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Roma Marae chairman John Paitai admitted that he had been a little surprised when photographer Kirsty Saxon approached the committee to explain that she wanted to portray the community's wairua.

"It was a big kaupapa, difficult to capture with a camera," he said on Monday evening as he prepared to open the resulting exhibition at Te Ahu.

And he had the highest praise for the manner in which she had achieved what she had set out to do.

'Te Wairua o Te Hiku comprises 24 photographs of the land, sea, the marae and its people, Mr Paitai saying he had been intrigued by Mrs Saxon's observations and her sensitivity to the community, marae protocols, the people and the environment.

He commended her for the respect she had shown Te Rarawa and the people of Ahipara.

"I am sure we will hear a lot more of Shutterbug Photography and Design in the future," he said.

Mrs Saxon said one of her goals had been to produce work that would be appreciated by everyone, but success was not hers alone. She particularly thanked the people of Roma Marae for their support, and her family for bearing with her throughout three years of assignments and deadlines.

She had sought to portray the deep and real connection between people and the whenua, and the path from the marae to the afterlife.

That was specifically portrayed in her favourite of the 24 photos, Te Ara Wairua (pictured above), showing the beach and the pathway taken by the spirits between the high and low tide marks).

The exhibition was the culmination of three years' study with the Southern Institute of Technology for a Diploma in Digital Photography.

She had had "a few hundred" photographs to choose from for the exhibition, but those that did not make the cut were still destined for a wider audience, as she planned to compile a book for the marae when the exhibition ended on October 30, she said.

- Northland Age

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