It was a real honour to photograph artist James Ormsby with his mesmerising drawing of his ancestor King Tawhaio, completed in just two days in 2008. The graphite drawing, measuring an impressive 2x4m, now hangs in a stairwell at the Woolstore in Thorndon Quay. King Tawhaio (c. 1825-94) was the second Maori King, and James has a direct whakapapa connection to the great rangitira through his grandmother.
King Tawhaio was regarded as a visionary who bequeathed wisdom in the form of prescient and ideological sayings, which continue to be followed by his iwi today. James himself comes across as a wise, gentle and thoughtful man. At the unveiling of the portrait in the Woolstore he said: “Don’t believe everything you think, and don’t think everything you believe.” My kids were obviously as taken with this as I was, because I discovered it written on 11-year-old Eva’s hand the next day!