German graduate student Clara Wenzel-Theiler spent four months as an intern with Auckland Museum’s photographer Krzysztof Pfeiffer. The 19-year-old shares her experience of working with an award-winning photographer, meeting royalty, and visiting 60 marae around New Zealand.
Last year in summer, after finishing my Abitur (German school graduation), I thought it would be a good thing to gain some practical experience before I start my studies in photography in Germany. So I applied for an internship in NZ and was chosen to work with Krzysztof Pfeiffer, the museum’s photographer.
Working in a museum was a unique opportunity for me, because where else can you learn so much about culture and country, if not here? During my time in the museum, I have gained insights into various fields and almost all aspects of photography – product photography, macro photography, portrait, functions and events, available light and night photography. And of course New Zealand has the most beautiful landscape to photograph!
As my time here in the museum comes to an end now (like all good things in life) I want to share with you a small selection of the work I have done in the museum and during my travels.
Events and Exhibition Openings
The two times I had to photograph an exhibition opening were special to me. I watched the staff members who put lots of effort into the exhibition get excited (and nervous) about the opening, and the relief and happiness that everything worked as it should work (that’s what I experienced during photographing the Urbanlife exhibition). It was also great to watch the visitors’ reaction, especially the kids, who enter a new world when they enter the exhibition.
My favourite is the colourful Weird & Wonderful gallery with all the interactive activities for the kids. To capture all this was a lot of fun, though challenging as the light conditions are not the best as it was always quite dark.
Being photography intern has another advantage: free entry to museum events!
I attended the last LATE at the Museum in November, which was very interesting, and the I AM Making Movies awards. The Māori children’s dancing group [kapahaka] – which performed during the awards – really impressed me. I loved them!
Another personal highlight was the visit of Prince Charles in November. I had to stand amongst a crowd of press photographers – and getting a good shot really had its difficulties.
Travelling and the Māori Maps Project
Of course I have done some travelling, too. During the summer break I explored the North Island and South Island for two weeks, visiting lots of main towns, for example Wellington, must-see-sites and lots of gorgeous beaches. I also assisted Krzysztof in the Māori Maps project, which involved travelling throughout the country, photographing every (yes, I am not kidding!) existing marae.
These photographs will be published on www.maorimaps.com and will also be available to the museum. The website helps users find tribal marae of Aotearoa New Zealand – through maps, information and photographs. My task in this project was to document the travels of the last two trips. Through this project, I have seen some of the most remote places in New Zealand and learned a lot about the Kiwi way of life, as the team members were all true Kiwis (except me of course…). I appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me, as I am now perhaps the only European visitor that has visited about 60 marae!
In the studio
As my interests lie especially in advertising and food photography, I was very keen to learn more about studio photography. I am glad that Krzysztof let me do so much on my own; he showed me tips and tricks and left the rest to me. So whenever the museum shop needed some shots – or publishing shots of artifacts were needed – I did it.
I learned about lighting and composition, also about how to make a good portrait, which I had only done with available light before, and I can tell now that it is a lot more difficult in the studio.
I am sure that this internship will help me a lot in my further studies, I learned a lot and I am sure that I will come to visit New Zealand again … some time!