Ihumātao: Privilege and Responsibility

It’s been over 3 weeks since I visited Ihumātao and my stomach is still churning every day, my mind trying to hold steady as the waves of love, pride, grief, and anger crash into each other and threaten to tip me off balance - as I sit in my office chair and attempt to write emails and answer phone calls. I feel the burning need to write something about my experience and what I’m learning. So here’s a letter to all my fellow people of white privilege (especially people who identify as christian) - we need to talk about Ihumātao.

I’m not an expert on these topics and I will be making generalisations so I’m sorry for that in advance, but I’d rather talk about this imperfectly than not at all. I know I don’t have all the answers but I feel the need to be straight about this. I’ll share some of my photos from Ihumātao here too, but because I’d rather focus on this important conversation in this blog post, the stories that go with the photos will be in the captions on instagram as I slowly share them over there.

I shot a couple of rolls of colour on the Hasselblad 500CM, but mostly Tri-X 400 black and white 35mm film as I wanted to draw some parallels to Bastion Point. I struggled with feeling disingenuous while taking photos since I was only going to be there for two days - this is the kind of thing that requires a long-term commitment (like what Jos Wheeler is doing), and I didn’t want to be seen as going there to take photos for my own gain, but my gut feel was that I needed to go anyway. I was made to feel so welcome and I’m so glad I went. It was worth it just to be there to show my support, and to learn and be transformed by the experience. The photos are just an added bonus that I hope will give you an idea of what I felt at Ihumātao.


Sources of information.

Firstly, a word about information. Don’t believe everything you see in the traditional media, and don’t take snippets of coverage as a complete picture of what is going on. The movement at Ihumātao is the most beautiful, peaceful, and heartbreaking movement I have experienced, and brief slots in the news will never do it justice. It’s really difficult to try and explain the effect my visit has had on me. I could just feel everything so intensely - the peacefulness, aroha, and resilience from the protectors and leaders, the strength and importance of the land, and the shared grief in the air, like the morning fog - rising from the ground and lingering among us. Honestly, I’m still processing it all and I think it’s going to take a while.

Check out the links below, and see my instagram posts for more about my experience there.

Best of all, visit Ihumātao if you can - I promise you will find the people super welcoming. The day I was there, people were being welcomed on to the whenua all day, a never-ending supply of food was passed around, people were made to feel welcome and you could just feel the aroha.

Cultural worldview.

We need to recognise that we all have a lens through which we view the world, and one major factor that shapes this lens/worldview is the culture we are surrounded by. I am not Māori and I didn’t grow up with much exposure to the culture other than the odd song, performance, or pōwhiri. The way we Pākehā view and experience the world is going to be very different to a person that has grown up immersed in Māori culture. For example (again, I’m generalising here) - the western worldview says that land is an asset to be owned, traded, worked for profit or enjoyment, as the owner sees fit. Māori worldview says that we all belong to the land, the land is our mother, she provides for us and is to be respected and protected. It is hard to understand the depths of the second concept if you can’t momentarily attempt to put aside that european lens we’re looking through! But how much more rich, Christ-like, and important is that concept? And side note for christians - we need to identify the western european worldview that has filtered the message of Jesus into the faith tradition we have today, and try to hear his teachings like his original audience did. Remember, Jesus was an indigenous and political revolutionary in a land under occupation of an empire.

It is super important to acknowledge the limitations and bias of our worldviews, because our lens effects the way we see everything.

Privilege.

I’ve been on a journey of waking up to the ways that white privilege, racism, and the effects of colonisation still exist in Aotearoa today. Once you see, you can see it’s subtle and not-so-subtle effects everywhere. I’m not going to make the argument here so I’ll link a great write-up that talks about this: Racism and White Defensiveness in Aotearoa: A Pākehā Perspective. Read with an open mind (looking outside of your experience and open to the experience of others)!

Responsibility - to understand and undo.

I’ve realised that privilege comes with a responsibility. If I’m privileged to gain enough money to put a deposit on a house, should I just clap my hands, buy my house and carry on living? Or as someone benefiting from the housing system do I now have a responsibility to help others who are being negatively affected by the housing system? As someone benefiting from privilege at the expense of those on the other side, should I just be grateful that I’m not the one on the other side, or should I be using my privilege to help with the work of balancing the scales? And what does it look like to “balance the scales”? I know I keep sending you off to read things but Murray Rae makes some great points about justice and scale-balancing in relation to Ihumātao here: Notions of achieving justice tested.

Let me be clear about what I believe - if you (like me) benefit from this lopsided system, then you have a responsibility here. You have to step outside that cosy worldview and confront yourself with the reality that others are living with. You need to make steps to begin understanding what it feels like to be on the other side of racism and colonisation. What it feels like to live with the generational wounds from the horrific acts in the history of “New Zealand”. You have a responsibility to try to understand what this movement wants and why, and how we can seek justice together.

