February 27, 2023
Photographer Ans Westra dies
Photographer Ans Westra, whose work has preserved aspects of Maori life for more than 60 years, has died at the age of 86.
Westra was born in Leiden in The Netherlands in 1936 and came to New Zealand in 1957 to visit her father, who had settled in Auckland.
After briefly working at Crown Lynn potteries she moved to Wellington and started working as a photographer, documenting ordinary New Zealanders at work and play.
She travelled extensively, recording not just the rural Māori way of life that seemed to be disappearing but also the migration to the cities.
Her 1964 book on a Ruatoria family, Washday at the Pa, was printed and then pulped by School Publications after complaints from the Maori Women’s Welfare League about its depiction of rural poverty.
It was immediately reprinted by Caxton Press and is now recognised as a high point in documentary photography in this country.
Westra was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998 for her services to photography and in 2007, the Arts Foundation named her as one of its Icon Artists.