Ans Westra, Controversial Kiwi Photographer, Dies Aged 86

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article -

Famous for her early portraits of Māori families, Westra leaves behind a legacy of some 300,000 photographs that captured all kinds of New Zealanders.

Ans Westra, Controversial Kiwi Photographer, Dies Aged 86

Ans Westra, Whakarewarewa (c. 1963). Courtesy of {Suite} Gallery.

Ans Westra died yesterday at her Wellington home aged 86.

The Dutch-born photographer candidly documented New Zealand life and culture for decades. Her photographs included images of life in the country’s most remote areas, gang members from the notorious Mongrel Mob, and anti-apartheid protestors who clashed with riot police during the 1981 Springbok tour.

Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Carmel Sepuloni described Westra in a tweet as ‘someone who, through her skill of photography, gave life to our stories and history.’

New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi posted Westra’s picture of Māori children on horseback to Instagram with the caption ‘RIP Ans Westra. 1936-2023’.

Courtesy Carmel Sepuloni Twitter.

‘Ans will be sorely missed,’ David Alsop, owner of {Suite} gallery and manager of the Ans Westra archive, shared with Ocula Magazine.

‘She dedicated her life to documenting the social history of Aotearoa New Zealand and was an expert at capturing what she called “ordinary life”: the casual, natural interactions of ordinary people.’

Born in Leiden, Westra came to New Zealand in 1957 aged 21. She became a full time freelance photographer in the 1960s, working for the School Publications branch of the Department of Education and the Department of Māori Affairs.

She became known for her photographs of Māori families and communities, which caused controversy in the past, and continue to be debated today.

In 1964, her school bulletin publication, Washday at the Pā, was withdrawn by the New Zealand Government. The Māori Women’s Welfare League, among others, criticised her depictions of an impoverished rural family for sustaining negative stereotypes of Māori.

Courtesy Taika Waititi Instagram.

Speaking to the controversy, Westra said, ‘I found the Māori more open in the ’80s if they had a resentment about being photographed. In the 60s I was their guest and they never objected. I think their people have become more aware of what an image can do.’

By the 1970s, Westra’s practice extended to capture the lives and experiences of all New Zealanders.

Following Westra’s death, New Zealand painter Ayesha Green acknowledged she captured much of New Zealand, but said her images exemplify ‘the Pākehā wish-image of Māori life’.

‘She truly captured and contributed to enforced assimilation as it happened,’ Green wrote on Instagram. ‘For me, I am lucky; I have my mum’s, my nana’s and my own photo albums to see what Māori life is.’

Alsop stood up for Westra, saying, ‘She appreciated and respected people and was always grateful to photograph.’ —[O]

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article -