6 Sep 2015

Soldiers Road Portraits

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 6 September 2015

Taaniko Nordstrom and Vienna Nordstrom are the creative duo behind Soldiers Road Portraits based in Papamoa, what started as an idea inspired by a trip to New York has grown into a home based business.

Justine Murray visits their studio, and sits in on a session with Travel Blogger, Amber Harris nō Tainui.

Taaniko Nordstrom

Taaniko Nordstrom Photo: Soldiers Road Portraits

Taaniko Nordstrom found her inspiration after a trip to New York, the visits to the museams and exhibitions jogged her memory back to her Whare Tipuna (meeting house) and seeing the pictures of her ancestors on the back wall.   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 just her Facebook friends, and triggered a raft of positive responses.

Spurred on by the feedback she set about building her ideas for a portrait business, she tapped into the artistic talent of her sister-in-law Vienna. Taaniko showed her those first images, albeit on her ipad, and she agreed it was a great idea. The pairs  first outing would be the Kawhia Kai Festival clocking up 40 sittings. In the last few years they 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.

- Taaniko Nordstrom

Taaniko Nordstrom and Vienna Nordstrom

Taaniko Nordstrom and Vienna Nordstrom Photo: Soldiers Road Portraits

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 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.

- Vienna Nordstrom

Amber Harris nō Tainui

Amber Harris nō Tainui Photo: Amber Harris permission granted

Taaniko Nordstrom and Vienna Nordstrom

Solidiers Road Portraits Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Taaniko and Vienna are adamant that their job is not about just 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 are their advertisements. They have had families that sit for, what will be their first time family portrait. Justine Murray visits their studio and sits in on a session with Travel Blogger, Amber Harris nō Tainui.