A love of native birds passed on from generation to generation is continuing through Kāpiti photographer and teacher Fairlie Atkinson, and will be on display for all to see at the Riversdale Virtual Arts exhibition in July.

The annual Riversdale exhibition, from July 17-26, is run by a group of artists based in rural Southland aiming to facilitate, promote, educate and foster support for the arts in all their various forms.

The exhibition also invites artists from around the country, with Fairlie being invited to exhibit for their 47th year which will now be held virtually, online due to Covid-19.

Owl in the Eye. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson
Owl in the Eye. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson

"I'm not sure how they know about me so I was surprised to receive an email from them, but delighted as it's a fantastic exhibition.


"Riversdale always attracts really high calibre work and a wonderfully eclectic mix, very much like the Kāpiti Arts Trail which is also a wonderful event on any art calendar."

The exhibition is a 'must see' event on the provinces' arts calendar, annually showcasing more than 500 artworks from over 80 artists, in a wide variety of mediums.

Submitting six pieces, Fairlie is trying something different with her selection, submitting a mixture of native bird photography and bird art.

Dell in Blue. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson
Dell in Blue. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson

"I've taken a punt and want to see how some of my more whimsical bird art will be accepted."

Most of the photographs were taken at Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae with Fairlie spending 'countless hours', sometimes weeks or even months to capture the birds with the right depth of field, in the right position, light and location.

Turning it into more than just a photograph, Fairlie then matches the colour of the plumage, paints in the background and adds an artistic spin such as creating her Frida Kahlo Kaka.

Kea. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson
Kea. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson

"I like the portrait style as it combines the photography and art aspects, I get to use my creative side painting and arranging, pulling it all together which is engaging."

Fairlie's love of native birds has been passed down from her father and before that, her grandmother.


"It's a genetic obsession that was passed down from my grandmother, to my father, and now to me.

"All three of us have planted gardens with the sole aim to nurture and encourage our native birds to visit, feed and nest.

"Growing up, my grandmother and father would often talk about our native birds, and point out the different species to my brother and I on walks or trips," something which has continued into her adult life.

Frida Kaka. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson
Frida Kaka. Photo / Fairlie Atkinson

"When I travel in New Zealand, I tend to set aside a day or two to go and see something uniquely related to birds."

This has included a detour via Cape Kidnappers on the way to Tauranga to photograph the gannet colony and shooting down to Arthur's Pass to photograph kea while on a trip to Nelson.

Fairlie's photography and bird art will be on sale throughout the exhibition with all profits from the Owl in the Eye image being donated to Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua and 10 per cent of the profit from other canvases going to Ngā Manu.

Wingspan is a not for profit organisation which rehabilitates, tracks, and researches native raptors, relying on community support to continue their work.

"Wingspan is a place I had always wanted to visit so on a family holiday we booked time to go in and see the raptors.

"It was an incredible experience being so close to them."

Fairlie has also just launched a permanent collection at Ngā Manu featuring photographic art with shots taken from the reserve.

Prints, canvases and cards are all for sale with profit going directly to the reserve to support their conservation efforts.

Subscribe to Premium