The ability to tell a story is one I admire but the ability for a face to tell a story is a gift that we all at one time or another have the power to do, whether it be pain, anger, excitement or just straight confusion. We all know what it feels like, a subtle gesture can change the mood of a room in an instant and often it is the story of our lives that mold the story that our face will one day portray.
Tame Iti is a man who knows the value of being able to tell the story with his face. Tame in one of his recent talks would use the maori saying "Kanohi ki te kanohi" to deal face to face or eye to eye, which has served Tame and his people well, the people of Ngai Tuhoe, the children of the mist. Tame's face has become so renowned over the years that you can find his face painted on the side's of buildings around the world, when I see his face I instantly associate it to his people and the battle he faced as he stared down the eye's of those that suppressed his people for so many generations.
The power of expression is a gift that every person has but how we use that gift differs in each individual. I am one who enjoys sitting on the side of the street to observe people while they walk by and express in their purest form, unaware and fully committed to a moment in time. So why do we struggle to show this pure form of expression when in front of a camera? Perhaps it is self doubt, maybe we just feel uncomfortable or perhaps its being unable to realise that we all have the gift of expression and we simply don't understand how to use it to our advantage but when we do understand this gift we begin to unlock the power of telling a story simply through using our eyes. A photo that would feature on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic called "Afghan girl" by world renowned photographer Steve McCurry shows everyone the power of expression simply through using the eyes, the ability to pierce one to the very soul. It is possible that the Afghan girl had never had her portrait taken in her life and being someone stricken by war she had a story to tell and therefore was able to express in her purest form, this idea has always fascinated me and is a large reason why I shoot portraits the way that I do. It is my chance to see eye to eye and hopefully break down the barriers that stand between the subject and the ability to express and my camera.
As a photographer I like to experiment with how I am able to help someone not only feel comfortable in front of my camera which I understand can be pretty scary but also to be able to show true expression so that there is a story to tell and in this latest series of photos I was aware of two things that I wanted to experiment with, the first being the connections that everyone had to Ngai Tuhoe and the second was the environment that these photos were taken. The reason for the connection to Ngai Tuhoe was to do with identity and a sense of purpose which enables us to dig deep for something we may usually struggle to find, and environment, although I knew I wanted my images to look as if they were taken in a studio I wanted my subjects to feel as though they were in a safe environment, so in doing this I stole the idea of photographer Joey L who used a piece of packing card which he would use as his back drop and one studio light and then he took to the streets of Brooklyn to capture the portraits of Halloween.
So as I stand outside in the driveway of the Taneatua gallery in the small town of Taneatua in Tuhoe country with a group who go by the name of "Kava club" have come across the country to celebrate their arts and also enjoy the arts of the famous Tuhoe Ahurei. With my 1m x 1.5m packing board and my studio light I feel confident that there is a sense of purpose which is unity and also that it's at an unexpected environment which meant the barriers were down and as an artist I am able to portray my message.
I can definitely appreciate the saying "kanohi ki te kanohi" to see eye to eye because we are now living in a world where this happens less and less, so stop for one second, and take a minute to observe body language and the power of expression and learn the art of seeing eye to eye because it is a valuable tool that we can't afford to loose, this is a tool that actors and performers spend years trying to perfect because it is the art of going beyond words, and words alone are not enough, so in the words of Mahatma Gandhi "I want the freedom for the full expression of my personality".