"The main body of my work consists of documentary photography, the documentation of people in their everyday existence; life in all its facets."

Born in 1936 in Leiden, Holland, it was her stepfather's camera that sparked Ans' early interest in photography. In 1953 she moved to Rotterdam and studied at the Industrieschool voor Meisjes. A visit to the international exhibition The Family of Man in Amsterdam, and a book by Joan van der Keukens, Wij Zijn 17 (We Are Seventeen), inspired Ans' first photographic documentation, which featured her fellow students. Ans travelled to New Zealand after graduating in 1957 with a Diploma in Arts and Craft Teaching. A year later she joined the Wellington Camera Club and worked in various local photographic studios.

Her first international recognition came in 1960 when she won a prize from the UK Photography magazine for her work entitled Assignment No. 2.  In 1962, Ans began her professional career as a fulltime freelance documentary photographer, working mainly for the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education and Te Ao Hou, a Māori magazine published by the Department of Internal Affairs. This work involved spending the next few years travelling extensively throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific. In 1964 her work appeared in a controversial book, Washday at the Pa, which was withdrawn from primary school classrooms by the Department o fEducation, following protest action by the Māori Women's Welfare League.

Ans received a Certificate of Excellence from the New York World's Fair The World and Its People in 1964-65. She has received several Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grants for the practice and publication of her work focussing on New Zealand and its society. Māori was published in 1967, followed in 1972 by Notes on the Country I Live In with essays by Tim Shadbolt and James K Baxter. The 1970s and 1980s were spent tutoring for PhotoForum. She was the Pacific regional winne rof the Commonwealth Photography Award and travelled to the Philippines ,Holland, America and the United Kingdom. She was artist-in-residence a tthe Dowse Art Gallery and President of PhotoForum. In the 1990s she taught and tutored, had several exhibitions and residencies and travelled to China, Mongolia, Russia, and around Europe, before basing herself in the Netherlands for a year.

Ans was awarded the Companion of theOrder of New Zealand Merit (CNZM) for services to photography in 1998.  She received an Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2007.

View Ans Westra citation, presentation & interview 2007 Icon Awards

In 2004 the publication Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs was launched at the National Library.  The publication accompanied a national touring exhibition.

Ans developed the publication Crescent Moon: the Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand with the Asia New Zealand Foundation.  This was launched, along with an accompanying touring photographic exhibition, at Pataka Museum in February 2009

Ans Westra lives in Wellington.   She continues to work widely today and is now also photographing the landscape. These images use colour to express her concern for New Zealand's destiny, "an island exploited by various waves of settlement".

Words

The Eye of an Outsider - A conversation with Ans Westra. Art New Zealand Issue 100.

Video

2013
At the age of 76 photographer Ans Westra completed a very special journey that began more than half a century ago.
2007
Profile of New Zealand photographer Ans Westra, produced by the Arts Foundation for its Icon Awards in 2007.

Audio

2012
Eva Raddich (Radio New Zealand Concert) talks to Ans Westra and David Alsop, founder of {Suite} Gallery, Wellington,on 'Upbeat', Wednesday, 21 March 2012, the day of the opening of the {Suite} Westra Gallery.

Galleries

1964
Washday at the Pa is anillustrated children's book by Ans Westra. It describes a day in the lives of a rural Māori family from Ruatoria.
1936
Born Leiden, Holland  Studied Decorative Arts in Rotterdam. Discovered photography when doing a project on fellow classmates.
1957
Moved to New Zealand
1960
Began working in New Zealand as a documentary;Became enchanted with and started photographing indigenous Maori people.
1967
First major book, Maori, published .
1972
Notes on the Country I live in, publiushed
1976
Wellington, City Alive published
1982
National Library of New Zealand establishes permanent archive for Ans' work; Included in Witness to Change, a touring exhibition and book
1985
Whaiora, published
1986
Won Pacific section, British Commonwealth Photography Award, exhibited England and Canada;Documentary work in Philippines exhibited in NZ.
1987 -1993
Co-President PhotoForum
1992
National Museum of New Zealand purchased Ans's archive of work prints
1993
Year-long Artist in Residence, Wanganui, NZ, resulting in 1997 exhibition Wanganui Seen 1960-1993.
1993-94
Travelled to Mongolia, lived in Holland
1996
Artist in Residence, Invercargill, New Zealand
1998
Made Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit (CMNZ) for services to photography;Documented sex industry: touring exhibition Behind the Curtain.
2000
Artist in residence, Dandenong, Melbourne, Australia: exhibition Dandenong Portraits
2001
Exhibitions Rotorua Visits, Rotorua Art Museum and group show Inheriting the Netherlands, touring.
2004
Handboek, published;Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs. Major Retrospective exhibition toured widely in New Zealand 
2005
Subject of film Private Journeys, Public signposts
2006
Exhibited Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs in the Netherlands
2007
Recipient, Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award
2015
Receives honorary doctorate from Massey University
2016
An unprecedented private museum opens in Wellington above {Suite}, Westra's dealer gallery, housing over 55 years of images

Awards