PHOTOGRAPHY: FEVER HOTEL – CHECK IN WITH ASHLEY CHURCH

Culture, Interview, Threads


Photographer and creative director Ashley Church caught up with S E R U M over email for chats about her latest Exhibition ‘You Give Me Fever’ which is on at Hunters & Collectors in Wellington this February. We talk about her working relationship with dear friend and true artist Xoe Hall – when these two creative forces combine they become Fever Hotel, specialising in clothing design, photography and styling which you can check out HERE. We also talk about the legacy Hunters & Collectors has made for Wellington fashion.


SERUM: How did Fever Hotel come about?


A: We had been collaborating for years, Xoe and I would often photograph Xoe’s rad clothing she would make or decorate. When we got over submitting our work to other publications… we decided fuck it, we’ll make a blog and publish ourselves.

Ashley Church & Xoe Hall are Fever Hotel.


SERUM: Who are Fever Hotel?

A: Ashley Church & Xoe Hall.


SERUM: What does Fever Hotel do?


A: We do whatever inspires us at the time. But mostly it’s Xoe decorating second skins with me photographing them how we want to and we get our friends to model for us. We also feature artists work & have vacancies for artistic submissions!


SERUM: Is Fever Hotel you’re main hustle or side hustle?


A: Side hustle, not really a hustle though, it’s chill. We do what we want when we want to, and do our best to disregard social media pressures or norms.

Photo by Ash Church, Dinosaurtoast


SERUM: How would you describe your photographic style?


A: A bit sassy, a bit sexy and I am obsessed with eye popping colours and shooting against the grain. And I love juxtaposition.


SERUM: What other jobs/creative passions do you work on?


A: My own thang Dinosaurtoast, which is photography & creative direction and me and my partner recently bought a house, so a lot of house renos too!


SERUM: What have been some of your favourite or more memorable projects to date?


A: Such a hard question, because I love all our collabs for FH, every one of them is different!! Both Part 1 & 2 of the Heartbreak Double Feature – we went all out with lighting, set design and everything. They were rad to shoot and had us punching the air in excitement.

Photo by Ash Church, Dinosaurtoast.

SERUM: What is it about working with Xoe that you would say makes Fever Hotel special to you?


A: Fever Hotel can only happen when Xoe and I work on shit together, because of the way we collaborate, ideas just come magically and sporadically. That’s the beauty of Fever Hotel. We do what we want, when we’re in the mood. I think we don’t try to force anything, if it feels right it feels right and we know. So if your working on something and it feels right, keep going!

“You Give Me Fever” exhibition on until end of Feb 2019 at Hunters & Collectors.


SERUM: How would you describe what Hunters & Collectors means to Wellington city and also the connection between H&C and Fever Hotel?


A: Hunters has been around since before I was born, it’s an integral part of Cuba Street & Wellington cities fashion history. Hunters as been helping people express themselves for years via fashion! Chrissy and Charlotte, at Hunters, have always supported Fever Hotel – letting us do window displays, Xoe has hand painted their stairwell with a rad dragon and has many hand decorated items for sale through the shop! Love the collaboration and inclusivity for artists and especially now there is an exhibition space upstairs!


SERUM: What are your top 3 creative inspirations that give you fever right now?


A: Insanely bright colours, neons mostly. And I love when shit matches.

Glitter, forever glitter.

And anything a little bit weird, over the top, and 80s.


SERUM: What are some projects Fever Hotel are looking forward to in 2019?


A: Right at this moment – our You Give Me Fever Exhibition… Xoe’s got heaps on the go at the moment, and I’ve got some rad ideas for photoshoots! Will keep you posted!


SERUM: Describe a work day in the life of Ash.


A: I get up have my breaky, hang out with my 2 pups and husband. Drive 10 mins down the road to work, TeacherTalk, where I am a marketing gal! Xoe and I work at TeacherTalk together! I get as much done as I can. Head home, walk up a hill in Porirua, if I’m feeling creative I’ll work on a project, or plan my next idea / shoot by making a moodboard on Pinterest! And usually end up reading a good book and going to sleep waaay too late.


SERUM: What are some things you do to keep inspired as a creative professional?


A: Hang out with other artist friends. I give myself space to come up with new ideas – I don’t force it. Listen to music, go to gigs and watch music videos! I also watch films and read a lot. I also do things for my well being, like hangin’ out in nature!

Follow Ash on Instagram.

There are still a few limited edition framed prints available for purchase. You can DM her dtisyourfriend@gmail.com if your interested.

