Five minutes with: Nando Azevedo

With the Auckland Festival of Photography just around the corner, kick-starting on June 2 and running until June 24, we thought we'd catch up with some of the artists who will have their works showcased throughout Auckland during the event. 

We spoke with Nando Azevedo about his exhibition New Zealanders Now: from Refugees to Kiwis and discovered what inspired him to get involved with this project.

Nando Azevedo

D-Photo: Can you please tell us about your exhibition and how you formed the idea/s behind it?

Nando Azevedo: New Zealanders Now: from Refugees to Kiwis is a project that I developed with the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition (ARCC) after I was contacted to take some headshots for their website.

At the shoot I had the chance to meet and chat with the staff (most of them from a refugee background), and understand a bit more about their challenges. It was clear that there was an issue with the representation and significances behind the label ‘refugee’ in the media and society in general.

The word ‘refugee’ is constantly misused and often loaded with negative connotation. The media loves to portray them as weak, helpless, needy, and, at times, a threat. 

After a few meetings we decided to create a series of portraits of people who were once refugees, along with fragments of their stories and then share them with the wider society. Neither pictures nor stories had to be related to refugee issues, but focused on the person behind this social category. We wanted to remind the general population that (former) refugees are very much like you and I.

Nando Azevedo

How long in the making has the project been?

We first started having discussions about it around July 2015, and the first image was made about one month after that.

Nando Azevedo

How did you find the people who are featured in your works, and what was their reaction to being photographed?

ARCC is an organization that is always very engaged with community leaders around Auckland, so it was a no-brainer to start with some of their most active members. This is where it was very important to be aligned with a respected organization, because it just made this part of the project much more pleasant.

We also promoted it in cultural events and as it started to built some momentum the word got around and people started referring each other. Other partner organizations like Amnesty International and the New Zealand Red Cross were very helpful in providing leads.

People's reactions were as wide-ranging as their personalities, but I guess you can say that I was always very well accepted, and I believe that shows they were all very grateful. It is amazing how people will treat you once they realize that you are there just to hear what they have to say.

Nando Azevedo

What have you enjoyed about putting together this exhibition for the festival?

It is extremely rewarding when you see the support you receive from the community. I think the most enjoyable parts were certainly the connections I made along the process.

Nando Azevedo

What are you looking forward to about the festival itself?

June is always an exciting month because of the festival. It is the chance to see, materialized, what has been on our collective consciousness, and soak up all that inspiration. Other then the exhibitions, I am really looking forward to hearing James Dooley talk as I think it might be very relevant to my personal situation.

Nando Azevedo

Nando Azevedo's New Zealanders Now: from Refugees to Kiwis will be exhibiting at Ponsonby Central (corner of Ponsonby and Richmond Roads) from May 31 to June 12..