Life through a Lens gallery

View the beautiful images submitted as part of our Life through a Lens photo competition.

Our overall winner 

Life in a bubble photograph

'Life in a Bubble' by Nicki

Holly had a broken leg that was taking a long time to heal. Holly has Down Syndrome and we were attending the annual Down Syndrome buddy walk. Holly in a wheel chair found great joy in the bubbles.

Support networks

'Timothy and his father' by Hadleigh

Timothy and his father photo

The Hearth Trust is a small new residential community focused on providing enriching lifestyles for individuals with disabilities. On the winter solstice, the whole community gathered together for a Matariki Midwinter festival, with lanterns and fireside songs. On the left in this photograph is Timothy, a 33-year old man with autism, who was the very first resident of the Trust. Beside him is his father, Noel, one of the founders and trustees.

Sports and hobbies

'Calming Spa' by Shania

Calming spa photo

This is a photo from one of mine and Sarah’s weekly spas at the local aquatic center. The water always helps to calm Sarah. As she is non verbal, it is a good indication of her mood by the amount of eye contact she is making. I think that’s why I love this photo so much, seeing Sarah light up and being more interactive with her surroundings. 

Leisure and Travel

'Sensory Beauty' by Nastassja

My son, Axel-Constantine, went to the Botanic Gardens. For the first time, he entered into the fern garden. He has ASD and being in this environment would sometimes overwhelm him. As I let him explore the bits of gravel on the stairs I managed to capture this moment of him. For the first time, he managed really well.


'Kapa Haka at School' by Harper

Powhiri at school for our new principal. Love my culture.

Growing Up

'House Proud' by Ruth

We have two young men with autism. Our youngest has exceeded our best expectations and last weekend moved into his own chalet in the More Independent Living Project with Hohepa Hawkes Bay. He is so proud and so are we!

Your Daily Life

'Darkness' by Ian

The pressure is like the darkness of night around me.

Assistive Technology

'Technology to the Rescue' by Raewyn

Wheelchair being placed in a car using automated system

Anne-Marie recently converted to this assisted technology when lifting her wheelchair in and out of her vehicle was no longer a viable option for her after years of lifting a heavy wheelchair had taken its toll. It was time to upgrade to this more ergonomic method of transfering it in and out of her vehicle.

Our other entries

Jump to

Assistive Technology

'Having a chat' by Julie

This is my son and his support worker having a chat about what they can see out the window using his high-tech PODD device.

Photo of Andrew talking on his phone

'Andrew on the phone' by Hadleigh

Apps like Whatsapp are revolutionising the way that Andrew is connecting with his community. Here, he is having a video-chat with his friends at a day centre in Lower Hutt, filling them in on what he’s doing at home on his day off.

Augmentative communication device

'Augmentative and alternative communication - political advocacy' by Gabrielle

This photo is of my AAC speech device with a pre written oral presentation that I presented to the Education and Science select committee around the education amendment bill, when the National lead government was in place, prior to the current government we have. It’s taken on my desk in student accomodation. This is to show the people even if you are an unreliable, limited or non speaking individual, you can still participate in society at all levels including presenting at select committees and campaigning for rights in whatever topic it may be.


Dark blue sky at night with white car in foreground

'Blue' by Ian

People singing in a group outside a shop

'Busking with attitude' by Fiona

This group of young people (all with disabilities) were photographed while out on the streets of Wellington, raising the profile and fundraising for their organisation, StarJam Charitable Trust. StarJam is about empowering young people with disabilities through music and performance, which (I believe) is captured perfectly in this image. We also aim to influence our audiences, showing them just what people with disabilities can achieve.

Man catching a fish

'Catch of the day' by Henning

It was a nice day and windy. Just off the Harbour bridge. The boat was a open boat and a smooth ride. We got to take our fish home for dinner. YUM

People holding Matariki lanterns

'Community Matariki Celebration' by Hadleigh

The Hearth Trust is a small new residential community focused on providing enriching lifestyles for individuals with disabilities. The Trust owns a five-acre lifestyle block, where individuals with disabilities live in a large, supportive community. The whole community is gathered together here for a Matariki Midwinter festival, with lanterns and fireside songs.

