We're not dead yet: The representation of New Zealand Maori in three photographic discourses

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Looking at three different corpuses, this thesis looks at the representation in photography of New Zealand Māori. The photographs are analyzed for narratives communicated through visual representation. The first corpus consists of photographs taken between 1860-1940, gathered by Michael Graham-Stewart and John Gow into Out of Time: Māori and the Photographer 1860-1940. The photographs in this corpus are shown to communicate messages that can be connected with the process of strengthening and stabilizing colonial power in New Zealand. Main tropes that are analyzed in the corpus are the Māori maiden, the Māori warrior, and the Māori as a ‘dying race’. The second corpus is a selection of photographs from Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away. The photographs in this book are connected to narratives of exoticization, exemplified in the occurrence of the trope of the Māori warrior. Nelson’s work also communicates a narrative of a culture at risk of dying out, combining this with a narrative of nostalgia. The third corpus looks at posts from the Instagram-account of Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua, New Zealand. This business emphasizes Māori culture as a living and contemporary phenomenon, but reiterates narratives of the Māori maiden and the Māori warrior on their Instagram-page, recalling tropes that have their roots in the colonial era. Additionally, they appear to be presenting a reductive account of Māori culture as consisting of haka, poi, and hongi. An important difference with the other corpuses is that the Instagram-corpus has a focus on interpersonal connection between the Māori performers and the tourists. This thesis traces certain aspects of representation through history, elucidating their links to power structures and dynamics as well as highlighting potential shifts in focus throughout the different corpuses, potentially indicating an evolution in the aesthetics of the tourist gaze.
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