Erica Sinclair

Story by Himiona Grace

Photography isn’t an easy business to get into. Not in this digital age that is. Everyone has a camera and many think they can take photos themselves. But there is a big difference between a good and an amazing image.

Erica Sinclair has been in the photography business for some years now. She grew up in Whakatane and for most of her school life she immersing herself in the arts. “At intermediate I was in a special arts class, so every Friday I didn’t have to go to class. My mates were like, whaaat? And on special occasion, like if a kaiako was leaving my teacher would ask me to paint a picture instead of doing school work.’ Obviously her art teacher spotted a great talent.

She continued on the arts trail right through High School and in her final year she won the overall arts trophy. “I studied photography that year too. I didn’t really get the hang of it, but I knew art was my talent and I was going to carry on with it after school.”  In 2008 she headed to Hamilton to study for a Media Arts degree at Wintec. “In the first year you do everything [media, sculpture, art, photography etc] and by the end of the first year, you pick what you want to major in. I thought [that would be] painting and sculpture or design. But at the end of the year I felt photography was the most fun. And it might be easier to meet the deadlines,” she laughs.

While she studied she also worked in retail. “By the time I graduated I was asked if I wanted to move in to a management position. I thought I might as well [do that] but all the while I was slowly building my profile online and doing the odd photography job here and there.”

Over time she became ‘busier and busier’ until it got to a point where she decided to leave her retail position and pursue photography full time. And leaving the security of a full time job isn’t a decision to take lightly. But as Erica says, “It forces you to go out and look for work.”

Now she covers weddings, whanau portraits, corporate and kaupapa type jobs. Wedding photography comes with a lot of pressure. For many it is the biggest day of their lives and you need a lot of confidence to deal with groups of people. “I’ve got one more wedding this season. I really enjoy the day but post (producing the final images) is a huge job and there is always a lot of pressure.” This is where skill and experience pays off. If something doesn’t work out or look good you can’t go back later and redo it.

In 2014 Erica had an exhibition to launch a calendar she has produced. She had some big names from our music industry supporting her like Maisy Rika, Rob Ruha and Tama Waipara to name a few. Nga Taniwha o te Ao Kapa Haka showcases the ‘Māori art form of kapa haka through portraits of respected individuals within the kapa haka ‘movement’. This calendar seeks to celebrate being Māori, promote kapa haka and inspire te iwi Māori, because who better to inspire us than our own? People with passion, perseverance, determination and mana! I truly believe kapa haka can teach a person all of those qualities but also most importantly kapa haka is thriving art form – It is one of many waka that ensures our traditions, values and language will strengthen and carry on.” Erica is attending the 2015 Matatini festival where she will have the calendars on sale as well supporting and photographing her whanaunga from her Te Whanau-A-Apanui roots.

And the year is looking very busy for Erica. Besides her usual photography gigs she is going to study Te Reo, take part in a business mentoring course run by Te Puni Kokiri, go on a road trip to shoot for a book and may even shoot a short film for a friend early next year. She also plans to hold an exhibition around Matariki with some ex-students from her time studying.

On Erica’s website there are three words she uses to describe what kapa haka can do for our people. Passion, perseverance, determination. She could be describing herself and her journey because it takes all of these qualities to succeed in your own business venture.

For photography work and to order the calendar Erica can be contacted here: or on her Facebook page: