The Arts

Celebrating arts & culture

Talking culture in NZ

Aboriginal photographer Wayne Quilliam joined National Geographic photographer Chris Rainer as a keynote speaker at the Auckland Art Gallery to discuss the issue of photographing Indigenous cultures in the digital age.


Photo: Wayne Quilliam

Organisers of the Auckland Festival of Photography invited the two internationally recognised visual storytellers to share their experiences relating to how memory exists as an individual, psychological faculty that creates the narrative of our lives, and also as a collective culturally constructed phenomenon.

“Creating an interactive environment for participatory storytelling in rural, remote and urban communities is the key to success when developing a culturally appropriate photo-based narrative,” Associate Professor Quilliam says.

“It is the responsibility all photographers, journalists and social media commentators to explore how the ever changing, knowledge sharing environment impacts on First Nation Peoples. It is also our responsibility as Indigenous people to ensure the knowledge we share is substantive and engaging to ensure continuity of dialogue. Without the participation and engagement of all parties how do we drive social change?

“Collaborating with likeminded Indigenous people in places like Cuba, Bolivia, Vietnam and the Pacific Nations has allowed me to understand the impact a single image has on an individual, a group, at tribe even a nation.

“I consider myself fortunate to have learnt my craft in the era of processing images manually and sharing a pictorial narrative through magazines and newspapers. I also consider myself even more fortunate that transferring these skills into the digital age has created new opportunities to reinvigorate discussion on what culture ‘looks’ like.


Photo: Wayne Quilliam

“Sharing the stage with Chris Rainer, Qiane Matata-Sipu and Ans Westra was enlightening; each and every one of these wonderful artists shared their love, their compassion, and their essence of ‘why’.”

Later in the week, Wayne and Chris conducted ‘meet the photographer’ sessions at the Auckland Museum; both sessions were fully subscribed as the unique interactive discussions took on a life of their own.

Associate Professor Quilliam is regarded as one of Australia’s most respected photographers for his work in Indigenous and International Affairs. Quilliam has been the winner of the NAIDOC Aboriginal Artist of the Year, Human Rights Award, and Walkley Award, including being nominated as a Master of Photography by National Geographic. Further information is available at

Chris Rainier specializes in the documentation of indigenous cultures, and is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. Chris has won numerous awards for his photography, including the Lowell Thomas Award given by the Explorers Club for his work with endangered cultures. Chris was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in London.

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