When Raymond Sagapolutele first taught kids how to use a camera, he didn’t expect them to show him a thing or two about how to take a photograph.
Over the next couple of months, Nathan Homestead in Manurewa is exhibiting photographs of South Auckland and beyond, as seen by its children.
Emily Mafile’o and Sagapolutele are part of the art collective ManaRewa, based at Nathan Homestead, that is made up of visual artists and creatives from Manurewa.
Two years ago the pair were involved in the Auckland Arts Festival and a project called Eye Spy.
“The idea behind that project is that we would teach school kids how to use cameras, then let them share what they see in their lives," says Sagapolutele.
“What we realised was quite a few of the kids that we taught were still using the cameras and weren’t just shooting still images but had started making their own videos and just making these clips about what they’d done during the day, their trips."
The kids, aged between 5 and 15, now have their first exhibition Tātou Kāinga.
"We’ve got three videos in the exhibition from the children and it’s a crisscross across Aotearoa and over to the Pacific because they come from families that are bicultural, or actually tricultural really if you think about it, because they’ve got Samoan, Māori or Samoan Tongan and Palangi heritage.”
The artists left it up to the kids to shoot whatever they wanted to. Some have just been shooting what they see.
“That's the beauty of what they’ve captured, because adults tend to not pay attention when they’re in the room and that, kids manage to capture some really amazing candid moments.”
Pets, grandparents and toys all feature in the photos.
“I knew that the kids were cool but I had no idea how good they were, I felt a bit challenged by the fact that these kids were doing amazing photography, I’m slightly jealous about it, being a photographer myself,” he laughs.
Sagapolutele says he taught his own nieces how to take photos and he’s included these in the show.
“The images from all of the kids have been incredible.”
The gallery is dressed like a living space, there’s a room set up as a bedroom and a room set up as a living room, with photos arranged as if you were right there in a home.
He says he was blown away by the images as they were hung on the gallery walls, as were the parents of the kids.
Sagapolutele has shot photos in and around South Auckland for years, but says as an adult you carry with you experiences of place that children haven't yet developed.
The project has taught him that kids have a way of just being themselves.
“You look at these photos that they’ve got in there, there’s no pretence, you definitely feel a lot of love and alofa coming through the images for the subjects they’ve shot, there’s humour in the work as well because you get the odd shot of someone turning around and then realising that this kid’s taken their photo and you’ve got this look of surprise on them.”
The kids will be taking family portrait photos for members of the public during the exhibition, giving them the opportunity to use larger cameras and lights, and giving the public an opportunity to get an image from the young artists themselves.