Girl playing on an accessible swing

'Disability won't stop me having fun' by Lisa

First time on a wheelchair swing at her therapy school, swings are her favourite.

Friends at a restaurant

'Flatmate's birthday' by Henning

We went to Denny’s to have dinner and we had a photo taken of all of us. It was a fun evening and I would like to do it again.

Children on a merry go round at the playground

'Merry go round' by Julie

This is my son’s first time playing on a Merry-Go-Round with other children at the playground at Takapuna Beach.

Children singing into a microphone

'Out in the community in Christchurch' by Roger

I was recording a soccer team for special needs as part of community work.  I have a disability and broadcast a Community Show on disability called Listen! Our Voices Count.

Little girl meeting Santa

'Santa' by Lisa

My daughter's therapy school had a Christmas party for special needs children.

Two young boys riding on a steam train

'Sponsored Steam Train Ride' by Jo

Our local special school was gifted free tickets for a steam train ride. The steam train was the talk of the town and created a lot of buzz. Here is my son Harvey (right) and his best friend from School Neo, enjoying the trip. They even had a sausage sizzle and treats at the end of it.

Photo of rain drops on a washing line

'The rhythm of the rain' by Ian

Growing up

Birthday girl receiving her cake

'5th birthday' by Lisa

First proper party for my daughter as she doesnt really understand them so every other year I've done cake (I make them) and family dinner. This year been a milestone birthday and inviting her friends from the special needs education unit she attends I decided we'd go all out and do a big party - 30 kids in total.


Young boy sitting surrounded by ducks

'Duck Boy' by Julie

My son has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome with Sensory Processing Disorder. I took this on a trip to a friend’s farm in Kerikeri when we visited their 90 ducks! We were so proud of our son who handled the noise and clambering ducks beautifully! He has really come a long way in what he can handle.

Young man in his new home

'Home sweet home' by Ruth

We have two young men with Autism. Our youngest has exceeded our best expectations and last weekend moved into his own chalet in the More Independent Living project with Hohepa Hawkes Bay. He is so proud and so are we!

Young girl holding a newborn baby

'New Beginnings' by Harper

Family is everything and meeting my nephew was a very special moment and a very happy day x

Grandmother with her grandson in a wheelchair

'Precious Grandson' by Rose

This photo is of my grandson and I at Grandparents' day recently. Korbyn has severe cerebral palsy. The school is amazing, as is his carer there.

Leisure and Travel

Boy sitting on the banks of a river

'Cooling off in the Rawene' by Julie

This was taken on our trip to visit the kids’ Grandad in Rawene, 2017. My son (in the photo) has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome and is still learning to walk. He loves water.

Boy feeding alpacas

'Feeding Alpacas' by Jo

We met a lovely couple at a local market many years ago and they invited us to visit their Alpaca farm. They have opened their home and heart to Harvey, his friends (some with additional needs) and family. A day trip to see them and their Alpacas is fun and full of adventure. We combine it with a trip to the beach and picnic. Creating beautiful memories with friends and enjoying getting out of town.

Man enjoying a music concert

'Tim at a concert' by Hadleigh

One of the tangata whaiora I support, Timothy, just loves music. Here he is at an outdoor concert in the summer!

Young boy and his dad riding a train

'Train Ride' by Julie

This is my son and his daddy on my son’s first train ride. He loved the feeling of the train moving.

Sports and Hobbies

Woman in a wheelchair lifting weights

'110% effort' by Raewyn

110% effort, this is what Anne-Marie puts into her life ever since her accident many years ago Anne has given life 110%, never sat back on her laurels and not made any effort. Before the disability Anne-Marie was a sporty active person and she has not let the accident change that, only change the way she addressed it.

Woman lifting weights in a wheelchair

'Another perspective' by Raewyn

Another perspective is the title and it really means looking through the eyes of someone that does not have all the abilities that an able bodied person has... however in this instance the disabled person still makes the same effort.

Wheelchair basket ball game

'Ballers' by Catriona

While basketballs are often beyond our reach, wheels make it easier.

Girl doing ribbon gymnastics

'Blue and yellow ribbons' by Catriona

Gymnastics is about balance and rhythm, grace and patience.

