Mastering many artistic talents

20 Sep 2022

Photographic artist, published author, and poet Tony Bridge (7931) (Te Rarawa, Te Rapuwai, Waitaha) has always remembered something one of his teachers told him in his first year at Christ’s College in 1967.

“’No matter what happens, you will make something of your life.’ It was like a command and I’ve never forgotten it.”

Today, Tony, 68, is among a select group of 250 of the greatest international photographers of the last 30 years whose work is featured in a book by Australian Peter Adams called A Few of the Legends.

“It’s important to have belief that you are going to do something with your life. I’ve never forgotten what that Master said to me.”

Now living in Te Anau, Tony describes himself as a landscape photographer “but more painterly”.

“I would probably call myself a symbolist expressionist. I take my work a long way past merely pointing a camera at the landscape. My works are really digital paintings. It’s a technique I’ve developed over the years.”

There’s a pause as Tony thinks about what makes him a good photographer.

“There are people who are very good at what they do. But I think a great photographer is someone who sees what they are doing as serving a greater purpose beyond self-aggrandisement. A great photographer sees beyond the everyday, they’re an artist. Most of the significant artists I know are continually reflecting on what informs their work. For me, it is my Māori and Waitaha heritage and my relationship to Te Taiao (the natural world).

“To become a great photographer rather than a competent one, you need to be able to journey within yourself. You’re actually not photographing just what’s before you; you’re photographing a conversation between you and the subject. Your eyes are giving you all the data but you need to learn to photograph with the eyes of your heart.”

After leaving Christ’s College, Tony studied at the University of Canterbury and then went to Teachers College in Christchurch. He worked at Papanui High School for 30 years, initially teaching English, French and German before making the somewhat unusual change to Art, Photography and IT.

When contemplating his future after three decades of teaching, Tony recalled the advice he was given all those years earlier at school. His photographic life journey was born.

As well as his own work, Tony teaches online in New Zealand and overseas.

You can view his work and ethos at