Meet the Artist, Ans Westra, {Suite} Gallery

Over 80 photographs by Arts Foundation Icon, Ans Westra – who will have a solo presentation with {Suite} at the 2022 Aotearoa Art Fair in November – are showing now in an exhibition at Te Awahou / Foxton.  Titled Ans Westra Photographs: after Handboek, the exhibition refers back to the Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs project, a large-scale survey exhibition and publication of Westra’s photographs, curated by Luit Bieringa, which toured Aotearoa and The Netherlands from 2004-2007.

Ans Westra immigrated to New Zealand in 1957, and has spent her photographic career – which spans over 60 years –  largely documenting social and cultural practices in Aotearoa New Zealand. Well known for her particular interest in the socio-political lives of Māori families as well as individual portraits, throughout the second half of the 20th century, Westra’s photographic practice has been both, at times controversial, and widely considered as one of New Zealand’s most influential.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Collection website describes Westra’s practice:

Westra has used a medium-format, waist-level viewfinder camera for most of her life. She feels that it allows her to be more unobtrusive: ‘You don’t put it up to your eyes, so you don’t obscure your own vision. People are not nearly so aware of a little box at waist level, so you don’t interrupt your own interaction with the scene, and I interact as little as possible…. people seem to forget about me really.’1

Westra’s photographs sit within a humanist tradition of photography. They are empathetic, warm, and affirm human values. She often captures telling moments of gesture and interaction – a glance, touch or stance:  ‘In my photography I’m looking for communication between people and the right moment. Catching the right moment in full swing. One that sums up an emotion.’2

  1. John Saker, City interview: Ans Westra, Wellington City Magazine, April 1986, p 21.
  2. Athol McCredie, The New Photography: New Zealand’s first-generation contemporary photographers, Wellington, Te Papa Press, 2019, p. 172.

Ans Westra Photographs: after Handboek is showing now until Sunday 19 June at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, in Te Awahou / Foxton – for more info click here.

Selected works by Ans Westra can be viewed throughout the year at {Suite} in either Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland or Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington


Images: Ans Westra, Ruatoria, 1963 (from ‘Washday at the Pa’) Archival pigment inks on Hahnemuhle paper, 380 x 380 mm. Edition of 25. Ans Westra
Springbok Protest, Wellington, 1981, Archival pigment inks on Hahnemuhle paper, 380 x 380 mm. Edition of 25. Ans Westra Ohinemutu, c. 1963 [two tamariki], Archival pigment inks on Ilford Galerie gold fiber silk, 380 x 380 mm. Edition of 25. All images courtesy of the artist and {Suite}.