Commercial photographer Vinesh Kumaran was born in the small rural town of Ba, Fiji, but at the age of five his family relocated to Māngere, Auckland. Following this move to New Zealand, Vinesh spent much of his time growing up working in the family owned and operated dairy with his dad and siblings. “We spent endless hours behind the shop counter. This meant at times we would miss out on family gatherings and social events,” he says. “Working at the dairy has given me first-hand experience of the real cost of running a small business.”
Having been immersed in the Māngere community for so long, Vinesh decided his first solo photography exhibition would celebrate the town’s diversity and uniqueness. In his series How Much Does This Cost? he mixes photographs and video to showcase what small business owners bring to Māngere. “It shows the stories and personalities of each business owner and highlights what Māngere Town Centre is today. It’s a chance to celebrate the contribution a small business owner gives for the benefit of the wider community.”
The project took a year to complete and during that time Vinesh said he had to work consistently to build relationships and trust with the people he photographed. Building this rapport with his subjects helped him gain access to more people and locations for the series. “It became easier to get more business owners on board with the project once one agreed to be a part of it,” he explains.
Vinesh shot How Much Does This Cost? with his Sony α7R II, and because this was a portrait series he took full advantage of the Eye AF function (i.e. where the camera automatically focuses on the subject’s eye). “With my previous camera I would always have to check my focus, especially when shooting with a wide-open aperture. With the Sony I could concentrate a lot more on interacting with the person in front of the lens without worrying if the frame was sharp or not.”
With the goal in mind of bringing the people of the Māngere community together, it was important to Vinesh to showcase the series in a gallery — and a gallery in Māngere was ideal. He’s exhibiting the series at Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohi o Uenuku from April 13 until June 15. A highlight for Vinesh was seeing a few of the shop owners at the opening of the exhibition. “I could see on their faces a huge sense of pride, recognition and achievement from being a part of the community. I am very thankful for the people that gave me their time and shared their stories.”