By Ann Wheatley
Many people find their connection with photography through a family member who makes pictures and my own journey into photography is no different. My father was an accomplished photographer, but our relationship was rocky. I left home at 17 and spent some time travelling in Greece, the country of my birth, hoping it might help me get over the past. A friend loaned me an Olympus OM1 for the trip. Making pictures became a therapy for the painful emotions that came up with time alone with the camera helping me open to the world around me.
Looking for a way to combine working with seeing the world, I completed a post-graduate degree, and then spent 20 years living in Colombia and then in Indonesia, traveling extensively for my work as a researcher. I bought a Nikomat and used it as a work tool and for making family snaps.
About 30 years after I made those first photographs in Greece, my daughter asked why I no longer made pictures. Her question put me in touch with how much I missed photography and was the push I needed to give digital photography a try.
In 2009 my family presented me with a point-and-shoot that could be used manually. I carried it 24/7, joined Aminus3, an international photo-a-day community, and soon wished for a better camera. Not wanting to give up the small size, I tried one of the first mirrorless cameras. In 2013, a friend showed me his Olympus OMD-EM5 and I was hooked after the first session. But then, the unexpected happened. I moved to Laos and switched from freelance to full-time work. My daily photography routine fell apart and although I had a much better camera, I wasn't making pictures.
A couple of years later I returned to New Zealand, intending to pick up photography again but I was out of practice and felt like a complete novice. Fortunately, a 2017 exhibition of photographs and paintings commissioned by DOC inspired me to make pictures again.
In 2018, I splurged on an Olympus OMD EM1 and began a year-long photography course which was a real eye-opener. I embraced the principle underlying my photography: to approach it as a contemplative practice.