Artist statement.
How can photography be useful in this precarious era of climate crisis and social injustice?

This question is the key catalyst both of my art practice and my work as an educator. I am  deeply committed to working collaboratively in the imagining of new futures for cultural production.   I am a lens-based artist of Jewish and Cornish descent. I have very recently relocated to the United Kingdom after living and working for many years in Aotearoa-New Zealand. My practice is scaffolded upon the building of alliances with indigeneity, collaborative and Kaupapa Maori (Maori practices and protocols) methodologies. I work in an expanded documentary framework, using lens-based tools of the digital and surveillance age to think about the problematic and complicated nature of land use, resource extraction and the amplification of marginalised and polyphonic voices.   In my work I unearth and manipulate archival material, combining it with my own moving image & still photography. Science-fiction and empirical feminist thinking are cornerstones for making. The co-opting of the documentary form into more activist and resistant outcomes have become central processes in my practice, and I lean on the writings of  Donna Haraway, Erica Balsom and Ariella Azoulay amongst others. I think about walking as method for generating embodied knowledge, and about ways to employ a “listening” camera as a research tool in the service of community. As an educator my focus is on empowerment and making space for divergence in the classroom and curriculum.

Becky Nunes is a lens-based artist and educator. Her images have been awarded, published & exhibited locally and internationally. Nunes is a founder member of Tangent Collective (Aotearoa) and creative partner at 35a (U.K). 
Recent work

These works ask the audience to consider land rights, resource extraction, ownership, and our relationships with more-than-human materials and place.

Tahāroa is a tiny settlement to the South-West of the Kawhia harbor, in the North Island of New Zealand. At the end of a long winding road the township itself sits in a tight huddle of new and older houses and workers’ cottages. N.Z Steel first brokered an agreement with local tribe Ngāti Mahuta ki te Hauāuru in the 70’s to extract the titanomagnetite from the sands and ship it offshore for use in the construction of steel. Tucked out of sight, over the headland, the dredging operation of this iron-ore extraction from the volcanic black sands of the foreshore has been continuing unabated for 40 years. 

Pyrite (2017) 

 Digital composite. 600x400mm
 What does such prolonged mineral extraction and the re-introduction of that material into the global manufacturing chain mean for the mauri (or spirit) of the land, and for our planetary relationships? 

Film projects
Ann Shelton left her hometown of Timaru in the 80’s on a mission. Her seminal project Redeye captured the zeitgeist of Auckland in the 90’s, and catapulted her to public notoriety. Ann has made many rich and complex bodies of work that unearth local mythologies, “ghosted” stories and characters and narratives previously written out of history. This Air is a Material deepens the understanding of this important artist & her work. With interviews, high quality footage of Ann’s artwork and archival imagery, the documentary not only illuminates her practice but also the small towns, urban myths and creative communities that shaped it.

2016. 52' HD Video
Produced and directed by Becky Nunes.

This short film documents a site-specific performance choreographed and commissioned by Shelton as part of the Enjoy Feminisms series in 2015. The work celebrates Nancy Martin, a single academic and musician who in Wellington in 1957 became the first single woman to take out a mortgage. The house was designed by Frederick Ost, a German Jew refuge from Hitler’s Europe. Shelton talks about the house itself displacing photography in the performance that forms the heart of the project. Shelton commissioned a ghostwriter to write a contemporary narrative that obliquely refers to Martin’s life. The film brings together Shelton’s publication, A Spoonful of Sugar, the performance in the space and the spoken narrative.      

2015. 6' HD Video
Produced and directed by Becky Nunes.

The photo-book has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent years. Combined with on-demand publishing it now offers photographers unprecedented and often unmediated access to audiences for their work. Made by Tangent Photo Collective, this short documentary charts some of the key moments in the history of the photo book in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The film, however, foregrounds the now: a slice of contemporary book making in the early 21st Century. It aims to intrigue, inspire and provoke debate around a medium that, in the Pacific at least, is still in its teenage years.

 2015. 6' HD Video
Produced and directed by Tangent Photography Collective.
Photographic projects

This project exists in several spaces; as a set of photographs and moving image viewed in physical space, and as a virtual book that lives online.  The overarching ideas that frame the work are those of tapu and noa; for Māori these words express a sense of sacred and earthly states. I have been very interested in the ways that we come into contact with these conditions, that we activate and are activated by them in our daily lives. I am also interested in the possibility that these are dynamic and fluid states; that there is a flow of energy between them and that human action can recalibrate them. Particularly I feel that protocols or covenants exist between humans and the natural world, and that there are myriad ways that these covenants may be breached and healed. There are therefore ecological & geo-political aspects to the project. The specific site I chose to focus on in order to crystallise some of these ideas is Grafton Gully. This is an area of the city that I have lived near and known for most of my years in Auckland, and one that has had carved into it our shifting values. The Gully has transitioned from a bush clad waterway into cemeteries for the early colonial settlers, a sports field and now a transit system and Business School.   The way I have accessed the site owes a lot to the Situationists of the 1950’s. Guy Debord and his fellow artist-activists reclaimed urban areas by way of the derive, or aimless wander, allowing chance to open up possibilities beyond the intentions of corporate and civic planning. The other aspect of my process involves collaboration with object. A lot is owed here to Jane Bennett and her theory ofvibrant matter. The Pataphysicists too believed that objects have an animus or energy and that they will speak through the artist. This thinking is prevalent amongst non-Western societies, and particularly in previous work with Maori communities I have experienced this esoteric communication directly. My intention here is to work with place and object to reframe lost or marginal narratives. A co-authoring of the image with its subject and then with a viewer is I hope what gives the work its agency.
Further writing on this project:

Artist statement.

