By MARIE LANDINGINart_kit_logo_twa

Originally from Nelson and now living in Christchurch, she is a passionate photographer whose love for photography and people is infectious. She’s also the founder of Herstory, a project which sheds light on the lives of Kiwi women, reminding us of the power of photography.

Introducing 25-year-old Chrissy Irvine.

What is your life motto? 

He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

What are you up to right now? 

Working full-time and saving up to go backpacking in Europe in a few months’ time!

What led you to pursue photography? And has this influenced your photography style? 

They say a camera can get you in anywhere, and it’s true. This has always been part of the excitement for me – going places and meeting people that I would never have met without my camera. It is a huge privilege. I want to present each person as objectively as I can (not that that’s always possible). So, I use the aesthetics of documentary photography to tell their story. 

What type of camera do you use? 

A Canon 5Dmkiii and almost every photo on Herstory is taken with a 50mm 1.2 lens by Canon. It’s such a dreamy lens. ?

Hera, call centre operator.

Hera – Call Centre Operator. “After the coffee cart I drifted from job to job. Stock taking at supermarkets, to labouring at the fisheries, stuff like that. Then I got pregnant. I was 19. To make it even harder, dad died two months after I gave birth. While that was really, really tough, I’m very thankful that he got to hold my baby in his arms. I named my son Stanley, after dad. In our culture, if you name name a baby after someone, it means they will carry on that person’s good traits.”

Are there any photographers or photography projects that inspire you? Why?

Plenty! Laurence Aberhart is one of my favourite photographers. His ability to capture time and space is incredible, but you have to see the prints in real life for yourself. I also love Rineke Dijkstra, a Dutch photographer who takes wonderfully interesting portraits. 

What was it like to study at the Ilam School of Fine Arts?

It was extremely fun and extremely challenging. An experience I hope I never take for granted. 

What is the story behind your project Herstory? What is it about and who is it for? 

Herstory documents Kiwi women’s working and private lives. I create a photo essay about each person and interview them. Their stories are told in their own words and they talk about growing up, work, family, etc. The idea is to show young women in New Zealand that there are so many options available in terms of a career and lifestyle. The women I photograph are real-life role models and they each have an important story to tell.

I also ran workshops in 2016 with young mothers who created their own interviews and photographs of a woman in their chosen field. We had an exhibition together in Christchurch!

Rebecca, electrician.

Rebecca – Electrician. “It’s funny, people look at me, look away, glance back and realise I’m wearing a tool belt. My two sons ask me to bring it home for them to play with. I’m trying to set an example to them. I want them to grow up knowing that they can do anything that they want to do, just like mum.”

What do you think about the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”?

I think people bring their own experiences and opinions when they view a photo, and that’s why it’s so exciting. We could both look at the same portrait and feel completely differently about it. Sometimes as a photographer, you need to steer your viewer with text. Photography and text can work very well together.

How have your experiences as a photographer influenced your life? 

Being a photographer has taught me to listen to other people’s experiences and to dig deeper, to find out more, to notice more. 

Your favourite Instagram filter?


Joanne, sea pilot.

Joanne – Sea Pilot. “As a woman, it was really hard to move up the ranks. It was like there were banana skins scattered around the deck, tripping us up. It took years to go from third mate to second mate, to mate. Someone would have to die for anyone to get their job. I ended up going overseas. It took too long to get anywhere in New Zealand.”

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Herstory is a long-term project, so I will definitely be working on that. I would like to build the website to include other people’s work and stories. Fingers crossed that it will become a book, too!

What advice would you give to aspiring young photographers out there?

Find your ‘why’. Also, documentary photography is not a money-making career! You will always need a job on the side and that is perfectly OK and normal. You need to be fairly stubborn to be an artist, as people will constantly question what you’re doing and ask, “But how will you make money?” Think of a few witty replies, and you’ll be right!


For more about Chrissy and what she’s up to, visit her website. Don’t forget to check out Herstory, and keep updated with their Facebook and Twitter.

Know a young person with a passion for art? Let us know at [email protected] and we might feature them in our next Art Kit!

Rochelle, registered nurse.

Rochelle – Registered Nurse. “Whenever I saw a nurse in uniform, whether it was on the street or on the bus, I would talk to them. “I’m looking at being a nurse, what do ya reckon? What’s it like?” I asked everyone what they thought. On the whole, they told me to go for it. They told about all the different departments. You can work with babies, kids, cancer patients, the elderly. The variety is huge. I thought perfect, that sounds like me.”