Group of young boys sat on a wall

'Boys on the side' by Catriona

Waterslides are fabulous especially with new friends.

Young man playing piano

'Corey and the piano' by Hadleigh

One of Corey’s favourite hobbies is to play piano - here he is banging out a tune!

Little girl on a bike

'Cycling all day' by Catriona

Trying out the new Waikanae Expressway cycle trail.

Lady dancing in a street show

'Dance' by Trish

I do dance, this is a photo of me dancing.

Girl dancing

'Dance Life' by Pip and Lucy

This is Lucy she has a rare chromosome disorder 13q- there isn't anyone with the same deletion as her that we know of, although there are a handful of people with a deletion in chromosome 13q. Lucy is profoundly deaf and had severe developmental delay. Lucy dances 5 days a week at Dean McKerras. This year we made her a squad of her own and this photo shows her mid dance.

Girl in dancing uniform smiling

'Dancing Star' by Pip and Lucy

This is Lucy. Lucy is profoundly deaf and intellectually challenged. We have made a dance crew for Lucy so she can enter competitions and participate like everyone else. Lucy loves to be on stage and make people happy. She has just started helping at the dance school by sorting show uniforms one day a week. She also loves to ride horses and is working with a professional coach. Lucy is 19.

Woman in a wheelchair lifting weights

'Determination' by Raewyn

Ive known Anne-Marie for many years, introduced through a mutual friend and I admire her determination and passion that she puts into life considering the disability she has and the obstacles that she faces in her day to day life because of this. Going to the Gym more than once a week puts the likes of myself to shame for a start, let alone holding down a job.... I thought through the lens I could show this in Anne-Marie.

Young boy in a wheelchair completing a race

'End in sight' by Catriona

The Weet-bix tri is a supportive and inclusive event which celebrates participation.

Young girl with a prosthetic leg running on a field

'Grass is greener' by Catriona

A new prothestic allowed our guest to enjoy new sports.

Young boy doing gymnastics

'Gymnastics fun' by Jo

My son’s significant disability means he can’t physically partake in most sports like other 11 year olds. It does mean we adapt and figure out ways to get active with his peers regardless of the challenges his body gives him. He is here enjoying his weekly gymnastics session which has been adapted to allow for many different abilities. On this particular day he had two of his friends join in for fun (his friends were not disabled).

Young girl enjoying a hydrotherapy session

'Hydrotherapy' by Lisa

My daughter who cannot stand walk or talk attends hydrotherapy once and week and the thumbs up shows what she thinks of it.

Girl laughing during an exercise session

'Life's for laughing' by Lauren

I am Lauren, the personal trainer at EPIC FIT, for Harper Heta the little girl in the photo. Although she is small and only 9 years old she has the tenacity, determination and perseverance of an adult.

Being paraplegic, she has lost the use of her legs due to SCI and is in a wheelchair. She reminds me every session that she is only ‘temporarily’ without the use of her legs as she will be walking again soon. No matter how bad we think life is, Harper proves you wrong every time! This photo epitomizes the fun we have while training. I try make the sessions as life like as possible and she finishes all workout with a smile and usually a sing & dance of some sorts.

Girl riding a horse smiling

'Lucy riding Maani' by Pip and Lucy

Lucy is profoundly deaf and intellectually challenged, she has a rare chromosome disorder she is the only one like her. No one knew what Lucy would be able to do as she was growing up, she has very limited language. We let Lucy try out what ever she likes and try not to let her challenges get in the way, but we find that everywhere we go others put blocks in the way of her participation.

Lady in a solo sailboat

'Ready to sail solo' by Natalie

This is a photo of me sailing solo with Sailability Wellington.

Group of children pulling funny faces

'Say cheeeese' by Catriona

Some of our Youth Group members ran away to the circus. When they were asked to come home their response was ....

Young boy riding a horse

'Sitting tall' by Julie

This was my son’s first time on a horse. He was very happy to be taller than he’d ever been before and for weeks afterwords would say, “Neigh, tall!” to anyone who would listen.

Boy in wheelchair being pushed on an icerink

'Skating on ice' by Catriona

Ice skating was such a liberating experience for our guest who was quicker and faster than all others.

Young boy doing archery

'Straight shooting' by Catriona

Our Youth Group end of year camp allows our younger members to try new sports including archery.