THREADS: AUCKLAND DIVERSE with SIAN KOLOSE

Culture, Threads

In this T H R E A D S shoot I linked up with Sian Kolose who, at the time, had her online shopping mecca Hunting Ground Store still in incubation with her sister Tina Kolose. For this shoot, we put together a list of the dopest models we could source, then set about shooting them. I realised while putting this portfolio together just how busy we got – 16 models, two days, one make up artist, two cameras, one stylist (Sian), one photographer (me) and K’RD. 

Models included Luke Collins, Maia Te Hira, Anny Ma, Suha Wahab and Sarah Hindley, Max Robinson and Tina Kolose. Blaze the Emperor, Bryson Naik, Tony Douglas, Blu, Shajal Singh, Tashi Levitt, Arlena Teiho, Leah Pao, Bheilee Okesene, Felicity Aroa.

EXPERIMENT

Working with Sian was a really fun experience, I particularly enjoyed the collaborative freedom I had when working with her.  Two examples are getting Tina to hop into the trolley as well as contrasting Tashi’s white satin skirt with the dirt from the car park; also the darker tone of the material soaking up the fresh water (it had just rained) from the puddle. (BELOW). Being my first shoot of this scale, working with Sian gave me the confidence to try new ideas out. 

STREET

REFLECTION

PRE-LOVED

Recyclable fashion is a good way to combat the humongous waste issue that human kind face remedying today. Having the skills to re-work an old garment and make it new, or the eye for how to pick a garment and make it seem new is an ever-growing/required skill and, as we continue to throw material into the earth – like we don’t understand some materials like Nylon take around 20 years to breakdown- we must incorporate reusable fashion into our basic shopping vocabulary. ** Disclaimer** to the Salvation Army in Glenn Eden – this does NOT excuse you charging 70$ for a shirt someone dropped off while throwing away rubbish and other household goods, then telling customers on a low budget ‘well that’s what it costs in Ponsonby’. Just saying… Not really I mean it… Please stop dousing the thrill of op-shopping with your inflation excuses!

ELEMENT

This year, Rihanna did a shoot for Garage Mag, shot by photographer Deana Lawson who specialises in taking photos of subjects in their home, in what she describes as ‘their domestic space’. Shajal (BELOW) used to flat above the shoot location – Hero Sandwich House – in Auckland so was certainly in her natural space. I would like to explore these themes more in future work – especially in domestic settings. 

MOTION

Movement is another aspect I noticed when reflecting on this shoot, these models had their stance on-point and I also liked to encourage the energy and sense of action with my angles. (Shout outs Blaze The Emperor). 

BRYSON X TONY

COLLABORATION

Tony Douglas is someone whose style I noticed after moving home from Perth in 2011, he was DJing at an underground bar in Wellington as one half of Calm The Fuck  Down aka CTFD. During this shoot, a film and photography guru himself, he taught me to set the meters properly on my external flash. (Blush face emoji).

DIASPORA

Joan Smalls took part in this interview with the Business of Fashion addressing diversity and inclusivity last year. She said “It’s interesting because of my background I come from an interracial family and my household has every different shade and in my world I’ve always seen it as inclusive so coming to New York and making a career modelling they reminded me ‘what we see you as’ not who I identified with”. I think as women of colour, Sian and I brought that sense of diversity within the world we see to the shoot; it’s something that I feel proud of upon completing the project.

HERO SANDWICH HOUSE

CULTURE

Cultural diversity in mainstream media and the importance of seeing one’s self reflected on TV and billboards is an agenda in my work that I hold dear. Growing up as an ‘other’ in New Zealand, it was very earlier on in my exploration of myself, then my work as an extension of myself, that I have consistently focused on culture and identity. Juxtaposing the confronting and contradicting elements that happen when east meets west in my compositions is something I will continue to do. There have been movements and collectives in Auckland like Milkshake Models, Dynasty, FAF SWAG and photographers like Imogen Wilson who have also pushed identity boundaries – I’m only excited to see what the future brings for Kiwi creatives and brown children who can see themselves positively and accurately reflected in the media. 

MERCURY PLAZA

Mercury Plaza is definitely a popular Auckland location for food and photos. The food court there is due to close, but I hope it reopens/moves somewhere else cause for me – South East Asian food is what helps me hold on to small pieces of Malaysia and remedies the sense of feeling homesick all in one $10 meal! 

There are more shots from this shoot on Instagram

DIASPORA: Meer makes waves for Arab women in rap music

Culture, Interview, Music

Rapper Meer is a young woman living in Australasia. Having just moved to Sydney from Auckland to be with the love of her life she says she appreciates a man who respects a woman going after her potential. “I want to make a mark as an Arab woman – I want people to know what an Arab is. I want Middle Eastern to be a part of the selection when you choose where you’re from,” she says.

