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Photographing Moments to be Seen

Edith Amituanai’s Little Publics


The photographic work of Aotearoa New Zealand artist Edith Amituanai generates the confident self-assertion of publics that potentially shifts misperceptions of people and place for both subjects and their audiences. A belief in service, a characteristic legacy of Amituanai’s Sāmoan family background has led her to document people, particularly diverse diaspora communities, in the western suburbs of Auckland city where she also lives, and to documenting people more broadly in their neighbourhoods or personal environments. Her images have enabled largely unnoticed and hence provisional publics associated with disregarded public spaces to see themselves presented in mainstream society in art galleries, publications and social media, thereby potentially shifting the stereotypes of people and local places to aid a more complete depiction of a society beyond the dominant European settler demographic. Amituanai’s images of youth, family, cultural and interest group communities and those connected with educational institutions convey the multiple associations that connect individuals. While these associations can be aligned with Grant Kester’s concept of politically coherent communities’ or Michael Warner’s ‘counterpublics’ I argue that the people visible in Amituanai’s work or who take agency to respond to her photos are making themselves publics on their own terms, creating publics that are equal to any other public. The activation of public identity that claims shared space has occurred during the institutional exhibition of Amituanai’s images where subjects and visitors respond to photographs in demonstrations of their own agency.

Pages:177 to 192
Section: Portfolio
How to Cite
Stanhope, Z. (2020) “Photographing Moments to be Seen”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(4), pp. 177-192. doi:

Author Biography

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre (GBAG / LLC)
Australia Australia

As a curator practising within institutions and independently Zara Stanhope focuses on expanding collaborative engagement with contemporary art across the Global South. She is Curatorial Manager, Asian and Pacific Art at Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Australia where she is the lead curator for the 10th Asia Pacific Triennial for 2021 and Unfinished Business: The Art Of Gordon Bennett (2020). She led the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial in 2018, and was Lead Curator for Dane Mitchell’s Post hoc, New Zealand’s artist at Venice at the 58th La Biennale di Venezia (2019). She has curated and co-curated numerous other exhibitions in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and is a regular contributor on contemporary art and curatorial practices to art magazines and journals. She was commissioning editor of Dane Mitchell: Post hoc, Mousse Publishing (2019), Ann Shelton: Dark Matter, Auckland Art Gallery and The Māori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand, co-edited with Ngahiraka Mason, Auckland University Press (both 2016) and of the peer-reviewed symposium papers Artmatter 01: Engaging Publics/Public Engagement, Auckland Art Gallery (AAG) and AUT University (2014); and Artmatter 2: Agency and Aesthetics, co-edited with Ann Shelton, AAGToT and Massey University (2018) and for a Massey University Press publication on the work of Anne Noble (2021).


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