We also need to understand how vital the deep well of tradition and knowledge found in Māori culture is to our country - there is so much we can learn from if we can be open and trusting. I really believe that Māori culture holds keys that can help us all to heal. This is so much bigger than a land dispute. We’re looking at the generational effects of colonisation, a flawed system, profits vs people, the sacred feminine, the environment, religion, justice, and an empowering of people who have had enough. Ihumātao feels like a glimpse of what this country could look like if Māori were truly respected as kaitiaki (guardians) of Aotearoa.

I believe understanding is the first step. Please try to listen and understand before you form and verbalise your opinion. Once we start understanding the Māori experience in Aotearoa, the importance of this movement will start to become clear and the undo-ing (decolonisation) will gain more traction.

I’m sorry for the amount of generalising I’ve had to do here, but I hope you can see where I’m coming from. If there is healing to happen in this country, we all have a part to play.

With privilege comes responsibility.

-Sam


Artist Interview with The Black & White Box

My photo lab, The Black & White Box, have started a great little series on their blog called “Artist Interviews”. I was surprised and honoured to be asked a few questions for it recently. It was actually really nice to sit down and put my thoughts about shooting into writing.

You can see the original post on their website (and more) here: The Black & White Box - Blog


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A super dad and husband, as well as an awesome photographer, we’ve been long-time fans of Sam. And because we think he’s the best, we wanted to ask him a few of our burning questions about his practice, and he gladly obliged…

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m 27, I live and work in Masterton for an innovative local tech company, I’m a husband, a dad, a songwriter/musician, and I’m a 4 on the enneagram. I’m deeply interested in art, theology/philosophy (from a post-evangelical perspective), and how they inform and impact our lives and the world. I love brewing single origin coffee in my V60, heading on family adventures, and connecting with people.

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How did your love of photography come about?

I started with a hand-me-down iPhone 3 and VSCo filters, so I could post our newly-married adventures online. I guess that my initial desire to take photos came from being of the social media generation – wanting to document what we were up to and share that with friends, especially with things like recording music, playing shows etc.

One weekend my good friend Tom (hollow.co.nz) documented our band practice and the surrounding antics on his family’s old film camera. I wanted a taste of the film action myself, so I bought the cheapest 35mm camera and film I could find online – Holga 135BC and Superia 400, and I took that combo with me everywhere that summer.

My boss caught me with it one day, next day he turns up with his old (mint) Minolta XE-1 and 50mm f/1.4 lens he had tucked away in the garage and said I could have it! I was so excited that I took it on a trip to Nepal as my only camera, before I had even put a test roll through it. It was getting those scans back that solidified my love for photography – I was hit with waves of emotions as I scrolled through the photos. I think that moment showed me the power of photography, I just knew that I wanted to keep taking photos. From there I started to see photos as expression and communication, rather than just pure documentation.

And I still use that Minolta regularly!

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Why have you decided to document your family and life on film as opposed to other mediums?

Partially, it’s the resulting image I get without having to sit at a computer working in Lightroom, but it’s also the way it forces me to shoot. Shooting with a limited number of frames helps me to think more about the photo – framing, light, timing, what should/shouldn’t be in the frame etc. Shooting without immediate feedback on a screen also means that I’m more engaged with what’s happening in the moment – I’m shooting someone and as I lower the camera I’m looking back at them straight away, rather than down at a screen. It’s quite a peaceful experience shooting this way with old cameras, especially after spending my work week in front of a computer. It’s also a nice feeling to know that in the future, my photos aren’t going to be lost when a hard drive fails or becomes obsolete!

I guess you could summarise it as: having a camera on me helps me to keep my eyes open to the beauty of moments I may have missed otherwise – like the way the light falls somewhere, or a small gesture between people – and shooting on film helps me to stay engaged with that moment and know when to put down the camera.

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How do you find motivation to continue to go out and pursue your creative endeavours?

That’s a tough one. With both my main creative endeavours – music and photography – motivation comes and goes in waves. I always feel a need to express myself from within what’s going on in my life, so I can never just sit back and not create, but I do allow myself to have breaks. After I finish a roll of film I just won’t load anything up again until inspiration strikes and I want to shoot again. Sometimes that can be a couple of weeks. In the meantime I usually read up on the masters of photography and look at their photos for inspiration. I’ll often reflect on my photography and make notes of things I want to work on or shoot more.

There’s a quote I heard Rob Bell say, “you’re a human being, not a human doing”. This one stuck with me – I try to focus on being, being present to myself and the moment, and allowing the art to come out of that naturally.

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What advice would you give to your younger self given your experience in life so far?

“Follow your gut”. I’m only learning this now and it’s still so hard!

“Be true to who you are. Try not to compare yourself or your work to anyone else.”

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What is your current camera setup and favourite film?

Hasselblad 500CM (80mm lens and waist level finder) with Portra 400/800 – hand in hand with the Olympus XA with HP5+ or Tri-X, pushed to 1600.

That being said, I have a few other inherited cameras I still use for fun and a bunch of old expired film to work through!

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Are there artists you look up to or admire?

I just love looking up all the masters of photography, some of those who have had significant impact on me are: W. Eugene Smith, Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, Gordon Parks, Sebastião Salgado, and William Eggleston.

