The National Geographic Society and Air New Zealand have partnered to host five Photo Camps throughout New Zealand. The first took place from October 29 to November 2.
In the heart of New Zealand’s Māori community in Murupara, National Geographic photographers Dominic Bracco II and Erika Larsen and Photo Camp Director Kirsten Elstner mentored 20 students from local communities on how to use photography to tell their own stories. Specifically, the students were asked to take photographs that reflected what it means to be a young Māori in New Zealand today.
After the five-day camp, the students presented their photos and essays to their families, peers, and local communities.
Here are some of the photos they took and what they had to say about their identities and pride in their Māori heritage:
“I am Māori first and foremost; I will not always remain a young person. My culture will always be a part of me. . . . My days are spent fighting with my tongue, jumping between the language of my ancestors and that of the people who tried to extinguish the very existence of my noble language. . . . I scroll social media, I take selfies, I write my Instagram bio in my reo [language]. I sometimes use Māori words to express my emotions when English fails to do so. I carry on the fight for our reo, and that includes the battle within myself. I wear my taonga with my Nikes. I take my shoes off before entering my friends’ houses, although they reassure me, “it’s OK.” I cringe at incorrect pronunciations of my name. I shorten it to make it palatable to a foreign tongue.” — Te Aho Jordan, Photo Camp student
“One thing that I would tell the world about our community is that it is strong. Our community is like a treasure. We all treat each other like family; we take care of one another. Every individual has their own story to tell, their own tikanga [way], but together we all share the same aroha [love]. Our community of Te Whanau-a-Apanui is like a big whanau [family] where we’re all related, whether it be by blood or by heart.” — Aliah Semmens, Photo Camp student
“My hope for the future is a cleaner environment. This is my hope not only for my family and community, but for the world. As a Māori woman, I feel a strong connection with the land and water. Māori people have relied on the land to provide kai [food] and medicine for their families for centuries. It’s disappointing to see people disregard the importance of keeping our land and water clean. It’s devastating for me to know that our future rangatahi [youth] will not have the privilege of gathering kai and medicine from our land.” — Anastasia Huiarangi, Photo Camp student
“I grew up with heaps of discipline. I went to a military academy, and that’s what changed me. I became a better person. I was living with cadets from around the world, and I learned about other cultures. I taught them about Māori culture. I feel proud of where I’m from and who I am. My [biological] family is gang-related, and my new family adopted me because they wanted me to have a better life. Now I call them Dad and Mum. I’m so glad they grabbed me. I think about it every day, what my life could have been like. I’m so grateful to be their son. Now I’m surrounded by love.” — Pita Rurehe, Photo Camp student