“Wākāinga; MEMORIES OF A HOMELAND” by Isabel Sylvie

The film work in this article is part of an ongoing exploration of what home is & the powerful ability of film to immortalise and capture these places and their meaning. Wākāinga is a Māori word for home.

In fact, wākāinga (sometimes written as two words: wā kāinga) refers to a true home, homeland, a distant home. Much of the film work I produce is captured in New Zealand, a place where I grew up and also where my parents are from.

Windy Point Lookout towards The Remarkables (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Left: Shooter River (Fujifilm Velvia 100) Right: Bumblebee (Kodak Ektar 100) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Milford Sound (Kodak Portra) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Ben Lomond Track View (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Auckland (Fujifilm 200) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

Most New Zealanders, Pākehā and Māori, have a strong connection to the land, its beauty and its significance. The landscapes featured in this article are inextricably tied to my idea of home, my childhood memories and my identity.

Crown Range (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Native Floral (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Make Lake (Fujifilm 200) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Waihi Coastline (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

In the current climate of people striving to discern what is true, film’s simplicity seems relieving. One of the reasons I shoot film and leave my work unedited, untouched from the initial capture is because I appreciate the honesty of that.

The Road to Milford Sound (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Before the Home Tunnel (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Flying into Otago (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Moke Lake (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Crown Ranges Lookout (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

In a time of global chaos, simplicity is needed. The simplicity and honesty of film has offered me wonderful creative outlet, and respite for the last 15+ years.

Looking back to Queenstown (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
The Road to Milford Sound (Kodak Ektar) ~by Isabel Sylvie
Piha Coastline (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Remarkables at dawn (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

I have been shooting film since I was a teenager and while I was learning how to use a darkroom at school, I inherited an old Minolta camera (an Alpha Sweet II).

I have always had a fascination with slide film, and spent many hours poring through shoe boxes filled with slides of my mother’s childhood, that my grandfather had taken on his own Minolta camera.

On the way to Milford Sound Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Queenstown Lookout (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Piha surfers (Kodak Portra 160) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Moke Lake (Kodak Gold 200) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

On my last trip back to Tāhuna (Queenstown, New Zealand), I borrowed a 500mm reflex mirror lens from my cousin who is a photographer living in town there. The images I produced with that lens are possibly my favourite images I have ever produced. They evoke, for me, the velvety mountainside covers of old National Geographic Magazines. I used a mixture of Ektar 100, Provia 100, Portra 200, Velvia 100, and Fujifilm 200.

Queenstown Lookout (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Queenstown Roads (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Crown Ranges (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Crown Range snow patterns (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Golden light in Queenstown (Kodak Ektar) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Left: Home Bound (Kodak Portra 400) Right: Queenstown Roads (Fujifilm 200) ~ by Isabel Sylvie
Aerial view home inbound (Kodak Portra 400) ~ by Isabel Sylvie

About Isabel Sylvie

Isabel is a film photographer from Melbourne, Australia. She was born in Costa Rica, spent her childhood in New Zealand, and currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. She returns home to New Zealand annually to reconnect with her home there, and takes as much film as she can afford (preferably Velvia, Ektar, Portra and Provia).

Isabel most commonly photographs on a Minolta Alpha Sweet II body, with a sigma 28-105mm lens.  

Aside from shooting film, Isabel currently works in academic libraries, and is completing a postgraduate qualification in Psychology, with a specific fascination regarding neuropsychology & neuroplasticity. When not studying she is chasing where to get the most incredible pasta and negroni’s.

Follow Isabel via the following links;

Website: www.isabelsylvie.com

Instagram: @pingwillow__