Young girl in swimming gear by the pool

'Swimming' by Harper

I’m happiest when I’m busy and swimming helps me feel completely normal and free where I can stretch out and let my body just be.

 Two friends about to start a race

'Taking on the Mount and the weather' by Belinda

Karleigh and Ivan participating for team Achilles in the 5 km walk around Mount Maunganui on Queen's Birthday weekend as part of the Mount runners and walkers half marathon. The weather was hosing down with rain but they finished with a personal best time.

Wheelchair basketball team discussing tactics

'Talking tactics' by Catriona

Wheelchair basketball is fast and furious, so team tactics are essential.

Wheelchair basket ball team

'The Blues' by Catriona

The Auckland Wheelchair Basketball team huddle.

Young boy having a skiing lesson

'Tip Tricks' by Catriona

Learning to ski for anyone is a challenge, but having great instructors and a fabulous skifield really makes it easier.

Young girl about to do a swimming race

'Weet-bix Tri' by Catriona

Ready for the start whistle.

Support Networks

Two hands holding

'Generational resilience' by Gayleen

My father, in his 80s, widowed, and insisting on not moving to a Rest Home but remaining in his home despite various disabling conditions. Myself, a single woman in my late 50s, experiencing mental health challenges, and finding it very difficult to find secure rental housing. This photo reflects how we bonded closer than we had in years; following my moving in with him. We became a mutual support team of two; with each able to live without the fear of losing familiar, secure, housing, and sharing financial and emotional support.

Young girl laughing and playing with bubbles

'Water play fun' by Lisa

My daughter attends a special needs therapy school and does a lot of therapy work. They also have fun play. This is her in a special walker frame while having water play fun.

Your Daily Life

Man holding tray of cakes he has baked

'Andrew baking' by Hadleigh

Andrew lives at the Hearth Trust, a small new residential community focused on providing enriching lifestyles for individuals with disabilities. Andrew has just been doing one of his favourite activities - baking - and has turned out a perfect set of chocolate chip muffins. Next up will be another favourite activity - eating!

Man laying on a sofa laughing

'Andrew on the couch' by Hadleigh

Andrew loves to wear fabulous garments, the more purple, the better! Here he is wearing an exotic sarong, roaring with laughter, posing like a greek God on the couch.

Young boy enjoying a bath

'Bath time' by Julie

This is my son with Cri-du-Chat Syndrome having a bath, which is always a source of great joy for him.

A montage of clear and blurred images

'Changes - my eyes grow dimmer' by Lynette

The story of the photo - on behalf of someone with glaucoma who gave me verbal description of the disease. This photo depicts the diminishing sight over the years as seen from the same point.

Young girl holding her younger sibling on her lap

'Cherish my siblings' by Harper

We are a family of 8 and I love my siblings. Nash is the youngest of us all x

Lady in a car smiling at the camera

'Chronic pain and depression crippling me' by Sheridan

You would never guess would you that 24 hours a day every day I have chronic pain from a spine injury. I have depression. I sometimes have thoughts of suicide. This New Zealanders is what disability looks like. Who knew?

Young man holding pack of cards

'Corey with cards' by Hadleigh

One of the most important ways Corey keeps relaxed and grounded is to always have his trusty pack of cards close at hand - here he is displaying them proudly.

Young girl in a wheelchair dressed up as a fairy

'Dress ups' by Lisa

My daughter attending her friends (friend also with a disability) birthday party, even though she cannot stand walk or talk, nothing will stop us attending things and dressing up.

Young boy lying on his bed giving a thumbs up

'Happy at home' by Jo

We moved into our new home 6 years ago and there is so much to love about it. We feel safe, happy and embraced by our community.

Image not clear if it is a step or a ramp

'Is it a step or a ramp?' by Lynette

This photo shows the difficulty experienced by many people with low vision when steps are not clearly defined.

Young child in a frame learning to walk

'Learning to walk' by Lisa

Although my daughter cannot stand at all, her special equipment helps keep her up to learn stepping.

Cats lying on their owners lap

'Legs Up' by Nita

I need to spend most of my time lying flat in my chair... I always have support though via my two fur babies O.P. and Missy Moo.

Step ladder with lightbulb box on top

'Lightbulb' by Kim

This is about not being able to change a simple light bulb because I can’t get up a ladder due to severe arthritis. It’s a simple job,but not for so many?

Looking through a window at the rain

'Melting' by Ian

I took this picture when it rained. The rain seems to be melting the city.

Montage of lots of eyes

'PhotoBombing' by Jade

I found several pics taken on my phone of my sons eyeball. He is 11 years old and is Autistic. Often I have to delete hundreds of pics daily (just like this collage) as he will flood my phone and use up storage.

Sunrise over water

'The sun will rise, breathe' by Sheridan

Living with a disability for the rest of my life makes me realise every day the sun will rise and so I breathe, I have to keep breathing.

About the Life Through a Lens photography competition

Firstport is all about helping people with disabilities explore their options, discover support networks and live more independent lives. We launched the Life Through a Lens photography competition so people could share their unique perspective on life with a disability.

We were blown away by the quality of the photos we received – more than 180 of them. They showed the incredible courage, bravery and determination of people living with a disability.

Photos were submitted to one of seven categories:

  • Your daily life
  • Leisure and travel
  • Growing up
  • Community
  • Sport and hobbies
  • Assistive technology
  • Support networks

As well as the images themselves, entrants also submitted a short story to accompany the photos, giving us a further glimpse into the lives of the people behind the images. 

Meet our judges

Andy Lowe: Chief Executive of Te Manawa, Palmerston North

Andy Lowe

With a passion for history, art and community, Andy has spent the past 24 years working in museums across New Zealand. Born in Wellington, he started work at Te Papa in Wellington in 1994, rising from a casual model maker to managing, developing and installing major exhibitions such as Body Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings - The Exhibition and Whales - Tohora. After 14 years there he went to Waikato Museum in Hamilton to become the Exhibitions Manager, including a six-month stint as Acting Director for the Museum.

Since joining Te Manawa in Palmerston North as CEO six years ago, Andy has worked toward developing the Museum under the concept of a ‘Museum Without Boundaries’, ensuring the museum is accessible to all in a relevant, contemporary and socially active way. He’s passionate about museums as engaging, lively, purposeful spaces where communities can come together.

A core part of this concept, Andy believes, is making sure the Museum is representative of people with disabilities and encouraging them to become active members of the arts community. One way Te Manawa does this is through the Notes of Art (NOA) Open Studio art programme, which is co-created by people with disabilities.

An artist himself, Andy is a sculptor who works with steel. He has studied the arts, automotive engineering, Te Reo Māori and writing. He has two boys – Tahu, 9, and Niwa, 10 – with his partner, Aroha (Ngāti Ruānui).


Neil Wallace: Artist, animator, and member of the disabled community

Neil WallaceAs an artist, animator and manager of a regional arts organisation, Neil has served the Manawatu arts community for seven years. Currently an independent animator working on a range of projects, both commercial and personal, Neil formerly managed Passionart NZ, an organisation supporting the Manawatu arts community with projects, programmes and events. He holds a Diploma in Art and Creativity.

As well as being an active member of the local arts scene, Neil is also part of the disabled community himself. He was born in 1979 with what – he’s been told – was the worst case of clubbed feet ever seen in New Zealand. After many surgeries on his feet Neil was eventually able to walk, and he continued to do so until three years ago when, at the age of 36, his feet finally gave in. Unable to walk on them anymore, he was given a difficult choice: if he ever wanted to walk again, he’d have to have his feet amputated. 

Deciding this was the best option, he went ahead with the procedure and he’s now wheelchair bound most of the time as he learns to walk with prosthetics. His goal is to walk the Heaphy Track in the South Island with his wife and two boys within the next few years.


Rachel Hoskin: Manager of Te Pae Tata – the Ruapehu Community Learning and Tech Hub

Rachel HoskinWith a background in graphic design and advertising, Rachel pursued an education path which led to her teaching at UCOL for over 12 years, eventually becoming Head of School of Creative Industries. She left that role in 2017 when she moved on to her new community role. She was happy to be involved in this project because she knows the importance of creativity in people’s lives. In judging the photos, Rachel focused on how the photos communicated their theme.