Image: Edith Amituanai VERONIQUE AT THE RANUI PIC SUNDAY SCHOOL BALL, 2012, Courtesy of the artist

Edith Amituanai (b. 1980 Auckland) and George Robson Crummer (b. 1868 Auckland, d. 1953 Rarotonga) have both performed the role of village photographer within their communities.

Their work spans the Pacific Ocean and more than 100 years. Crummer lived in the Cook Islands at the turn of the twentieth century, with his wife Upokotio and their seven children. Over 200 of his photographic negatives are held in Te Papa Tongarewa’s collection. Amituanai has chosen a selection of Crummer’s portrait photographs and in response has compiled a set of her own portraits of New Zealand youth from her community in suburban Auckland.

What emerges in the space between these two sets of portraits is a conversation about the Influences of migration, colonisation, settlement, cross-cultural exchange and identity across the Pacific Ocean. Photographic technologies, the formal language of portraiture, and the politics of representation, have been swept along with these intermingling global currents, spreading, contaminating and adapting as they go.

On this, the 250th anniversary of first encounters between the indigenous people of the Pacific and Europeans, Amituianai’s project shows us how archives and portraiture can enrich conversations about the shared history and future of our sea of islands, by making them real and personal.

Edith & George: In Our Sea of Islands will be shown at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.