Art matters: Images offer vision of the world

By Nick Atkinson

Janina Asiedu. Photo / Julia Glover
Janina Asiedu. Photo / Julia Glover

Local photographer Julia Glover has experienced the excitement of Africa without leaving town.

Last year she met social entrepreneur Makanaka Tuwe after volunteering to shoot a fashion spread featuring African designers. Getting to know the statuesque Zimbabwean exposed Glover to this growing community. After delivering her work from the session, she continued to think about the people she'd met and their often extraordinary backgrounds.

"Some time went by after that shoot before I had this sudden urge to express the stories of the people who had moved here," says Glover, quietly nervous as she waits to collect the final enlargements of her portraits. "Since then we've been working together documenting them."

Janina Asiedu, one of Glover's subjects, has immersed herself in K Rd culture.

"Her parents are from Ghana, but she was born in Auckland. Janina works at Neck of the Woods [a basement night spot].

She's a singer, she's very creative and she's a model. African people who now call New Zealand home tend to have to work really hard to prove themselves. My mum's Brazilian and I relate to that. You go over there and you're perceived to be wealthy because of your skin colour. When I lived over there, I wore different clothes and then I was perceived differently. Then a similar thing happens when I return to New Zealand."

Glover's seven photographs hang in Studio One on the corner of Hopetoun St and Ponsonby Rd as the centrepiece of the I Am exhibition, which aims to break down stereotypes of African life with pictures of expats who now live here. It is one of more than 100 events in the annual Auckland Festival of Photography programme that includes signature exhibitions, "talking culture" events divided and "fringe" exhibitions.

On Tuesday, you can go time travelling to another continent as film director and photographer Geoff Steven exhibits a collection of photographs from his 1979 odyssey to China to direct a documentary about our very own Indiana Jones, Rewi Alley.

It's certainly a stretch to compare Alley to a whip-toting action hero, but the dashing writer and activist, who lived in China for 60 years, is largely responsible for amassing the largest Australasian collection of Chinese art and antiquities, now at Canterbury Museum. Steven spent three months travelling from the coast to the Gobi desert at a time when few Westerners visited the rapidly changing country. His extensive album of photographs in China 1979 -- A New Dawn will be on display in the Air New Zealand Foyer of the Aotea Centre.

The AFP also includes the Nikon Auckland Photo Day, June 11, followed by an exhibition (The Cloud, June 18-24) of winning images from 11 years of the event. This is the first time the festival has showcased the work together. "Auckland Photo Day is the longest running photography competition in the region," says AFP public participation director Julia Durkin. "Like our fringe programme, the 'people's competition' reflects a commitment to photography as something everyone can relate to and take part in, as a creative and personal means of expression."

The festival this year introduces a moving image prize for the best short film, video, time-lapse or multimedia entry.

The Auckland Festival of Photography, various venues, June 2-24. See photographyfestival.org.nz/programme/index.cfm

- NZ Herald

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