When I was child, my mother had a bookshelf in her dining room full of New Zealand Geographic Magazines. I would sit on the floor next to the shelf and run my fingers up and down the row of white spines. I’d pull different ones out and go through the glossy pages cover to cover, admiring the striking imagery. ‘One day’, I would think to myself, ‘I will visit these places and see these magnificent things’.
The magazine indulged my love for the environment, for wild oceans and rugged coasts, for dense forests and the life that lived within them. For people and their communities, their stories.
It influenced my decision to become a storyteller. It inspired my path to Feature Photography. It planted dreams.
Now, 20 years later, that childhood memory is more vivid than ever because, this week, I was awarded the 2018 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Progear Photostory award.
From more than 3,000 entries, I was one of 52 finalists in the national competition. My disbelief in my ability to win can be summed up in the two words I uttered (in an echoey theatre, I might add) when my name was read out alongside my work appearing on the big screen behind the stage: “Holy Shit!”
You see, awards can mean everything and, nothing. Photographers don’t create images to win awards, I know I don’t. But this particular award? This meant a huge amount to me.
This was one of my childhood dreams coming true.
In an almost 12 year career, this is my first photography award. Often I act like I have my shit together but, I am actually really self-conscious about my work. I feel like a small fry in this industry, I’ve never been one of the cool kids and, my line of work means I am in a constant state of hustle. The fact I was even a finalist for this was a huge boost, winning was a whole new level of validation.
I won with a series of images that were very close to my heart. A photostory about my whānau in Ihumātao and the campaign to stop a housing development from being built on one of the last remaining pieces of clear land alongside our unique papakāinga.
The series is part of an ongoing collection of images I have been documenting for the past 10 years about our little village settlement and all the milestones and changes that are taking place over my generation. I hope they will serve as an historic record of people and place for our children, and their children.
This is why I shoot. To document today so we don’t forget it, tomorrow.
Anyway, before we get too deep on a Sunday morning (haha) check out this release below with a bit more about the awards, the judges comments and this body of work. Plus, a brief insight into my next big project I am working on!
Indigenous Storyteller Wins Prestigious Photography Award
South Auckland Photographer and storyteller Qiane Matata-Sipu was honoured at the 2018 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Awards in Auckland last night (Thursday 25 October).
Matata-Sipu was awarded the 2018 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year Progear Photostory award for her six-image social documentary series about the land protest in Ihumātao.
The 33 year old creative and mother, of Te Wai o Hua, Waikato-Tainui, Ngā Puhi and Cook Islands descent, says the win is extra special because the topic was one close to her heart
“This is my whenua, these are my people. I have been documenting our whanau, our papakainga, and our marae for the last 10 years,” says Matata-Sipu.
“So many photographers feel they need to go to far flung countries to tell compelling stories, the NZ Geographic Awards show us that some of our best stories are in our own backyards.”
Matata-Sipu credits her late grandparents for inspiring what has become a life-long storytelling goal.
“My nan Dawn and papa Joe told me stories about how much life, the environment, and their way of living had changed between their generation and mine. It inspired me so much that I have made it one of my personal missions to document the changes taking place over my lifetime, both the people and the place.”
New Zealand Geographic Publisher James Frankham says Qiane’s work is ‘world-class’ and reflects the diversity in storytelling the magazine aspires to create a platform for.
“Qiane’s photo-story on Ihumātao was one of the most exceptional pieces of work we’ve seen”, says James.
“It was captured from the perspective of the protested and benefited from exceptional access, but Qiane also brought intimacy and confidence to the story, giving an insight into the long and difficult struggle for mana whenua over this contended land. The images were beautiful, poignant and powerful.”
Matata-Sipu says change is happening drastically in Ihumātao and winning the award will help to continue giving visibility to the stories and narratives.
“There is gross industrial encroachment as large factories swamp the landscape between the papakainga and the airport and, the designation of Special Housing Area 62 sees plans for a 480-dwelling housing development to be built in Ihumātao, critically affecting this unique settlement.
“These changes reflect what is happening to small communities around the country and the effect growth has on our society and environment.”
Matata-Sipu’s recognition is also a win for indigenous women. There are very few female feature photographers in New Zealand, and even fewer who are Māori.
The award is also much needed encouragement and validation for Matata-Sipu as she prepares to launch NUKU in early 2019 – a multimedia visual and storytelling series for and about kickass indigenous women doing things differently.
Over one year, Matata-Sipu will photograph and interview 100 indigenous women across Aotearoa to document their stories and amplify their voices in our ever changing society.
To listen to the Radio Waatea interview click here
To see the Maori Television interview click here
To listen and watch the Radio 531pi interview and live stream click here