Self-taught photographer Evotia Tamua uses her camera to capture intimate views of Pacific life.
As a freelance photographer based in Auckland, Evotia specialises in weddings, portraits and documenting the South Pacific — its people and its way of life. Her images have appeared in many publications, ranging from illustrating stories in newspapers and magazines to advertising. With a background in photojournalism and portraiture, her images show the emotions and personalities of the people that she photographs. She has also published two books of photography, Pacific Auckland and Polynesian Festival, which draw on years of photographing Pacific life in Auckland, particularly the annual
ASB Polyfest event.
Evotia’s non-commercial photography is shaped by her interest in capturing a specific moment in time. For 15 years, Evotia has been working on a series of photographs titled Salelesi, named after her father’s village in Samoa. During frequent visits there, Evotia noticed how few photographs there were of her grandparents and the village elders. Rather than simply taking snapshots, Evotia replicates the nostalgic photographs taken in Apia’s photo studios between 1900 and 1950. While the homes and lifestyles have changed, certain resemblances remain between the old and the new photographs, such as the fala and the way family members stare reservedly down the barrel of the lens. The modest yet honourable poses that family members choose still surprises Evotia, who also interviews them as part of this genealogical record.
While documenting her family is an important endeavour, Evotia also enjoys photographing people without pretension. Capturing candid moments can reveal intricacies of a personality or present something altogether unreal, as demonstrated in her photographs of fa‛afafine fashion shows. More exuberant than the Salelesi portraiture, the images of fa‛afafine reveal some of Apia’s flamboyant entertainment. Yet in the midst of the excitement, Evotia’s eye leads her to find scenes such as Untitled. This calm and elegant contestant sits majestically in a white gown displaying an unusual purse. Taken backstage and devoid of the hectic rush of the fashion show, this scene is only identifiable as Samoa to those who recognise the curtains as typical to the islands. The generic poster of a waterfall, plastic chair, and cold, tiled floor hardly reveal the paradisiacal scenery behind the curtains.
Evotia has collaborated with her sister, Eimi, also a photographer, on various projects including Love Me Tender, 2007, and Coming Together, 2008. She has exhibited in solo and group shows in New Zealand and internationally. Select exhibitions include Pacific Auckland, O'kaioceanikart Gallery, Auckland, 2008; Flat White / Black Pearl, Te Karanga Gallery, Auckland, 2008; La Lune, Matakana Picture, Matakana, 2005; Samoans On Holiday in Europe, Arch Hill Gallery, Auckland, 1999 and Islanders, Arch Hill Gallery, Auckland, 1996.