Interview: US PLACES’ Chloe Manickum on knowing her worth

Culture, Events, Interview

I love the whole different beauty and natural beauty – I’m not really keen to shoot people with Instagram eyebrows. I have nothing against it but that’s what I want to promote, what I find appealing and want to see more of.” Chloe Manickum is the owner and creator of Us Places a monthly club night held at Cassette Nine in Auckland Central. She’s also a photographer and creative director by day. We talk about how knowing your own self worth in the creative industry is a liberating feat, and once it is attained, a person becomes unstoppable.

CHLOE: I look at what they’re up to in the community and what they’re  bringing to the table, bringing to the world. I’m trying to get through this life thing while making as much positive impact now. Not just doing things to be cool or for money anymore – it’s so much bigger than that.

Photography is  – I didn’t even know I was good at it, I was just taking photos and then I was editing it and people were like ‘Oh that’s really cool‘ then one day I thought, I’m just going to try this thing out and my friends got on board and it just started snowballing.

It was super cool and now even my friends that have known me for a while know me as Chloe the photographer and I find that so cool like, ‘ Okay, that’s part of my identifier.'”

So that’s what I’m up to and just trying to build on it trying to create beautiful images of people just in the moment, in their element showcasing them and also trying to see myself through them. When people are like ‘Oh my god, I love the photos’ or ‘I didn’t know that was me’ I’m like, ‘Okay, my mission is complete’ you know, ‘I did it’. People acknowledging that now is so, so cool.

SERUM: Sort of like a signature?

CHLOE: Yeah, like my little impact on the world. It’s pretty cool to show life through my eyes especially because I’m not  a typical girl or haven’t been through like normality, so to show that disorder and craziness and uniqueness and sometimes what everyone is not doing that’s cool too. It’s so hard to be that person today to just stand in yourself and be like I’m cool, I’m loving I’m kind, I’m caring, I’m smart, I’m intelligent, I’m creative, I’m artsy I’m…whatever you know but to truly believe it, it’s pretty hard for people these days.

SERUM: Do you think, that’s potentially improving though in Auckland?

CHLOE: Absolutely, well I know for me and who I’m around everyone’s owning their stuff and there’s definitely a shift and I can see the fake aren’t lit anymore – genuine, authenticity that’s all a seller. You don’t really need to sell that you know it sells itself and it’s so easy to spot. The energy is just so infectious for someone who loves themselves and is doing it for the right reasons. You can just feel people with agendas so easily now and I feel like they’re just getting left behind and it’s everywhere it’s like in all the cliques or groups or whatever and I think that’s really awesome because it’s like yeah, we’re not tolerating it anymore.

SERUM: You would have had to wade a bit of that starting out right?

CHLOE: Little things when you starting out you now like not even giving me photo cred type thing like come on I didn’t charge you or anything for it like you need the content – it’s that common decency thing.

SERUM: How would you say those experiences shaped you as a creative and how would you describe where you at now?

CHLOE: It definitely taught me business is business  even when you’re with your friends business is business and people who respect that are people that I wanna work with. Even little things like cancelling on you, it’s like some of us are really out here putting our time and effort into it and the shoot is not just the time that we shoot it’s also preparing everything for it, getting everyone together  – all those sort of things and when you realise how much goes into it just for that one shot – I think it’s a whole new appreciation of it.

To have people that are like-minded and appreciate punctuality, also being open-minded and able to collaborate with other people, being a team – those are all so important to make beautiful images or content or share  stuff.

I learned how to filter through the clout chasers, it took a lot to be like actually I’m not going to charge you for my time I’m going to charge you for my worth because I know what it is and I know what I’m bringing to the table.

I feel like once I was like that in myself, I attracted a lot of people who appreciated that. I definitely believe if I’m not up to a shoot or something I just know the pictures aren’t going to be good and if I’m not into the person or something I think why even do it? I’d rather just focus on people who share a common goal or mindset.  

SERUM: With everything that’s happening now within Auckland’s creative community Us Places is definitely a strong presence for people to see positive change being implemented. What’s the Us Places’ mission?

CHLOE: I was given an opportunity with Cassette Nine to host DJ nights once a month so I was like let’s find the cool bedroom DJ’s and the kids who have the drive and ambition and the talent and let’s give them the platform lets show that’s it’s not just a select few that can represent New Zealand, they’re everywhere – on the streets so fashion forward and smart and creative and crazy and its mind-blowing. It’s like I wanna be associated with you, you know, you got that drive it’s fresh it’s new and when they come and perform they’re like ‘Oh my god this is my first show’ and there’s a packed-out crowd for them and people are bopping even though they don’t know their music; it’s just so fulfilling to see them in their element.

 I’m feel like this is why I did this and also to collab with them and get to know them. I want to be a part of the community and I love that I can give this opportunity to people. Whoever does want to [perform] please let me know, I have this and it’s not just for my group or my friends it’s for everybody – it’s not just a hip hop thing if you love what you do and you’re actually doing it , yeah hit me up let’s make it happen.

Check out the next US PLACES gig:

Photographer: Kate Jenkins for International Women’s Day

Culture, Feature, Threads

S E R U M  blog is about women everyday but what better way to celebrate the official day than to feature a bad one. International Women’s Day is a public holiday in some countries – Cuba, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Zambia and Kazakhstan to name a few. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood. Kate Jenkins, content creator at Red Rat in South Auckland is our woman this year. I asked her about being young, female and in charge in 2019, here’s what she had to say:

What do you do?

