(b. 1993, b. Christchurch, New Zealand)
Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours)

Hannah's practice considers the genres of fine art and documentary photography, attempting to communicate the psychological landscape and social-political environment through images.

The Near Future - Artist Statement

These photographs are evidence of a tangled tryst. My only familial ties with the West Coast of the South Island are to photographs. In some of these photographs my father stands as a fresh-faced teacher at Runanga and Kumara Schools. In others I’m depicted in holiday snaps as an 18 month old, then later as a sulky teenager, bored about being dragged on yet another cemetery visit with my parents. These photographs reveal no personal history I need to explore or resolve; yet now as an adult I feel compelled to return and explore, time and time again.

This pull to place developed out of another project. I had been photographing the Midland Railway Line, which links my home city of Christchurch with Greymouth. What started as an excuse to make work that took me away from home and on a journey, led me to think about the communities that the Line connects and feeds and the economics that keep them afloat. Before long, I found myself leaning against bars, drinking beer with men who told me about losing friends to the abyss beneath the ground. Their stories made me consider what constitutes ‘making a living’ for the people who live on the West Coast, and what becomes of their communities when the jobs and lives are lost. Curiosity has turned to responsibility through the burden of the tales that I have been told, so I return with my camera in the hope that one day my photographs might add up to something.

Embedded within the socio-cultural understanding of a place, these photographs attempt to use the medium to describe something of the psychological landscape of the region – the invisible structures of economics and politics that define the place’s history. When Solid Energy went into debt crisis talks in February of 2013, Prime Minister John Key said that it was “very unlikely Solid Energy would be sold in the near future.” Now, in 2016, I have learnt that the ‘near future’ is a concept that occupies the minds of all who live on the West Coast. I’m compelled to listen to people’s stories, to photograph, and then I return home with a heavy heart, the weight of narratives between my shoulder blades. This project has raised more questions than I will ever have the answers for, but I hope that the photographs I continue to make could inspire in people a sense of awareness in their surroundings, and an interest in the political landscape and economy of an isolated part of the country.

Recent projects include: The Near Future, QB Studios, Christchurch, NZ (2017); To Pave the Road with Iron Bars, part of Smart New Objects: Acquisitions from the UC Art Collection, Matariki Gallery, Christchurch, NZ (2016); Elsewhere, In Situ Photo Project, Christchurch, NZ (2016); The Dark Hours, 30Upstairs Gallery, Wellington, NZ (2015); From Where I Stand, MADRAS LOUNGE/ArtBox, Christchurch, NZ (2015); The Dark Hours, TSB Bank Arena (New Zealand Art Show Emerging Artist Award), Wellington, NZ (2015); To Pave the Road with Iron Bars, part of Pulled Together at Exchange Christchurch, Christchurch, NZ (2015); To Pave the Road with Iron Bars, SELECT '15 at Ilam Campus Gallery, Christchurch, NZ (2015)

The links:
Hannah Watkinson's Website
The Near Future by Peter Ireland for EyeContact