Te Ahi Kaa
Sunday 6 September 2015, with Justine Murray
Sunday, 6 September 2015
Soldiers Road Portraits
Taaniko Nordstrom grew up in a household where her mum created large paintings and wall hangings to would adorn their home. Her mother, Raewyn Nordstrom (nee Tipene) of Ngāti Hine inspired Taanikos' decision to form a business with her sister-in-law Vienna Nordstrom. In 2011 they created Soldiers Road Portraits.
Justine Murray visits their studio, and sits in on a session with Travel Blogger, Amber Harris nō Tainui.
In her early twenties Taaniko travelled to New York, while there she spent time at the cities museums and art exhibitions. The photos reminded Taaniko of the portraits of māori tipuna on the ball wall inside the wharenui (meeting house), it was then that the thought of creating portraits stuck with her. Upon her return home, she experimented with the concept of posing while wearing colonial clothing, tāonga, and wearing kirituhi (non traditional taa moko).
She posted the photos online to her Facebook friends, and triggered a raft of feedback, all positive responses.
Spurred on by the response she set about building her ideas for the business and a year later, she roped in her artistic sister-in-law who happened to be handy with a camera. Their first outing would be the Kawhia Kai Festival at Taaniko's mum's stall. Today, Soldiers Road Portraits is the business they run from their studio in Papamoa. In the last few years the pair have travelled a dozen times to Australia, and earlier this year to Hawaii.
Up until this point we feel that as Māori, the indigenous injustices through photography have happened to our Tipuna, alot of those Goldie portraits, I mean I might be talking out (of line) here, but I don't know how much of those royalties got back to that whanau. So, we like to give the rights of those images to the people, we consider it a tāonga, this is our koha. As soon as you receive that tāonga, it is yours, you would never give someone a tāonga and say oh but we''ll have half of it back please.
We had people saying you guys are idiots, maybe we are, but I leave work feeling good about what I'm doing.
As a former caregiver and international Air New Zealand air hostess, Taaniko believes she has found her dream Job, both women are under 30 years old, and own their business.
I try and envison the final product and I just try and get them sitting up straight, framing it up well, and getting the right angle. At Matatini we had a woman come and she had her tupuna (picture) who had moko under the eyes, and in between the brow, from Ngai Tahu. We've often had people come that bring photos of their tupuna. Even if they don't, and they see their finished portrait, they say I look like my grandmother or great grandmother. We want you to see your tupuna in your portrait, that's our whole idea of these vintage style portraits.
Taaniko and Vienna are adamant that their job is not about getting dressed up and taking a photo. The ability to connect with people, establish links and empower Māori is the kaupapa of Soldiers Road Portraits. Social media promotion has spread across the digital media spectrum, the pictures themselves are their advertisements. Work has included international travel and connections have been forged with a range of people from all walks of life. Some whanau have posed for their first time family portrait. Justine Murray visits their studio, and sits in on a session with Travel Blogger, Amber Harris nō Tainui.