Auckland, but Vanessa has spent time in London, using it as a base from which to explore Europe, Asia, and India, before returning home to Aotearoa. She describes this pre-photography experience as her “background in exploring the world”.
As she entered her third decade, Vanessa found life in need of a shake-up. A fateful course at Auckland’s Unitec institute would prove just the solution, opening the door to a new passion for photography.
“I had recently lost my dad and had come out of a serious relationship; I needed something to focus on. I needed to make a shift and I’m grateful to have fallen into a practice that has become part of my everyday life. It’s consuming.”
The course gave Vanessa a chance to reconnect with film photography, a medium she hadn’t dabbled in since foundational learning back in school. She enjoyed rediscovering the slowness of analogue cameras and the rawness of negatives. It also gave her a link to the social documentary photographers of the past who inspired her, such as Ans Westra, Marti Freidlander, Gil Hanley, and John Miller. “The way that our country has been documented has been amazing, and I just hope my work can add a little to that.”
An affinity for the darkroom has allowed Vanessa to connect with a number of like-minded contemporaries in the Auckland region. Together they make up the CarWash Collective, a group of photographers who support each other in their individual practices and exhibit together — D-Photo readers will be familiar with members Tim D, Petra Leary, Brendan Kitto, and Todd Henry from past coverage. “I’m very lucky to have people in my world who are very giving with their knowledge,” Vanessa says of the group. “They’re very enthusiastic photographers and very encouraging with everyone’s own practice.”