Award-winning Ranfurly photographer Janyne Fletcher, who was initially armed with her mother’s Instamatic camera, has been photographing “stuff” since she was a teenager.
“My photos were the kind that mom and dad didn’t really put in the family album because they were kind of weird. I didn’t really take photos of people, ”she recalls.
A hobby quickly turned into a professional photography career in the mid-2000s.
Based in Cromwell at the time, she mainly did weddings, portraits and commercial photography with a sideline in landscape photography.
But landscape photography has been the focus for the past five years as she works in a gallery and workshop on Ranfurly’s main street.
Her company, Janyne Fletcher Photography, was recognized in the Creative Arts category at this year’s NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards. The announcement of the overall highest award winner will take place this year.
In 2010, Ms. Fletcher met her future partner, who was from Ranfurly, and he guided her through the Maniototo.
It was an area she’d always loved to photograph, but it showed her “all the stuff nobody else knows about”.
The trigger for taking photography more seriously was when she tore her Achilles tendon while playing tennis – “pretending to be Roger Federer,” she joked – and couldn’t do commercial photography or weddings.
After buying some picture framing equipment, Ms. Fletcher set up shop in a pavilion at the Cromwell Festive Fete and sold framed photos with sales exceeding expectations.
Five years ago she opened a gallery and workshop across from the Ranfurly Hotel. She had kept an eye on the shop for a while as it had been empty for several years.
She admitted it was a big decision, but eventually found the courage to rent the building. A year later, she confidently bought it.
Since it opened, it had gradually gained a growing following.
“I really want to have an atmosphere in which the people feel comfortable there [the gallery] but still have work that is at the top of the quality spectrum, “she said.
The Otago Central Rail Trail is “absolutely brilliant” for their business.
The trail riders were “well qualified buyers” who were enthusiastic about the region and usually had an disposable income.
April was her biggest month yet, which she attributed to the trail.
“If I had it on a wall, people would buy it. It’s been a really big season for the Rail Trail,” she said.
The Central Otago Touring Route between Dunedin and Queenstown had also had a positive effect.
Ms. Fletcher still found time for hands-on photography and set out to capture the best light in the morning and evening.
“It’s just a really nice thing to go out and get your head together and look around,” she said.
She acknowledged that what she wanted to photograph “usually isn’t what everyone else is looking for”.
“I’m looking for a really unique perspective in this area.”
What she especially loved now was having complete control over what she did, from taking the photo, editing it, printing it, framing it, and then “showing it to the world”. Buyers loved that connection too, she said.
In 2012 Ranfurly woman Rose Voice from The Real Dog Equipment Company won the RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Award.
Ms. Voice had given her some tips when she got into the business, and she had in mind that one day she would like to work towards the awards herself.
“This year was the year and I gave it my all,” she said.
She was both surprised and honored to be named a Category Winner, and said she thought it might take “a couple of passes” to get a feel for what the judges were looking for.
She was also delighted with the recognition for Ranfurly, saying the city had a lot to offer. There was a fabulous community and a lot of good happened.
“I think we really need to nurture and protect that community spirit,” she said.
When asked about her future plans, Ms. Fletcher said she did not want to build an empire.
“I’m not going to open a branch in Alexandra. I’m such a regional photographer, I don’t really want to take photos anywhere else.”
However, she was interested in gaining more national and potentially international notoriety for her work.
In 2019 she was named Landscape Photographer of the Year by the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers and AIPP Overseas Photographer of the Year in Australia.
Other category winners included Tammy Taylor (Lumsden) and Fork and Spade in the emerging business category, and Harriet Bremner (Te Anau) from Gurt and Pops, named rural champion.