Artist Reflections

Edith Amituanai

Picnic at Starling, 2016

Edith Amituanai’s work as a documentary portrait photographer carries a heavy political undercurrent of creating a better society through challenging the viewers’ thinking of what really matters. She has an open-minded, journalistic approach to entering the lives of her subjects without a predetermined representation of her images.

Edith tells captivating stories by photographing diverse characters within the comfort of their familiar spaces, not only capturing what is subjectively “cool”, but focussing on other aspects such as lighting, frame and surrounding detail – proving that a camera is just a tool and not the only means of creating exhibition worthy art. Building comfortable relationships with each subject and relinquishing control allows Edith to reap the rewards of establishing deeper connections within the final images. For example, giving her camera to different children to photograph their families and being fully immersed without social barriers can result in a far more intimate photograph. Edith also acknowledges the importance to continuously study other artists: Jim Goldberg being a big influence in establishing her ideas on deciding when a piece is complete; time becomes irrelevant and knowing yourself as an artist becomes more important.

While I am not particularly interested in portraiture within my own practice, I did enjoy learning more about Edith’s documentation process behind the lens. I think the rules that apply to portrait photographers are good building blocks for any artist researching a project: values, space, ethics of what the artist is doing, and acknowledging the role as a guest who has been given the privilege to gain access to what can be interpreted as sensitive subjects. Edith’s age-experienced confidence when approaching people gives her the ability to push the boundaries of her own photography practice, encouraging more artists to exit their comfort zones for the chance of gaining rewarding results without fear of failure.

Richard Orjis

Photo credit – The Spinoff

Richard Orjis is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and educator who studies Queer Ecology: environmental justice in relation to urban environments, combined with Queer theory which disrupts the social norms of using essential singular terms. Ecology is the network of relations in any systems and Richard also looks at Queerness in nature through biological evolution.

Richard’s study of Rangipuke’s (Albert Park’s) rich history from volcanic ash to Pā site – all the way through to the first Gay Liberation Front protest in 1972 led by university students, has been a fascinating educational story about the importance of times changing and the symbiotic relationships between places, spaces, people and other organisms. How humans, in particular, like to separate themselves from what they consider lower life forms, not only in the plant and animal world but the religious or western world’s influence of inflicting their superiority over gender and race.

Interesting to discover how this is all interlinked and the irony that ‘baby boomers’ entitled voices during past GLF protests have pushed forward the social movement of accepting diversity with the support of women’s liberation and Māori activists. Allowing the LGBTQ community to reclaim the word Queer from a social slur into a socially acceptable umbrella term for any sex and/or gender diverse person. I enjoyed learning more about Ngahuia te Awekotuku, her role as a central figure to these movements and educational researcher – rediscovering and reclaiming the word Takatāpui as the umbrella term for being Queer and Māori.

As a newly out genderfluid (yet straight) person, I’m still trying to work out how to prevent people from placing me in a ‘monolithic bisexual camp’ because they don’t fully understand the term queer and that my preferred day-to-day gender does not define my sexual preferences. Hopefully, with the increasing support of like-minded communities helping to educate the wider public about Queer Ecology, there will be less confusion and shame around what was once considered ‘sexual deviant’ discussions.

Judy Darragh

femisphere zines

Judy Darragh is a multi-disciplined, female, feminist artist who advocates for equal opportunities between men and women. Studying her collaborative zine project “Femisphere”, a collection of publications regarding conversations around what it means to be a female artist, had me thinking about finding my own voice and how I can express my views without hesitation through artmaking.

These ongoing discussions around feminism have led me to believe that simply rejecting a person’s biased view of my own identity, whether it be gender preference or culture, does not resolve the underlying issue of establishing equality. To reject these long-established patriarchy views requires not only having a voice for expression but support through our art community to be heard. This combination through Visual Art has become a powerful tool for acknowledging the problem of representation of female artists.  

I was strongly affected by Conor Clarke’s ‘Conversating with the blind… #1’ text from the zines publication. As a female struggling in what is still very much a male-dominated world, I have on occasion struggled to find my voice when inappropriate verbal or physical situations have been forced upon me by the opposite sex. Afraid to speak up from lack of support making me want to give up altogether.

There are still double standards that I see today during our 4th wave of feminism: Galleries still showcasing a higher number of male artists. Female speakers and male speakers revising the same text but the male counterpart receiving more support and less negative comments

Recently I was in the hospital and did notice that the male nurses were more attentive and gentle compared to the female nurses. A strong indication that society shouldn’t assume qualities based on gender alone as all genders have the capacity to undertake what was previously perceived as a singular role.

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