Papua New Guinea

Virginia Woolf – D-Folio

The winner of our recent D-Photo/Chris McLennan competition reports back on her experience.

Six months ago, aspiring Wellington photographer Virginia Woolf submitted six photos to D-Photo. Her aim was to win a place on an overseas shoot as assistant to renowned travel photographer Chris McLennan.

Last week Ginnie returned home after two weeks in the wilds of Papua New Guinea, lugging lights, hoisting reflectors and learning everything there is to know about setting up a shot.

Ginnie discovered her love for photography during a trip to Morocco, realising that it far outweighed her marketing job.

“I’ve always loved photography,” says Ginnie “When one of my images got published I thought, ˜This is telling me something’. At the time I was over the whole corporate career thing and decided to just give it a go.”

Now a student of photography at Massey University, Ginnie reckons she’s learnt a lot on the job. “In terms of technical skills, I learnt how to use lighting more effectively, and the radio poppers that Chris had are amazing — I want some.”

For his part, Chris found Ginnie to be an attentive and enthusiastic student, assisting with the setup of studio lighting during a hotel shoot.

“Her organisational skills and the whole way she thinks, she was very, very good; real intuitive and super-enthusiastic,” says Chris. “She just took everything in because she was really interested in learning.”

During the trip’s second leg, Ginnie was given a chance to practise some of the photography skills she’d picked up as the pair ventured into the PNG highlands. Chris and Ginnie travelled to the village of Karawari, where the locals lived in thatch-roofed huts and wore the traditional clothing their people have donned for centuries.

“We went to a few places we were pretty lucky to go to. We went to a spirit house, which outsiders are normally not allowed in, and women are definitely not allowed in there, but they let Virginia in,” recalls Chris.

“There were human skulls and all sorts of things there¦ I think she found that a little bit freaky.”

“There were awesome photo opportunities galore,” Ginnie says. “It was just raw. It was like you’d gone back in time.”

She took the chance to hone her skills shooting portraits. “Photographing people wasn’t really my strong point. I feel like now I’m so much more confident photographing people. I wouldn’t have any trouble just going up to someone and asking to take their photo anymore.”

Besides being on an intense learning curve in travel photography, Ginnie believes her trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the sort few people experience.

“I guess the thing with photography is that it’s capturing beautiful moments,” she says.  “Some of the places we went to people may never see, so you want to be able to capture that and be able to show people what’s out there in the world.”

This article is from D-Photo issue 37. Click here to check it out.