• Ans Westra

Ans had a genuineness about her photography, she could read faces and the inscrutable features of the Māori kuia. She was able to capture it and it would speak to the people. That’s what enabled her to have the confidence of the people around her. She checked and asked questions about the marae itself, she took on board the tapu nature, the sacredness of the marae and she never intruded upon space and got too close. - Bill Nathan, Former President and Life Member of Ngāti Poneke Young Māori Club, 2023

Ans Westra CNZM (1936 - 2023) was a pioneer of documentary photography and one of the first women to work in this space in Aotearoa. Self-taught, Ans was an expert at capturing what she called "ordinary life": the casual, natural and human interactions of ordinary people and places.

Mounted across both {Suite} Ponsonby and {Suite} Wellington, Haere ra is a celebration of Ans' life, and features images and books spanning 60 years from the early 1960s right through until the 2020s.

Ans has left a remarkable legacy of photographs documenting New Zealand's most remote areas to street scenes, stock saleyards, rugby games and the Porirua Mongrel Mob. She also photographed around the world including Tonga, Fiji, the Netherlands, the Philippines and New York.

{Suite} Director David Alsop had a long-standing relationship with Ans after meeting in her birth city of Leiden, the Netherlands, in 2006. An ongoing project between {Suite} and the National Library of New Zealand commenced in 2015 to digitise Ans' archive - an unparalleled collection comprising more than 300,000 images.

Ans' photos are catalogued by location and date with additional information about events, activities and people in the images noted where known. Unlimited online access to Ans' image archive is available via the National Library website, providing a rich resource for anyone interested in social history and photography. The library welcomes any additional information about the images.

In 1998 Ans was awarded the Companion of the Order of New Zealand Merit for services to photography. In 2007 she was made an Arts Foundation Icon, an honour bestowed to a living circle of 20 artists for their extraordinary lifetime achievements. In 2015 she received an honorary doctorate from Massey University in recognition of her contribution to New Zealand's visual culture.

Ans passed away at her home in Wellington on 26 February 2023 aged 86 years. She is survived by her half-sister, three children and six grandchildren.

View works online at {Suite}

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm
  • Saturday, 10am-4pm


  • 189 Ponsonby Road
  • Ponsonby, Auckland 1011