Photographer. Stylist. Hair & Makeup.

Where do you work?

Red Rat Clothing but I still do freelance jobs on the side.

What do you love about your job?

EVERYTHING. Everyday is different, working with people and being able to inspire are the biggest perks though.

How do you feel about equality, would you say you’re a feminist?

I 100% believe in equality and I’d like to say I identify as one but I actually hate the word as I believe it leads uneducated people to believe it means females first – I prefer the term equalist.

What makes you feel empowered?

Being able to dress how I want, act how I want and work where I want.

What is your view on the word ‘bitch’?

I believe it depends entirely on context and how sensitive a person is, I like to think I’m quite open minded and that it isn’t always used in a negative manner so it hasn’t been intended to offend. But everybody is different and reacts differently so in my opinion people need to keep that in mind when communicating.

What’s your fav album right now?

I basically only listen to seshollowaterboyz, Lil Peep, wicca phase springs eternal and Blink182 nowadays. (I’m an emo kid that never truely grew up) Hahahaha. But this week I’ve been listening to the Bones x Ross Dylan album a lot again, its called SongsThatRemindYouOfHome (Bones really doesn’t seem to like space bars).

Follow Kate on INSTAGRAM.

AFRO/KIWI IDENTITY – BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE STORYTELLERS

Culture, Feature

The Storytellers is a research project executed by author, event manager, researcher and creative director of the website Africa On My Sleeve, Makanaka Tuwe. Now living in Morocco, Maka has been running projects for years. This one in particular began as a university requirement for her masters qualification, but grew to become an intrinsic bond between the nine young Afro/Kiwi women involved; exploring ways to shift the mainstream narrative of African people and perceptions of them, the answer was to become the storytellers themselves.

Maka says “Over a period of two months The Storytellers and I met on Sunday afternoons and what was a creative research project soon became a space of healing, seeing ourselves reflected in our worlds and a safe space were we could unravel. Through the creation of content we produced visual outputs that explore and share the experiences of third culture identity, African representation, being a woman of colour, black love, cultural heritage, colourism, tokenism and intersectionality within African identity.”

PROJECTS:

Dancer Chanwyn Southgate produced a piece in tribute to Brenda Fassie, a South African musical legend; photographer Synthia Bahati asked what does an African look like? In her project Huemans of Africa; a song by singer/songwriter Laila Ben-Brahim called Our Heritage addresses feeling pride in one’s genetic make up; #BLACKGIRLDIARIES explores what happens when being different affects you negatively by Tadiwa Tomu;
mixed race Rita Wakefield writes an essay asking ‘What Is Blackness’; ‘A Weak in My Life’ is a body of poems by Mwangileni Kampanga; there’s a series of memes by Adorate Mizero called ‘A Reflection of the Diasporic African Millennial’ and Rumbi Tomu a focuses on Black Love .


“On the food chain of life it goes white men, white women, black men, black women.” – Makanaka Tuwe.

MAKANAKA TUWE – PHOTO BY SYNTHIA BAHATI.

RESEARCH INFO:

“This research is aiming to provide an impetus for researchers, policy makers and those interested in African development to start exploring different participatory and alternative methodologies to countering the issues that come with migration, identity and representation for people of African descent in the New Zealand context. I begin the exegesis with a personal narrative I wrote as a reflexive diary entry during the research process. The decision to begin Chapter One with Home but never Home was to highlight the reality of navigating life as a woman of African descent in New Zealand and the conversations I engage in about identity and belongingness.” Download Maka’s research HERE.

Go behind the scenes with S E R U M and T H E S T O R Y T E L L E R S photo shoot/interview processes below:

PROJECT EXCERPT:

LAILA BEN-BRAHIM – PHOTO BY SYNTHIA BAHATI.

“For a long time I felt ‘stuck’ between living in western societies norm and following the path of my cultures. Unfortunately, society made me feel discouraged to be who I intrinsically and biologically am. I was trying to mould myself into someone I wasn’t just to fit in and feel ‘white’ – for lack of a better word. Eventually, the more I grew, I started to learn more about my culture, heritage and customs and realised that in order of representing who my family and I am, I would have to stand out at times. I wouldn’t need to wear my hair straight to school or eat promptly with a fork and knife. Some people took my dad’s broken English and heavy accent to mean ‘welfare’ or ‘refuge’, when I saw it as intelligence and wisdom. My brother would even simplify or change his name so people wouldn’t overlook his CV or just to make it easier for people. My dark-skinned friends and I would be labelled at school as the troubled kids and be disciplined without having done anything wrong. Women in my family who wear cultural clothing in public would be labelled, ridiculed, mocked or stared at when they were innocently walking through the city. I am now at a place where I am 100% proud to be a Moroccan-Samoan Kiwi. The values I learn from each enable me to grow, I feel like I have roots when before I felt discouraged, ashamed and a little lost. I love celebrating everyones differences from the inside to the outside because with difference there is no learning, growing or understanding.This song is about finding my love and appreciation for my heritage and culture in my early adulthood.” – Laila. Listen to her song HERE.