Becky Nunes

This air is a material

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This air is a material. The work of Ann Shelton.

Ann Shelton left her hometown of Timaru in the 80's on a mission. Her sense of social justice coupled with an interest in human narratives saw her working as one of N.Z's first female photojournalists, initially in Oamaru and then at the Dominion Post in Wellington. From there Ann moved to K' Rd in Auckland, and attended Elam School of Fine Arts. Her seminal project Redeye captured the zeitgeist of the 90's, and catapulted her to public notoriety. Ann has made many rich and complex bodies of work that unearth local mythologies and ghosted stories and give voice to characters previously written out of history. Challenging the conventions and assumptions of the medium, Ann's photographs and artist books form a significant contribution to the history of contemporary photographic practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

This air is a material looks in depth at Ann's work, illuminating it through the words of curators, art historians, her peers and Ann herself. The film journeys to places where the artist lived and worked and revisits the sites of some of her most powerful photographic works.

There has never been a better time for me to make this film, and to open up a wider audience for the rich photographic practice of this artist. I am thrilled to have the support of The Chartwell Trust to help me complete this project, as a matching donor. So any donation you choose to make will be generously doubled.

In November 2016 a major survey exhibition of Shelton's work opens at Auckland Art Gallery, staged by Zara Stanhope, Principal Curator at the gallery. The film will offer insight and a heightened appreciation of Shelton's work to a wide audience of art lovers, students and national and international visitors. This air is a material will screen as part of the program of events during the exhibition, which runs through the important summer season. Beyond the gallery screenings there will be the potential for global outreach via film festivals and competitions. As an archival document of an important female practitioner the film contributes to the photographic landscape and territory of contemporary art in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It's also a significant project for me as my practice moves further into the dynamic arena of filmmaking.

Reaching my target will mean I can cover some crucial aspects of production for the film. A successful Boosted campaign will enable me to cover travel and expenses associated with the location shoots and to pay for key elements of editing and post-production. Filming will take place in Auckland and Christchurch, recording interviews with curators and art commentators as well as some behind-the-scenes footage shot at Christchurch and Auckland Art Galleries.

Exceeding my target will mean I can include some beautiful archival footage that we have discovered, as well as contributing to the creation of a trailer for potential international release.

So please continue to donate! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this profile, to watch the video, and for any donation you are able to make. Every little bit counts, and I am truly grateful for your support.

Support for Becky Nunes and This air is a material.

"Having watched some of the early footage that Nunes has captured of Shelton and her work, I have been impressed by the specific and uncompromising vision she has developed for the project. Nunes is already tackling the filmmaking process with the same intense precision and perfectionism that she would with any of her projects and I am convinced she will succeed in creating an engaging and well-crafted documentary."

Briar March. Filmmaker.

"Becky is able to move freely between the commercial/editorial and fine art worlds of photography. At the heart of this is a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances of documentary practice, particularly as it relates to postcolonial Aotearoa. She and Ann Shelton are perfectly matched for this project. Like Becky, Ann emerged from an editorial background and made a transition into an art context. Like Becky, she shares an intense interest in the role documentary photography can play in mining some of Aotearoa's darker histories and episodes. Becky is an absolute pro - experienced, intelligent, and deeply committed to making work of the highest quality. I think this [film] has the potential to be a very important new strand in the critical discussion of contemporary New Zealand art."

Anthony Byrt.
Art critic and writer for Metro, Artforum International and Frieze 2013 Critical Studies Fellow at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan 2015 Review of the Year, Canon Media Awards


  • Screenings and Festival announcements


    Kia ora to you all,

    We have both good and bad news for those keen to view the film in Auckland; we have had to pull the screening of This Air is a Material from the final weekend of Ann Shelton's Dark Matter. However the reason for this is the good news! TAIAM has been selected in competition for the 2017 DocEdge Festival. This means two screenings of the film in Auckland AND two in Wellington! See this link for screening and booking details:


    More good news: With the generous further support of Whitecliffe College and Creative New Zealand I have been able to make the final cut that I had envisaged for the film. This means the inclusion of some great footage from the installation of the exhibition, and of the perfomance art that accompanied the opening of the show. Also I was able to interview curator and art writer Bruce E. Phillips in the exhibition space, and his insights add depth to the critical commentary already present in the film.