The concept of tapu is one that can easily be relegated to historical or religious spheres of interest, as if a sacred state cannot co-exist with our modern daily life. States of tapu and noa (the sacred and the earthly) are not side-notes to our lives however. Knowingly or unknowingly we can breach the fragile covenants that exist in human relations and between humans and the natural and spiritual world. These breaches might occur at a personal level, or on a more global and ecological one. It has been suggested that tapu and noa are not fixed states, but fluid and non-lineal, and that human action and ritual are essential in achieving a balance between them. As a covenant can be broken, so can it be mended.

Becky Nunes. 2014

Astrae            (1500x1160 c-type print, frame, acrylic)      Edition of 1 + 1 x A.P

Ceres              (60x60 c-type print, frame, glass)              Edition of 3 + 1x A.P 

Bellona             (60x60 c-type print, frame, glass)            Edition of 3 + 1x A.P 

Vesta (1500x1160 c-type print, frame, acrylic)      
Edition of 1 + 1 x A.P 

Astrae            (1500x1160 c-type print, frame, acrylic)      Edition of 1 + 1 x A.P

Chamber    (40cm diameter Gold Fibre Silk print)     Edition of 3 + 1x A.P

Spiral             (40cm diameter Gold Fibre Silk print)                    Edition of 3 + 1x A.P

Installation documentation

Installation documentation

Tongariro Power

Tongariro Power was shot in 1970 for the NZ National Film Unit by Martin Barriball, and directed by Conon Fraser. Their energetic and well-crafted film documents the immense feat of engineering and construction of the Tongariro Power Scheme (TPS), channeling hundreds of waterways from their existing trajectories into the tunnels and pipes that feed the hydro-electric dam systems.

 I have extracted many small moments from Fraser’s film, allowing them to build into their own cinematic narratives and tropes, riffing on the Hollywood cowboy, B-grade sci-fi, 70’s porn and Freudian subtexts. This sequence of extracted frames proposes a feminized and fetishized reading of the male gaze, re-directed as it is onto itself.

 Accompanying these appropriations the zine contains a series of accidentally erotic portraits extracted from the film. This zine celebrates the unashamed machismo of the modernist era. Large scale engineering projects, big rigs and dangerous underground tunneling were the domain of these men within the context of pioneering post-colonial New Zealand. The extraction and re-contextualising of these portraits opens up voyeuristic hetero and homoerotic subtexts alongside questions of cultural identity and land commodification in Aotearoa New Zealand.


  • Mau Moko: The World of Māori Tattoo

“These are impressive and moving images, which deserve exhibition simply in their own right. More than that, they place moko in a contemporary context, expressing the art as a living, relevant force in our culture and not some struggling remnant of a distant past. They strongly counter the negative connotations of moko.”

Hamish Keith, Art Historian. 2009

In December 2007 Penguin Books published “Mau Moko, The World Of Maori Tattoo”. The result of several years’ research, the book explores the cultural and spiritual issues around ta moko, and relates the stories of its wearers and practitioners. “Mau Moko” was authored by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and Linda Waimarie Nikora with contemporary portraits photographed by Becky Nunes.

Selected recent exhibitions and screenings

2020                          An Age of Iron.  HD Video, 8' looped. RM Gallery, Auckland March 4th - 21st   
 The Water Sustains Us Production of collaborative student exhibition produced online for Auckland Festival of Photography May 30-June 10th   

 2019                           15 Minutes of Fame – Warhol, Facebook and the Work of Luke Willis Thompson                                                                           Paper presentation at SPE National Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. Mar 6-10th.    
Recipient of the 2019 SPE International Conference Grant for highest ranked peer-reviewed paper. 
 Visual Citizenship. Visual politics and documentary practice  
Paper presentation at AAANZ International Conference, University of Auckland, Auckland Dec 4-7th 2019    

 2018                                           This Air is a Material screening & artist talk: Christchurch City Art gallery. April 17th   Triangulated Agency and Co-authorship in a Photographic Practice. ArtMatters April 2018 published by Auckland City Art Gallery     

 2017                                            Pyrite. (B. Nunes. 2017 600x400 digital composite/Dibond) Finalist and Travelling exhibition: Wallace Art Awards   
This Air is a Material screening: ARC Theatre, National Film and sound Archive of Australia. 
Women in the Creative Arts Research Conference, Australia National University Canberra 10-12th August 2017.   
This Air is a Material screening: DocEdge Festival Auckland and Wellington May/June 2017   
PAPERWORK group exhibition at DEMO Space March 23-26th   
NEWPHOTOMEDIA Curated by Tangent as part of Auckland Festival of Photography group exhibition at DEMO Space June 6-12     

 2016                                            This Air is a Material feature documentary. Premiere screening and Director Q&A:  AAG November 27th.   
Pictures on Paper Tangent film productions short film, screened at PhotoBook NZ March 2016 (Massey University)  
Pictures on Paper Tangent film productions short film, screened at Obscura PhotoFestival, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, August 2016