New Zealand D-Photo



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.”

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