    I am excited (and not a little nervous) for the final version of This Air is a Material to be shown to a general audience in not one but two cities in Aotearoa. I very much hope you will be able to make it to at least one of the screenings.


    Screenings and Festival announcements
  • When The Lights go Down...


    When The Lights go Down...
  • Save the Date!


    In the final throes of post-production; Glen working audio magic in the studios of Bigpop in Auckland.

    The countdown to the screening has begun. Offical invitations to follow shortly, but in the mean-time please save the date!

    This air is a material launch screening :

    4p.m, Saturday November 26th

    Auckland Art Gallery auditorium

    Save the Date!
  • Progress update


    Firstly, sorry for the radio silence! Since the heady moment of reaching our Boosted target there has been a full-scale immersion in the creation of final interviews, audio and pick-ups for the film. This, coupled with some serious late nights glued to the screen, have finally seen the rough cut loaded onto a hard drive and dispatched to the offices of the amazing humans at Tomorrowland,

    where some serious editing magic will be woven over the next week or so..

    Over the next days and weeks leading up to the launch of the film I’ll be sharing some snippets and backstage moments both here and on the film’s Facebook page.

    For now, here’s a still of the beautiful lens that belongs to Ann’s hand-made large format camera.

    Nga mihi nui,


    Progress update
  • We are rolling!


    It is humbling, gratifying and not a little anxiety-inducing to see that so many people have beleived in this project enough to push it well over it's target in this campaign.

    Huge thanks to you all. I will continue to post updates about the progress of the film on this page, as well as on the film's Facebook page and Instagram feed. Keep an eye out for news of preview screenings and the launch of the film in late November.

    This picture is of Annie, taken during a fantasic interview session for the film earlier this week in her home in Wellington.

    Nga mihi nui,



    We are rolling!
  • Between the covers


    Publications and their content and design have been constants within Ann's practice from the earliest days. The film looks at the many different ways that books have contributed to the expanded field of photography in Ann's work. Here is a snippet of footage that takes in the range of these publications.


    We are thrilled to have made our initial target for the campaign. Huge thanks go out to all those who have contributed and shared the project. We have a few days left and every additional contribution will help us to access more archival footage & sound and to ensure that the post-production of our film is as beautiful as it can be. Please do continue to spread the word!



  • How the film found it’s name..


    During my research for the film I came across a beautiful piece of writing by Anna Sanderson. In this piece Anna touches on the cinematic and esoteric aspects of Ann’s doubled images:

    “The image singly presents a perspectival world which seems
    enchanting, but in a certain way comprehensible. The mirroring
    generates a pattern world in which different types of volume are
    indistinguishable. I wonder, is the pattern in the trees and grass,
    or is it in the air between the camera and it. I can’t tell, so the
    air and trees and grass become one. The grass might have been
    distorted by the air. This air can be bent and chipped and carved;
    this air is a material.”

    Anna Sanderson. "In the valley of the shadow"

    This excerpt is taken from a text that originally appeared in the Govett-Brewster publication "A kind of sleep", to accompany the exhibition of that name, in 2005.

    Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

    How the film found it’s name..
  • The link is fixed!


    Thanks so much to those folk who let me know that the link to our vintage clip was not operational - it is now! So do revisit yesterday's update to see Ann talk about gender roles and photojournalism in the New Zealand of the 80's.

    While we have your attention, here's a moment from our January road trip..a peek at the exterior of The Beast, our 3-ton camper, which served fantastically as transport, accomodation, kitchen/dining and 6-wheeled dolly rig!

    The link is fixed!
  • From the vaults!


    This air is a material is combing the vaults for great archival footage to include in the film. Here's Ann talking about working at the Dominion as their only female press photographer in the 80's.

    We are on the hunt for the film's maker..only known details at this stage are that her name was Denise, and she may have been a Fine Art student herself at Elam.. Denise, if you are out there, get in touch!