What do you do?
I am a photographer in Kākahi in the King Country. If you had asked me ten years ago I’d have said, I’m a nurse. Even though I have been taking photographs most of my life. Sometimes I would be asked if I was a photographer. Not really, I’d say. After my book, Observations of a Rural Nurse, was published last year I got over my imposter syndrome.
What images are pinned to your studio wall?
A portrait of my mother, painted by my father, the night before my brother was born. She has an imperious look. Her eyes follow me around the room. This isn’t the first portrait my father painted of my mother, Patti. She had commissioned him to paint her portrait for her fiancé. During the first sitting my father told my mother she wouldn’t be marrying her fiancé but would be marrying him. My mother was not impressed. He liked to remind her that he cost her thirty guineas. Later he took the frame for another painting. In return for the frame Patti asked him to paint a self portrait but someone offered her a good price for it, so she sold it and bought a vacuum cleaner.
What are some of the biggest influences on your work?
My family was a big influence. When my parents were alive I didn’t think of myself as a photographer. Making photographs was just something my father and I did. Cameras were always around. Conversation was about composition, light, tones. When I was in my 20’s my brother, Simon, gave me a Pentax as he felt my Instamatic wasn’t in keeping with my enthusiasm. My mother had a huge interest in people of Kākahi and hinted that subject matter was right here.
Way back I bought a few Robin Morrison books interested in the stories the images told. Then I came across Edith Amituanai and Glen Jowitt. Their photographs of people in their homes, of their communities. I got really keen. I still have articles about Edith’s work ripped out of art magazines and tucked into a box of important matters.
There’s a whole swag of people whose work influences me one way or another. W. Eugene Smith, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Alec Soth…. More recently Keith Arnatt.
I look at other people’s work with great interest but in the end it’s the scene itself that is the real influence. The landscape, the people, the moment. For instance, an image in my book, Shane. On visiting Shane’s house I eyed up the clothes line with yellow sheet, pink rose behind, orange armchair in the long grass and drizzling rain. I knew. While I was photographing the clothesline Shane paced around his yard telling me his theories on life. Now I had a series of photographs. He then leant on the chair, not posing but to conclude his speech and waiting for my thoughts on the matter. That was the moment.
What are you reading?
The Yellow House by Sarah Broom. It is a memoir of a humble house, a family, a street, a neighbourhood, New Orleans and American history. Its an almost communal book as Sarah Broom was the youngest of twelve.
Who is your ideal studio buddy?
My dog, Bean is a constant