I’m also a fan of (the slightly more contemporary) Andre Wagner and Alec Soth.

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What importance do you think film could have for future generations?

I think everyone learning photography should learn about film – the process of shooting, developing, and darkroom printing. It is just so magical, and so fun. Working with actual light and materials instead of sensors and settings and menus is so refreshing for me, and I can see that being the case for even more people in the future too. For certain types of commercial and personal work, film can be a really good fit too. I try encourage anyone I can to shoot a roll!

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Where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years time with your photography work?

I’d like to organise family shots into some really nice albums, but also I’d like to get out in the community with my camera more and maybe work on a photobook. I’m always thinking about what photographic project I could take on, going over my photos for reoccuring themes to run with a bit more. But for now I’m just following my gut and my curiousity and seeing what comes of it! The outward goal for me is to record what I see in the world in a way that will make people feel what I feel when I’m in the moment. The world moves so fast so if I can learn how to stop and feel, and share that others, I’ll be happy.

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Where can we view more and keep up to date with your photography?

Check out my website where I’ve been blogging a bit – www.samtanner.nz

Or come say hi on Instagram @samtannernz! I’ve made a handful of awesome photographer friends on there!

Overexposing Portra 800

Being in a small town means a lot of what I learn about film photography comes either from trial-and-error or the internet, so I end up trying different films and various experiments to see how I like the results for myself. I’d read online that Portra 800 is able to be overexposed a lot, increasing saturation but maintaining great skin tones, so I set out to try it. I snagged a box of the stuff in 120 from The Black and White Box to take on our summer camping holiday in Kaiteriteri, and here are the results!

Technical Notes

I metered at 200 ISO (rather than the film’s “box speed” of 800 ISO) for the shadows with my handheld Sekonic incident light meter - i.e. if there was harsh sun I would shade my meter, so no sun was falling directly on it, and take my reading there.

I really like how they all came out and I will definitely be doing this again in the future, especially when I have plenty of light available to allow me to overexpose.

Click/tap a photo to open the slideshow.

-Sam


Hasselblad 500cm // Portra 800 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box

Expired Films: Ektacolor Pro 1000 & T-Max 100

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Recently I’ve stumbled into buying or receiving a handful of expired rolls of film, mostly expired in the 90s, and I’ve enjoyed shooting them a lot more than I thought! I have come to a place with my photography that I know what film types I like to shoot - I know how they will respond to changes in exposure, I know how to get the colours I want, I know how to work around changing or less-than-ideal lighting scenarios. It’s a good work flow. I know what to expect.

But maybe that’s not the point, for personal photography, to “know what to expect”. Shooting these old rolls (especially the Ektacolor which I couldn’t find much about on the internet) has brought back some of that excitement of when I first started shooting film. It’s kind of exciting not knowing what the colours will look like or if I gave it enough exposure.

I metered for these shots by adding one stop of exposure per decade since the film’s expiry. For example, the TMax was ISO 100 and expired by 20 years, so I set the meter to ISO 25. Ektacolor was ISO 1000 and expired by 20 years, so I set the meter to ISO 250. You’ll see some of these Ektacolor shots are still underexposed (hello grainy/faded shadows/VSCo look), but they still look cool and I had a blast shooting it and waiting for my scans!

Click/tap a photo to open the full size version.

-Sam


Kodak Ektacolor Pro 1000

Shot on Hasselblad 500cm // 80mm f2.8 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box


Kodak TMax 100

Shot on Hasselblad 500cm // 80mm f2.8 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box

Expired Film: Agfa Vista 100

Recently I found a bunch of Agfa Vista 100 for sale locally, and at a bargain price, so I snapped it up! After selling a few rolls and throwing some to Mr. Waru (check out our “Cam & Sam” film adventures on youtube), I loaded up my Olympus XA with a roll to give it a jam myself!

I’d previously shot AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400, so I was expecting that same over-saturated, consumer film look. I didn’t like that film when I shot it so I wasn’t expecting much of this roll. For you film photographers - it’s worth noting though that the more modern 400 speed Vista is not even produced by the same company that these expired Vista 100 rolls were. Without significant research I gather that Agfa at some point became AgfaPhoto, and people claim that the modern Vista 400 is just rebranded Fujifilm stock (it is suspicious that both Fujicolor C200 and AgfaPhoto Vista 200 were discontinued around the same time).

Ramblings aside, these expired rolls were made a long time ago and expired in 2008. I applied the usual rule of 1 stop of extra exposure per decade of expiry, plus the Olympus XA shoots in aperture-priority so I added another stop when I was shooting in the day, to make sure I didn’t underexpose the film. That means I was shooting at ISO 25! Unlike digital, overexposing is better than underexposing, which should be avoided unless you like faded grainy shadows.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the film didn’t have over-saturated colours and the skin tones came out great! I’m glad I saved a few more rolls to shoot myself. I have a few other various types of expired film thanks to Cam, so I’ll be sharing those results soon too!

-Sam


Dev+scan by The Black and White Box // click images to open lightbox