After leaving Oamaru and living out of a backpack for 16 years, Anna Bluett has settled in Melbourne and now works as a photographer and blogger. She was back in Oamaru last week to visit her parents and photograph some of her old schoolmates. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson finds out more about the expat Oamaruvian.
She left Oamaru 24 years ago, but Anna Bluett still tells people the North Otago town is home for her.
“I always feel so lucky and blessed this is my hometown,” Mrs Bluett said.
“Every time I come here it feels like Legoland; we have such beautiful places everywhere I look.
“You have Kakanui 10 minutes down the road, and could be swimming in a river in another 10 minutes’ drive.”
Mrs Bluett grew up in Oamaru but spent time living in Australia in her early teens.
Shortly after returning to Oamaru, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, at age 15.
As a teenager, it was a difficult journey for her – but she found strength in adversity and now has a greater appreciation of life.
“It looked a bit funny and it was hard, especially for my mum, but I wouldn’t change it now,” she said.
“It cemented my relationship with my mum, and it made me appreciate how short life is.”
She moved to Dunedin when she was 18 but, after seeing a job advertisement in the newspaper for a nanny in Detroit, jumped on a plane to the United States.
She spent a year in Detroit but it did not quite quench her thirst for adventure. So she bought a one-way ticket to Egypt, and continued to travel for the next 16 years, meeting her husband, Sean, along the way.
“We met in a shared house in London. He was on the bottom bunk and I was on the top,” she said.
Nine years ago, the couple moved to Melbourne and the Australian city sparked Mrs Bluett’s interest in photography.
“I don’t have any training – it is just thanks to YouTube videos and a lot of hard work,” she said.
“When I was starting out I just bought a camera and started photographing my girlfriends.
“I got a part job in Melbourne Hospital photographing newborn babies, as well as some weddings, and it grew from there.
“Sometimes I actually cry because I think I have the coolest job in the world.”
Mrs Bluett described her style of photography as “natural, bohemian and organic”.
Her shyness and aversion to having her photo taken had given her an advantage, knowing how to make subjects feel comfortable, she said.
Her business – Pixie Rouge Photography – has become her full-time job now, which, along with her daughter Frankie (3), keeps her busy.
Mr and Mrs Bluett are self-confessed hippies who built their own home in Melbourne, and most of the interior is recycled.
“We like re-using things and furnished the house by hunting around for bargains on the streets and in op-shops,” she said.
“I’d say we furnished the whole house for under $2500.”
Alongside her photography business, Mrs Bluett also writes a blog – She Hunts Op Shops – inspired by her home decorating.
“I was on a mission to furnish our home as affordably as I could, so I spent every second in op-shops,” she said.
“I would often travel to all sides of Melbourne to photograph families and babies in their homes and while I was there I would make an effort to check out op-shops in the area, and since I had my camera with me, I would photograph these op-shops and post about them here on She Hunts Op Shops – that is how this little community was born.”
And it had turned into something much bigger than she ever imagined.
“I love sharing stories on my sustainable ventures around our home,” she said.
“I make a lot of my own potions, medicines, skin care and deodorants and I share lots of the recipes here.”
It had also led to opportunities working for magazines and, at present, she is designing a website for the blog.
Between her photography and op-shop ventures, she has about 10,000 social media followers.
While Melbourne is home for her family now, Oamaru still remains close to Mrs Bluett’s heart.
“I still get nostalgic coming here. It’s still my hometown through and through.”