Nigel Swinn grew up in Wainuiomata in the sixties, where he used to paint murals on covered walkways at Wainui College during lunch breaks in order to get out of playing sports. He attended Wellington Polytechnic School of Design in the seventies and was a contemporary of the artist John Drawbridge.
Swinn then travelled abroad and worked selling cameras in a Dixons store in Bristol. On returning to New Zealand he worked in various jobs until joining the National Publicity Studios – a division of the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department, and the ‘still image’ sister of the National Film Unit. While there he worked with Brian Blake on collating a retrospective of his work to tour China as part of a cultural exchange programme.
In his recent work, described by T.J. McNamara as “both confrontational and meditative”, Swinn uses scale to alter out notions about studying and looking at human faces. Featuring portraits of New Zealanders at different levels of society, his work is an exercise in portraying the spirit of our nation. As stated by Lloyd Jones, “Stillness is magnified by the stunning size of these images. The usual dis- tance between object and viewer is shut down. One enters the face as one might a landscape…’’
Swinn has travelled extensively throughout his career, returning home to New Zealand to revitalise his own identity both as a New Zealander and as a photog- rapher. He now lives in Pauatanaui, Wellington, with his wife, dog, and 17 acres of wind-beaten pohutukawas.