Student profile: Shannon Clamp

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Shannon Clamp shares his love of wildlife and how he sees beauty through the camera lens.

After speaking with Shannon it’s apparent he is a caring and compassionate young man. He is softly spoken and instantly endearing. Family orientated, he respects and values his parents deeply and aims to make them proud of his achievements.

Where did it all begin?

With a French mother and proud Maori father, he grew up in France surrounded by art, “my mum painted with water colours and took me to art galleries in Paris.” Encouraged by his parents he began drawing at a young age and never stopped, “I keep drawing, it’s who I am” he declares.

Before studying at Te Auaha, he lived and worked in London as a photographer’s assistant. Although he grew and learnt a lot he “felt somewhat lost in the busy city.” He was drawn back to New Zealand, enchanted by the Maori myths and legends his father had told him as a child. He wanted to return to his Maori roots. He describes a feeling of a “string” connecting him to New Zealand, pulling him back.

It was his Mum that introduced him to Te Auaha, “I was feeling directionless but knew I wanted to study photography and produce my own work.” He liked the central location of Te Auaha and enjoys living in the city. He describes Cuba Street as diverse and artistic and he likes being in middle of it all.

Tell me about your mahi?

Shannon volunteered with O.R.C.A in South Africa, a volunteer community dedicated to marine conservation in. During this time he gained an appreciation of whales. He describes “the grace of a humpback whale swimming and breaching is one of the most breath-taking, incredible things I have had the chance to witness.” He hopes to witness it again before it is too late as they are currently classified as endangered and vulnerable.

“I want to be a wildlife photographer, I’m passionate about animals, and I hope to give them a voice via my art. I want to take a stand for nature, a fragile nature that we should respect and not dismiss. I like to blend my two passions for wildlife photography and drawing. My art changes according to my surroundings. When I look back, the art I made in London it’s very different from what I do now. I feel it’s the real me now.”

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Tell me about your first photography exhibition?

A collaboration piece, Pressing your face in the feathers, was an atmospheric installation using circus performers, photography, sound and text to create a private world with its own beauty. It started when he was approached by his tutor, who knows Shannon has a talent for bird photography. Shannon and his classmate were commissioned to photograph pigeons to accompany poetry on the same subject.

On pigeons, he says, “pigeons have an underappreciated beauty,” and he wanted to highlight their individual charm. “One day I spent one hour with the same pigeon. I watched and learned, I saw the bird’s mood change.” He loves seeing the world through the photographer’s lens, “it’s a mindful experience.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is your dream project?

“My dream is to become a wildlife photographer blending those images with my drawings. I want people to appreciate wildlife as much as I do. We have wiped out so much of our animal population. We must defend, conserve and protect our planet and animals on land and in the ocean.”

He hopes that people will stop a while to look at his detailed art and will be encouraged to live harmoniously with wildlife. He approaches life not just trying to be interesting himself but being interested and curious about everything around him and hopes others will do the same.