Work story: Matariki

On Friday last week I had the privilege of shooting some stills photography to accompany a video being made by Tourism NZ to co-incide with Matariki.  Now being a white fella with no Maori heritage I was hoping that as well as doing my job for the project I would learn a bit more about Matariki, and it's origins and meanings.

For those living away from New Zealand a brief explanation: Matariki is often referred to as the Maori New Year, and it relates to the time of year that marks the shortest day, the middle of winter and the start of the change of seasons back toward Spring and Summer.  Matariki itself is celebrated on the first New Moon after the appearance of the Pleiades constellation above the horizon, and the name comes from the Maori name for that constellation: Matariki ( meaning "little eyes" ).  

So the main focus for the shoot on Friday was an interview with a local Kaumatua, Robert McDonald, who lives in the seaside town of Waimarama in Hawke's Bay. It was really interesting to hear his life story and how he has seen a resurgence of the celebration of Matariki and other traditional 'festivals' amongst the Maori, and their acceptance into the wider New Zealand culture.  When he was young there was no acknowledgement of Matariki, and in fact his own family had no idea what Matariki was.

The key sentiment that Robert expressed during the interview, and during the discussions over lunch, was that Matariki is a time to reflect on the year that has been, celebrate the good times, honour those that have passed, and look forward to the coming of summer and better times ahead.  We also talked about how those themes were pretty universal to all people from all countries, and I remember thinking at the time: in the increasingly divided times we seem to be living in, we could all do with a bit of Matariki spirit.

One of the nicest parts to being a photographer is being invited into peoples lives to try to capture what they are all about.  And part of the job is to make people relaxed enough that they can be themselves and forget that someone is poking a large piece of glass in their face.

And I am often surprised how good it makes me feel at the end of a shoot to connect with people. That is one of the reasons I take photos.

So Friday was a good day, shooting good people ( thanks to Robert and his family ) in challenging weather conditions. And I am looking forward to the video and my images being released soon, and I will share then if I am able to.

For reference the photo of the top of the page shows the cluster of stars that is Matariki / Pleiades on the extreme left of shot, just above the tree line.

And I will end the blog with a photo of the place that Robert MacDonald calls home, and a place that is deeply connected to his sense of happiness: Waimarama.