Ata, Pareaihe. Photograph courtesy Ian Walls
How should Spring bring forth a garden on hard stone?
Become earth, so that you may grow flowers of many colours.
For you have been heart-breaking rock.
Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth.




I know.

 You have reached that place on your own. It has taken a lot of work, not a little self-belief, plenty of stumbles and decisions that seemed right at the time, but later turned out to be dead ends, cul-de-sacs that led nowhere.

 You began by trying everything. Macro, portraiture, landscape, street, maybe motorsport, looking for that genre which was you. And you found it. The genre was something that was” you”. You read, listened, learned and maybe went to a few courses as well. You invested time, money (probably lots of it) and your soul into it.

 People started to tell you that your work was good, and you should enter competitions. So you did. Perhaps you joined a camera club and worked your way up through the ranks, and they gave you your letters. Then one day you had reached the top of the mountain, had conquered your own photographic Everest. And, as you stood on the summit, looking around at all the other mountains, you noticed that they all looked the same and that the mountain on which you stood was” just” another mountain. Your work wasn’t that different from what you saw around yourself. When you held it up to yourself, all you saw in the mirror of your work was other people.

 Well done you.

You have made it. Now you are ready to begin on a photographic journey of your own. Now you are ready to step away from the herd and carve your unique track in the grasslands.

 I am the lucky one. There were no courses when I set out on the road. I had to teach myself what I know. Actually, that isn’t quite true. Somebody always popped up at the time I needed to master a particular technique or aesthetic. I wasn’t afraid to ask.

I had the joy and gift of my own mentor for nearly twenty years. His name was Richard Poole, one of the Grand Old Men of New Zealand Photography.  As part of his mentoring (he never ever called it that), he challenged me and questioned everything I thought at the time. Sometimes his responses to my thoughts were deafening silences that made me gulp and cringe. He taught me things about the craft of photography that I have never seen written down since then. He taught me things about the soul of photography that I have never seen written down since then.He was my one-on-one mentor. And somehow I sensed that he was grooming me to step into his shoes one day. When he passed in 2008,  I knew that the korowai (feather cloak) was passing to me, and it was my time to step and up and help others.


How we might procede together


Sometimes you need a friend for the journey, someone who can look at your work objectively and offer advice for your artistic journey.

Here is how I can help.

For a long time, I have been fascinated by the road we walk as photographers. I have taught photography for nearly 30 years, and perhaps learned a thing or two. It is a wonderful thing to be able to meet the artist and see their inner being reflected in the work they make.

And I  have come to believe in the power of the act of photographing as a way to understand and be with ourselves in a way that is both compassionate and non-self-judgemental. Why do we love photography so much? Perhaps it is because, during that moment when we look through the viewfinder, we become One with our subject.

And with ourselves.

Let me have a look at your work.  You make up a contact sheet of your best work and also one of the works that you feel should have succeeded but somehow didn’t.

Let me look at your work and offer my advice. We can do this online or in person. We will talk a lot about your photography. And we will talk a lot about YOU and your life journey since it is you who is the core component in your work. Connecting you to your work is the key.

Then, once a year (or more), you come down and visit me for three (or more) days.  We will talk together. We will travel together. We will make work together.

 In preparation for this, I will give you a reading list. We will work out three major outcomes for you. They may be technical, related to aesthetics, or to do with Process. It may be workflow or developing a new technique to further your artistic and personal expression. Or all the above. We are all unique and following our own path. It may be personal and spiritual. You may be seeking to express your inner journey in an outward way.

Or it may be all of the above.

If this feels right to you, then please get in touch.

Let us walk together for as long as is necessary.


“Meeting, and having Tony as my mentor; cliched as it may sound; literally changed my life. Through his skills and knowledge as a born teacher and trained educator, and his inner deep sense of the spiritual world, he has taught me to go beyond the superficial, to recognise the value of my uniqueness, to search and find my own truth and use that to express myself through my art. That truth is at the core of everything I do and am now and consciously drives me in trying to make a difference in the world. There has been a huge sense of peace in finally acknowledging the “me” that I am. I’ve come a long way since we’ve met.”

-Jennifer C.

“Tony has been my mentor in photography for nearly ten years.  His advice to me is always specific to my interest in photography and the path I should take for making progress.  I have found his influence to be positive, not just affecting my photography but also the way I see things in my life.”

-SHC Chan