Ans Westra reviewed on NZ Arts Review


John Daly-Peoples reviews Ans Westra: A life in photography by Paul Moon for NZ Arts Review: 

‘Ans Westra, who died in 2023 was probably the  most prolific contemporary photographer  who focussed on  recording the life and times of New Zealanders.

With a career spanning over sixty years, she took hundreds of thousands of photographs of people, places and events.

Now a new book “Ans Westra: A life in photography” by cultural historian  Paul Moon documents her life and her contribution to the cultural life of the country.

The book charts her photographic career  from her early involvement with the Wellington Camera Club in the 1960’s and her first sale  of a work to the quarterly journal Te Ao Hou, a publication she would continue to provide images for,

She also gained early recognition in 1961 winning a prize in a photographic competition run by Arts Committee of the Festival of  Wellington.

Much of her work was commissioned for publications originated with the Department of Education and several of her books were for educational publishers as well. One of her earliest publications was ”Viliami of the Friendly Isles” based on her travels to Tonga, Fiji and Samoa in 1962. As well as taking the pictures she wrote the text which describes the dramas, tragedies and excitement of the various locations and events she encountered.

Then there was the controversial booklet “Washday at the Pa”  which was a school bulletin published in 1964 by the Education Department’s School Publications section. Ans Westra wrote the text and took the photographs during a visit to Ruatōria.

The bulletin followed a day in the life of a rural Māori family with nine children. Her images of the family’s living conditions caused enormous controversy, notably from The Māori Women’s Welfare League and the work was subsequently removed from schools and destroyed. Only latterly was the work republished by her Wellington gallery Suite.’

Read the rest of the review here.