“I didn’t know what I was going to do when I grew up until I was in my 40’s. 

Just after the earthquakes I started part time on a Photography Diploma. My sister gave me an old Canon 450D, I was on a tight budget. At that point I didn’t have a tripod, so I lied to my tutor and said that I had a tripod but I just had a kitchen stool and walked down the street with it.

I would come into town, I’d photograph anything significant that had come down or any new thing going up, anything that was different. I was compelled to come into town and take photos which really helped with my training. Looking back I think that was my way of processing the changes. I soon found that people were responding to those photos with their memories. 

I figured out that that’s all I wanted to do, because that’s the thing that ticked all the boxes for me. 

Recently, I’ve been involved with Taskforce Kiwi, my first deployment was earlier this year after Cyclone Gabrielle. That was a huge learning curve, because I’ve not photographed an environment like that before.

The stuff that felt like it had almost more impact was actually connecting with the people with my camera. There was one case where we were doing welfare checks around the community and there was a couple with a little girl. She was about four and she was probably really tired of her parents stressing out, so I actually gave her my camera and she took a photo of myself and my colleague. We talked about the camera and got her out of that zone of talking about disaster. And I guess maybe that’s an intuitive thing from being in earthquakes and having young children at the time.

I think that my sensitivity around that environment came from my work with the Christchurch Aunties and He Waka Tapu and certainly understanding tikanga Maori, knowing to work alongside iwi and getting approval. And making sure that everything was done with permission and with respect. And I just got such amazing photos of people. 

So that’s very much my happy space and after any big event around the world, I feel really compelled to go there and take photos. My family worry, quite a lot, because when I see something on TV, I want to go there. I want to make sense of what’s going on through my camera and see how I could help.”

– Heather

Charity registration number: CC57701