Born in Dubai, she came to New Zealand when she was five years old. Having always used writing as an important outlet, especially when it comes to her mental health and positive well being, she says eventually making a rap song became an obvious choice. “The first time I went up on that stage I couldn’t explain it, it was something magical, that feeling I got, I couldn’t get anywhere else and I was addicted.”

Although her lyrical content can get quite heavy theme-wise she says “I want people to scream my name on that stage I want people to know my lyrics, I  want to touch people in ways that they have never..that sounds weird…I want to affect people emotionally through my music, in ways they’ve never been before.”

‘You messing with a bad bitch’ goes the hook of her most recent video release Pomegranate. But, she says “I’m not really an intense person – I’m such a kid – the person you see on stage is someone who feels powerful and wants to prove it but the person I am when I get off stage is powerful and I don’t have to prove it. Even though there’s a lot of intense content, people might think it’s too much.. Do you think?”

INDIGENOUS FOCUS: A Dancing Earth

Culture, Feature

Quetzal Guerrero sits at the back of the Wellington Opera House in New Zealand. He’s just come off stage with Dancing Earth – a contemporary indigenous dance company directed by Rulan Tangen [right of photo] who holds the belief that “to dance is to live, to live is to dance.” Rulan’s work is known for honoring key aspects of Native American culture. Concepts like matriarchal leadership, dance as ritual for transformation and healing as well as the process of decolonizing the body.

In this interview with SERUM we talk to Guerrero about connecting with Rulan and how his passion for movement and dance began with Hip Hop and break dancing. He also explains that in 1980’s America, hip hop provided a sense of identity for indigenous youth who were going through a loss of their own cultural identity. At the time their elders were making fundamental moves at the United Nations to even be regarded as human beings with human rights at all. I talk to Guerrero about his journey as a classically trained violinist, being the son of a political muralist and activist and growing up first nations in Phoenix.

“My father comes from the Coconino and Yaqui tribes of the South-West. He raised us with a lot of consciousness about the real history of the United States and what went down when it came to colonisation so we had awareness about our identity and who we are – we were taught not to be ashamed of being who we are and to embrace our culture and our roots. So I was always fascinated about Native American art, music and history. I’ve always loved studying as a kid and learning about it and I think that’s what also intrigued me about working with this company – because it’s contemporary and nothing like this really existed – this is one of the first Native American dance companies..We’re telling the story about who we are as Native Americans but expressing it through dance.”

mud.jpg

Dancing Earth’s performance piece – among many other cultural groups from around the world, I noticed evoked a sense of deep pain, Quetzal elaborates: “The Native American community, we’re still healing from the devastation that comes with colonization – talk about genocide. Tens of millions of Native Americans were murdered, killed and wiped out by colonization so there is a huge scar, a big wound that has been slowly healing in the Native American identity and part of that healing is coming to terms with today. Letting go of the past and seeing that as a blessing in disguise – in the sense that we’re still here, we’re still present and we need to be aware of that and open to accepting today – the future and making something of it.
“A lot of colonised cultures are really affected by the new culture and social oppression that comes along with that so they suffer from a lot of debilitating social diseases like alcoholism, drug use, abuse – they suffer from a lot of these things cause they feel they’ve lost a lot of who they are and accessibility to identifying your culture isn’t there anymore so I think that’s why things like Hip Hop culture come into play.”

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“For some it was more a means of escape and an identity. Hip Hop claimed a spot in people’s hearts because they could claim it as theirs’ in a time when how they felt, looked, thought and lived as indigenous people put their self-worth in question.”

Growing up, he remembers dressing way more gothic than the other kids; with leather studded jackets and mohawke hairstyles as opposed to the classic Puma suedes with a cheese cutter bboy look. “We were all brown, but we were all diverse.”

Remembered in many bboy circles for his alternative dress style Quetzal says winning second place in a battle judged by bboy legends like Ivan the Terrible and Style Elements Crew; receiving approval from people like this he says ‘validated’ their place in the bboy scene, making it all good to remain ‘alternative’ in terms of dance style and dress.

SERUM: Do you feel as someone that’s had that experience growing up indigeanous, with hip hop as an outlet, that there will be positive change for indigenous youth in the future?
QUETZAL: Oh yeah, definitely with the new generation of kids who aren’t tied to all that pain and trauma and who are able to access information so much more now and have more avenues to find themselves you know – it’s not so black and white as it used to be, it’s a lot more grey and you have a lot more ability to search and to find out who you are and what you’re into and really discover all the different aspects of life. When you were on the reservation 20 years ago you had nothing but at least now with the internet you can watch and see and learn by example – see things that can inspire you and take you out of that dark place you know.
He says “There are so many parallels with the Māoris here and with Native Americans in the United States first and foremost the respect of the earth and natural resources of the earth – and to know we are not owners of this land, we are shepherds of this land and we’re guardians of this land. I think every indigenous culture understands that because you have to have that mentality if you wanna be able to live for 1000 years. If you want to be able to survive you have to have respect for the earth because if not you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot and I think this capitalist consumer culture that has been affecting all of the developing nations right now is very disruptive in the sense that it’s destroying everything that is good and wholesome in this world and that’s going to be able to last for lifetimes, that’s the biggest thing I noticed”.

hoops

“It’s also the sense of family and welcoming. We’ve been staying at two different maraes since we’ve been here and to see that sense of family, tribe and love and heart for one another it’s really prevalent,” he says drawing parallels between Māori and First Nation ways of living.

In 2007 the Human Rights Council adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is a document which emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It establishes an important standard for eliminating human rights violations against indigenous peoples worldwide and for combating discrimination and marginalization. Although not legally binding, it’s a document that took over 30 years to develop and have validated by the United Nations.
Interestingly, the Declaration was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, with 143 countries voting in support, 4 voting against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstaining (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa, Ukraine).
Although New Zealand initially opposed this declaration, 11 years later at the UN General Assembly in September 2018 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the vital contribution indigenous values offer the globe and humanity, as did Mr. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief, Canada who spoke at the 2017 UN Press Conference.

In her 2018 speech Prime Minister Ardern points out as Mr. Littlechild did, the crucial urgency in addressing climate change and embracing indigeanous values like kaitiakitanga – a Māori concept of guardianship.
“For those of us who live in the South Pacific, rising sea levels presents the single biggest threat to security in our region the impacts of climate change are not academic or even arguable – they are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase and the impact on their water supply and food crops.”

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She said in New Zealand, “We will not issue any further offshore oil and gas exploration permits and have rolled out an initiative to plant a billion trees over the next 10 years”. She acknowledged these plans among others are ambitious – but the threat climate change poses demands it.
“We have a duty of care – for us that has meant action to address degradation like setting standards to make our rivers swimmable.. The race to grow our economies and increased wealth makes us all the poorer if it comes at the cost of our environment. In New Zealand we’re determined to prove it doesn’t have to be this way.”
In 2017 Mr. Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief, Canada spoke at the UN Press Conference – commemorating a decade since the Declaration was adopted by the UN:
“An elder asked the delegation of around 181 States ‘Which one of you is going to argue for my brother the fish? Who among you is going to argue for my brother the bird that flies or the four-leggeds that die so we can live? Who among you is going to argue for clean air and clean water?’
“That day marks the start of consciousness at the UN about environmental protection – the very thing that we’re faced with today with climate change discussions – that started with indigenous elders raising the issue.”

New Zealand has also been at the forefront of progression for indigenous rights historically. Chief Littlechild continued “If you remember in 1923 and 1925 when two indigenous leaders tried to get a voice at the United Nations – Chief Deskaheh in 1923 and then Ratana – a spiritual leader from the Māori – they couldn’t get into the League Of Nations as it was then known. From that time 1923 – 1977 there was no voice for indigenous people – no voice to be heard internationally.
“For me now it’s been 40 years since I’ve been on this journey. I also remember the day when we were actually – for the first time – we were recognized as human beings it was eight years of debate on whether or not indigenous peoples are human beings.”

He also points out the important contribution indigeanous peoples have offered the world; to operate holistically, acknowledging the importance of spirituality:
“A couple of very significant contributions indigenous peoples made during this history of debate at the UN – the longest debated declaration in UN history. Twenty seven years it took – so I remember for example being asked [by his elders] to go to the chairperson to ask if we could open the meeting with a prayer and to be told Mr. Littlechild ‘You know we don’t pray at the United Nations’ and I said well it’s not really a prayer it’s an invocation – we offer thanksgiving to creator for blessing us with a beautiful day like today”. Eventually she said yes. “To make a long story short the outcome of that was the the recognition of spiritual right’s. That there’s such a thing not only of economic, social and cultural rights or civil and political rights but also spiritual rights, it was our elders that offered that to humankind.”
Watch 1 hour press conference: