Life Through a Lens photo 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. 

Online gallery of the photos from the Life Through a Lens Photography competition.


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.