A suburban whakapapa: Time Capsule: Ans Westra in The Hutt

Billboard showing historic photo of a Naenae park displayed at the site of the photo banner image

Published: 10 February 2022

Recapture memories of day-to-day community life in Naenae with an out of the ordinary exhibition by iconic New Zealand photographer Ans Westra, CNZM, now on display throughout Lower Hutt.

Time Capsule: Ans Westra in The Hutt features highlights from Westra’s residency at The Dowse between 1988 and 1989, which saw her explore the streets of Naenae, capturing the true heart of the community.

A standout feature of this exhibition are the nine billboards around Naenae, placed at the actual locations where the photographs were originally taken. This is an opportunity for locals to reminisce about the changes to familiar sites in their suburb and for visitors to explore a different way to see a place, while getting some insight into this unique community's recent history.

“We are privileged to showcase the work of a ground-breaking and courageous photographer, right here in the suburbs of Lower Hutt where this series was created. The billboards are a great opportunity to go to an exhibition outdoors, but if you want to spend more time with the work then you have two other gallery exhibitions to give you even more insight into Ans Westra’s amazing attention to detail.” says Karl Chitham, Head of Arts & Culture at Hutt City Council.

Widely regarded as one of Aotearoa’s foremost documentary photographers Westra was a pioneer of the artform in New Zealand. Now a resident of Tirohanga, Lower Hutt, she made it her life’s work to document the lives of everyday people and communities, over a career spanning seven decades.

Exhibition curator Sian van Dyke put a call out on social media last year to identify people in the images. “It created a buzz around the Te Awakairangi community, with photos of cousins, aunties and neighbours being seen by many whānau for the very first time.”

Eastern Ward Councillor Andy Mitchell is excited to see the images return to Naenae. “Ans Westra has captured an extraordinary record of ordinary New Zealanders living their everyday lives in this time capsule of Lower Hutt. The places and faces familiar to the Naenae community remind us how we lived three decades ago and it’s so great to have them on display right here in our own neighbourhood.” 

Images from Time Capsule: Ans Westra in The Hutt are also on display at CoCo Pop Up Community Space, Hillary Court, and at The Dowse, until 1 May 2022. For more information visit dowse.org.nz