Photography provided Taranaki woman a ticket around the world

Photographer Tania Niwa, who is of Taranaki and Te Atiawa descent, has returned to the region after more than two ...
Tania Niwa

Photographer Tania Niwa, who is of Taranaki and Te Atiawa descent, has returned to the region after more than two decades living overseas.

Reconnecting with her whanau after 20 years living across the ditch is just one of the things award-winning photographer Tania Niwa is enjoying at the moment.

Catching a glimpse of the mighty Mt Taranaki most days is another.

"It gives me so much energy," she says.

A sample of Tania Niwa's photographic work.
TANIA NIWA

A sample of Tania Niwa's photographic work.

"It's just unbeatable."

Niwa, who has whakapapa to  Taranaki and Te Atiawa iwi, had returned to the region, after two decades of living in Australia and travelling the world as a photographer.

READ MORE:
Kiwi photographer Marti Friedlander has died
Auckland photography exhibition captures abandoned, forgotten houses
Kiwi takes pure approach to underwater photography of ocean creatures
* Photographers tidy New Plymouth foreshore during photo walk

Niwa says one of the things she loves about Taranaki is the mountain, a view she describes as "unbeatable".
Tania Niwa

Niwa says one of the things she loves about Taranaki is the mountain, a view she describes as "unbeatable".

It was her father John Niwa's love of the art form which inspired her own photographic career.

"Dad always had hobbies and one of them was photography," she says.

Her first memory is as a three-year-old helping her father develop photos in his dark room. 

Tania Niwa is the chief photographer for top New Zealand surfer Ella Williams.
TANIA NIWA

Tania Niwa is the chief photographer for top New Zealand surfer Ella Williams.

But she says it only recently dawned on her why her father was so keen on capturing as many family snapshots of her and her siblings as he could.  

Ad Feedback

Niwa says her father only ever had one photograph of his mother, who died when he was eight years old.

It's that sense of love and connectedness and the powerful memories which can be invoked through a visual image which drives Niwa's own love of family portraiture, which is one of the strands of her photography business.

The Taranaki landscape, including the maunga, is a source of inspiration for Niwa.
Tania Niwa

The Taranaki landscape, including the maunga, is a source of inspiration for Niwa.

Other specialities includes sports, industrial and corporate photography.

Niwa trained at Waikato Polytechnic, where she gained a Certificate in Media Studies, majoring in Photography.

Prior to this, she attended Waitara High School and also completed four years of work experience at the Taranaki Daily News, mentored by the likes of photographer Daisy Day.

Maori culture is another area of interest for Niwa.
SUPPLIED

Maori culture is another area of interest for Niwa.

She says her work experience provided her with a really good grounding in what it took to do photography as a everyday job, being tasked in making the more mundane events look visually appealing.

"You have to think on your feet really fast," she says.

After finishing her study, she applied for a job with New Plymouth-based professional photographer John Crawford, an experience which inspired her immensely.  

As part of her commercial work, Niwa has photographed well known figures, such as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Tania Niwa

As part of her commercial work, Niwa has photographed well known figures, such as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

It was through her work with Crawford that she was introduced to the oil and gas sector, the beginning of her foray into the world of corporate photography.

"He was really left field, his way of thinking was different to everybody else," she says.

"He would never accept average or mediocre, it was always, always premium."

It was a philosophy which stuck with Niwa and saw her crowned New Zealand photographer of the year at the age of 26.

"I think it's just having a real drive and determination for excellence," she says.

After a holiday, she fell in love with the northern Sydney beaches and moved to  Australia, where she lived for more than 20 years.

Based in Manly, she worked for a publishing company before getting a job photographing mining infrastructure, a gig she described as "gruelling" and one which involved travelling to different continents around the globe.

"It was about 150 flights in one year," she recalls.

While across the ditch she steadily built her client list and won awards along the way, including earning the prestigious title of Grand Master of Photography. 

"You can't be bestowed it you actually have to achieve it," the 45-year-old says.

But late last year, she decided it was time to come home to Taranaki and began the process of moving her business base from Australia to New Zealand.  

She now spends more time in the region than she does across the Tasman but regularly returns as she still has Australian-based clients she works with. 

Her breadth of work means she can be photographing top chief executives - most recently New Zealand Rugby Union's Steve Tew - to documenting the work of  a service which helps disabled people in Australia.

She says whatever job she has, she has to quickly put her subjects at ease and build trust with them, in order to get the best possible result.

"Basically my role is understanding human behaviour," she says.

And while all her photography might not involve people, it was key to know what her clients wanted and being able to have the creative freedom to achieve that vision.

While at high school, Niwa used to take her camera everywhere and one of the first things she photographed was friends out surfing.

It's a sport she has continued to shoot over the years, including working alongside  Mt Maunganui-based surfer Ella Williams as her chief photographer.  Niwa also used to manage her social media profile.

Exploring her Maori identity is something Niwa  plans to do now she is back home.  

She will be part of the delegation which will travel to Wellington on Wednesday and will photograph the historic moment treaty legislation for Te Atiawa, Ngaruahine and Taranaki iwi is passed into law.

She hopes it will be the first assignment of many, as working with iwi was one thing still on her career to-do list.

"That's something I'm really excited about."

Another project in the pipeline is photographing Taranaki women who wear the moko kauae or chin tattoo.

It was a big call for the high-flyer to come back home to live in a small town like Waitara, but for her the decision has been the right one.

"That's where my heart is, back home."

"I'm happy here."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback