Ans Westra Photographs
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Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs
  Tena Koutou, Welcome      

Welcome to the website accompanying the HANDBOEK ANS WESTRA PHOTOGRAPHS exhibition, book and DVD.

The Exhibition
Opened at the National Library in August 2004, the show is currently in transit to New Plymouth after a very successful showing at the Auckland Art Gallery. More information on the exhibition

Produced in partnership for the Ministry of Education, with support from the Royal Netherlands Embassy Wellington and TVNZ Archives, this DVD has been supplied to all NZ Secondary schools as an education resource for 2005 and beyond.

Covering further material, including moving and still footage, the DVD provides a different perspective on the life and work of Ans Westra. The new 'Ans Westra teachier and student resources' is now live on the TKI website at

Handboek n. ( Dutch) , guide, handbook, manual

Both an exhibition and publication Handboek:Ans Westra Photographs provides an in-depth insight into the 45 year photographic journey by one of New Zealand’s most persistent documenters. Handboek comprises a gallery of Westra’s most revealing and challenging documentary images.

Born in Leiden, the Netherlands, Ans Westra came to New Zealand in 1957. In a few short years she was to commence on her life-long photographic journey documenting the lives and cultures of New Zealanders during a period of cultural, social and generational change.

The comfortable conformity of the late 40s and 50s in New Zealand was about to be disturbed by the increasing post-war arrival of European migrants and, more importantly, the urban shift of Mäori, which gained momentum in the 1950s. As a society New Zealand and its citizens were far from prepared to accommodate the difficulties accompanying such a challenge to their homogenous cultural, social and institutional frameworks.

Ans Westra's arrival in New Zealand coincided with that shift and the resultant changes and tensions which have characterised and continue to characterise New Zealand’s social and cultural evolution.

More information on the book.

It was a time when Mäori and Päkehä had to interact widely for the first time. This did happen on a street level or at such communal events as the Ngaruawahia Regatta, “even if middle or upper middle class New Zealand citizens largely ignored and remained protected from such a situation.” It is in this context that Ans’s early, if not the bulk of her subsequent work needs to be considered.

Some 40 years on Washday at the Pa, one of Westra’s many ‘photo-stories’, still continues to loom large in any discussion of her work, if only to illustrate the fraught territory of the documentary tradition.

As Jenny Lomax, has so aptly written: “Washday at the pa remains a stake in the ground, marking the complexity of race relations in New Zealand". Perhaps, inadvertently, Ans’s work of that time had become a kind of barometer of a changing relationship between Mäori and Päkehä.

The texts and images in Handboek take us through this remarkable photographic journey and allow us all to view or review our own position vis-a-vis the stories that journey conveys.

The 130 + photographs reproduced here in full plates and essay illustrations include many images not seen or published before. While the bulk of the photographer’s images have appeared in the many publications she has contributed to, this comprehensive survey, accompanied by some of the best writing yet on the photographer, provides the reader and viewer with a rare insight into Ans Westra’s achievements.

Luit Bieringa, curator and coordinator of the Handboek project has been a supporter of photography since his early days as Director of the Manawatu Art Gallery and subsequently as Director of the erstwhile National Art Gallery of New Zealand. During his directorships (1971-1989) he has encouraged the exhibition and collecting of New Zealand and international photography through such exhibitions as the groundbreaking survey of contemporary New Zealand photography The Active Eye, and survey and thematic exhibitions by Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Richard Misrach, among many others.

More information on the book.