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Youngsters schooled by world famous photographer

Their eyes are sparkling and their grins are wide – and they are all over the walls of Hastings City Art Gallery.

The culmination of five weeks work by Kimi Ora Community School students with internationally acclaimed “rock star” photographer Edith Amituanai has morphed into a full exhibition. Two thirds of the art on show is by the mainly 10 and 11 year olds.

The exhibition, #keeponkimiora, opened this month [June 15], with a bus load of the students arriving for the 5.30pm opening to see their work on the walls of the gallery for the first time.

In between weeks of workshops and photography trips out into the community and to the beach, the children borrowed Amituanai’s camera and framed their own photographs at home and in the community playgrounds.

Amituanai said the children had an instinctive response to photography, and knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. “We talked about the stories they wanted to tell, and their audience. With the older children we also talked about light and composition; went out and took photos and then reviewed them; going over what they liked or would change next time.

“But for some it was pure intuition. I had one five year old I hadn’t shown anything to who took an image that is in the exhibition – the light and composition are incredible.”

Amituanai had a lot of experience teaching across all age groups and said it was not about teaching the children to take photos in her style – rather, letting them find their own. “We looked at different genres of photography and talked about how to decide between them, but inherently they knew what to do.”

For Kimi Ora Community School principal Matt O’Dowda, the experience was “priceless”.

“Our kids would never normally have the opportunity to work with an internationally famous photographer or use the type of camera Edith provided them with; never mind being exposed to having their own exhibition in the city gallery.

He said the kids were “blown away” when they saw their work for the first time on opening night. “The size of the photos, the way they looked, and that all of these people had come to see them.”

There were on-going benefits to the children, he said. “We took them to the Lego exhibition, then to another exhibition, and now their own exhibition. As a result, they will grow into adults who are entirely comfortable with galleries; it’s not this big scary thing that holds art they don’t understand.”

It was also an eye-opener that people would be interested in their predominately Maori and Pacifika lifestyles. “Edith showed them that their everyday lives are interesting, and people from outside of our community are interested in the way we live.”

Gallery director Toni MacKinnon said the relationship with the school had grown out of the students’ interest in last year’s Lego exhibition. “They were so enthusiastic and passionate; it was a natural fit to involve them in this programme and we are so please we did. The outcome has been amazing.”

The exhibition #keeponkimiora is at Hastings City Art Gallery, Civic Square, Hastings, until September 3, 2017.

For more on Edith Amituanai’s work see:


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