Graduating photographers deal with themes from gender identity to identifying ‘home’


Stina Persen, Untitled 1, from
the series 'Backwash' 2012

For the last four years a dedicated group of photographers have been honing their skills at Massey University. The soon-to-be graduates will be showcasing their work through six exhibitions over one week throughout Wellington. Among the many and varied projects there are behind-the-scenes insights into Wellington’s railway industry,  a high-class brothel, and the Sikh faith, expressions of gender identity and work inspired by a grandfather’s experience in Hiroshima after the A-bomb. This is an opportunity to see a huge variety of works from twenty young, local artists before they fly the coop.

One of the gifts of a great photographer is that they allow us to see farther than we can with our own eyes. Robyn Daly's current work, Uncertain Departures gives an insight into a part of Wellington that not many Wellingtonians get to see. This series gives a view behind-the-scenes of Wellington’s railway industry. Daly’s perspective is uniquely positioned by the fact that she is a young woman in a particularly inaccessible, and traditionally male-dominated workplace. This role of outsider is one that fits Daly well and the images she has produced are strangely exotic. “What I have discovered from my time spent documenting this industry is ultimately an emphasis on traditional values, innovative ideals, mysterious objects and a noticeable undercurrent of uncertainty for the future.” Daly says.

Stina Persen has been fascinated with the construction of gender identity for some time now, and Backwash is the culmination of four years of experimentation in making this fascination visible. These large and unnerving portraits call for reflection on society’s current expectations of femininity by exploring the aftermath of the cultural pressure for girls to be girly. Persen’s work has a lightness of touch and embraces humour and ambiguity as tools to get her message across.

Kelsie Barley has spent the last year researching the effects of law changes on the sex industry, using a high-class Wellington brothel as a case study. Barley’s investigation has been an attempt to answer the question ‘What is the fantasy that high-end brothels sell, and how does religious iconography inform this fantasy?’ The result is the aptly named Temptations of the Flesh, a series of vibrant, highly engaging prints of some rather dark subject matter.

Though her photographic skills are well established, it is more apt to call Kalya Ward an artist working within a photographic medium rather than a photographer per se. Ward often uses a mixture of illustration, screen printing, and alternate processing. Views of Home is no exception. The work was born out of an interest in her grandfather’s archive of letters and photo albums from the time he spent in Hiroshima as part of the Peace Corp after the A-bomb. The albums document what in many ways was his O.E. in the context of this disaster. In questioning both 'what is history?', and 'what is home?', Ward has combined these Japan-based images with others from her grandfather’s archive that illustrate vernacular representations of domestic life.

Another photographer who deals with the convergence of cultures is Andrew Graham. Graham’s beautifully peaceful, and somewhat solemn, images offer an insight into the Sikh faith. Little is known about Sikhism in the greater community of New Zealand. With over 10,000 Sikhs currently calling New Zealand home and with recent events in the worldwide media, it is becoming ever more important to gain an understanding of this unique part of our growing multi-cultural nation. Graham uses traditional documentary techniques such as film photography and sound recording to create an intimate portrait of these warm and welcoming people. This work celebrates the faith by documenting people from the Wellington Sikh community and their spiritual connection to the Porirua Gurudwara.

All of the exhibition are organised, staffed, and promoted by students. For more information please go to

18-25 Oct    Future/Remnants
        Robyn Daly and Maximillian Scott-Murray
        August Gallery, 13 Garrett St, Te Aro

19-24 Oct    Stroboscopic//Nightmares
        Paige Boyd and Ginny Maddock
        Level 1, 57 Ghuznee St (where ‘Koko Pilates Studio’ is based)

23 Oct-5 Nov    Perspective
        Prue Ibbotson, Hayley Smith, and Courtney Stevenson
        Matchbox Studios, 166 Cuba St, Te Aro

23-28 Oct    Plethora
        Kelsie Barley, Georgina Shaw, and Ashley Carr
        Underworld, 150 Vivian St, Te Aro
        9am-3pm (Sat/Sun 11am-4pm)

24-29 Oct    Afterwards
        Ish Doney, Ruth Hollinsworth, and Kalya Ward
        Nineteen Tory St, Te Aro

25-31 Oct    VII
        Por Boontoum, Ryan Christie, Andrew Graham, Stina Persen,
        Michelle Porter, Sarah Turfrey, Stef Upchurch
        James Smith Arcade, cnr Cuba and Manners St, Te Aro


Related articles

Twin doctorates for French couple
Spent hen coop a design coup
Designs on the future at Wynyard Quarter
Is it a coat or a tent? Transformable garments for the fashion future

More related articles

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey