Waikeria Prison Portraits

For the second year in a row Soldiers Rd has collaborated with Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan at Te Aomarama Maori Focus Unit, Waikeria Prison to provide a portraiture experience to the men in the unit.

In New Zealand Māori are significantly over-represented in the prison population and underlying themes behind this include a lack of understanding around cultural identity, cultural heritage, tikanga, whakapapa and kawa.

Soldiers Rd Portraits is about reconnecting Māori and Pasifika to their cultural identity, heritage and whakapapa through portraiture. It is about creating a paradigm shift in the way rangatahi see themselves and their tupuna/whakapapa historically, currently as well as potentially in the future.

Soldiers Rd Portraits are pleased to partner with Waikeria Prison in this pilot project which aims to transform prisoner cultural identity and self perception as an innovative way to approach prison recidivism rates for Māori. The pilot aims to enable participants to reflect on their lives, past, present and future.

By identifying those with a need to reconnect to their culture, Māori and non-Māori prisoners can restore their cultural identity and see themselves differently through a dignified vintage style portrait aligned with a letter to their tupuna (ancestor) or their 16 year old self.

We especially acknowledge Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan, a creative and inspiring Wahine Toa who is passionate in her mahi with the men of Te Ao Marama Unit. We give credit to Kevin Smith, the Waikeria Prison Director for taking a leap of faith in our proposal and most importantly the 28 men of the Maori Focus Te Ao Marama Unit and their programme facilitators.

We believe these images reveal the incredible potential of these men.

The letters they share are insightful, inspiring and real.


Soldiers Rd is going to Europe and the UK!

Last year we did an interview with a German fashion magazine- Material Magazine, around cultural identity and the importance and potential we feel it has in determining who we are as people. We talked with Kira (the interviewer) about our social initiative going into prisons as part of a wider cultural programme reconnecting prisoners with their cultural identity as a form of rehabilitation.

You can check out our interview here- Material Magazine – Soldiers Road result

As a result of this interview we have been invited to attend a Young Social Influencers summit in Berlin in July, 2017, where we will share our beautiful Māori culture, and share our uniquely cultural portrait experience with young social influencers in Berlin, in the hopes of promoting NZ as a destination to visit!

We thought while we were over in that neck of the woods, we might as well do some portrait days for all our whanau up there!

SO if you live in London or France, and have been wanting to get a portrait, or you know someone who might be interested, we will be in Perpignan on Saturday 15th July, and we’re hoping to do a couple of days in London between 19th and 22nd July.
Once we lock in a venue in London we will post up confirmed dates and open up bookings on our booking site.

Jump onto our Facebook page Soldiers Rd Portraits, or our Instagram @SoldiersRd and share them with all your northern hemisphere whanau! We’ll also be starting up a snapchat so you can follow along with all the ins and outs and behind the scenes of our trip!
Below is the link to our booking site for more info and to book in:

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Perth and Sydney whanau, we are headed your way next week!

Perth: Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th April, 2017
Venue: Mills Park Centre, Activity room
86 Brixton Street Beckenham WA 6107

Sydney: Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd April, 2017
Venue: YWAM Island Breeze Sydney
280 Power Street, Plumpton, NSW 2761

There is a $50 booking fee per time slot for these Australian dates, to help cover the cost of our travel to you guys! This is payable at the time of your booking, and is additional to the cost of your portraits, which are payable on the day,
The booking fee is refundable if you cancel your booking up to 2 days prior to your booked time slot.

We look forward to coming over as we weren’t able to make a trip to Perth or Sydney last year, so book in quick whanau!

Nga mihi,
Taaniko and Vienna

Brisbane and Gold Coast

We have been hired to do an advertising campaign in Brisbane this week, so we’re shooting over tonight! If you know us at all this last minute planning is totally our style (Ha ha), but we are looking for some faces to photograph!
We are looking for….
A. Costumes from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Hawaii for male and female
B. Models of all ages and cultures but anyone that fits these descriptions:

– Aboriginal Woman 50’s +
– Maori Male 40’s and clean shaven
– Samoan Male 20’s or early 30’s (preferably with a sleeve and also clean shaven)
– Fijian young woman
– Rarotongan young girl

And is available for a paid shoot tomorrow (last minute right lol)

Awesome opportunity for us to be able to get some Polynesian faces and images showcased at Hyperdome!

We are also taking limited bookings for Friday and Saturday at the Ormeau Community Centre, so jump onto our booking site and book in!

Cambridge Open Studio Day

We are holding an open studio day in Cambridge on Saturday 10th September, 2016.
Address: 1 Baxter Place, Cambridge.
Our $150 private sitting fee is waived at our open studio days- It’s just the cost of portraits:

Individual Portrait $100
Group Portrait $70 per adult, $40 per child 10yrs and under
If only children in a group portrait the first child will be $70 and the rest will be $40 each.

Click on the link below to book in using our online booking site.
If you have missed out on a time slot, please keep checking our booking site as time slots will show up again if anyone cancels.

If you secured a time slot and are unable to attend, please use the emailed link to cancel so that someone else may have your appointment.




OOMPHER Web Series debut!

Recently we had the privilege of doing some filming for Oompher- a web series for Careers NZ aiming to inspire and encourage young New Zealanders to open their minds to new opportunities, and act on their dreams, and create their own extraordinary.

We always feel so honoured when we are approached to do things like this, the idea that we might be able to inspire someone else to follow their dreams by sharing our story is so exciting!

Huge mihi to Ash, Vicki, Johnson and the team for taking our hours of craziness and unintelligible babble and somehow creating this amazing, inspiring video! We had an absolute blast filming with you guys and are super stoked with the result!!

You can learn more about Oompher and watch more awesome, inspiring videos on their website www.oompher.com

Check out our video below whanau!

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Taaniko and Vienna x



Brisbane and Gold Coast whanau, we are heading your way for the last week of school holidays!

We’ll be in Brisbane on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th July, 2016
at 45 Barrett Street, Robertson, Brisbane 4109

We’ll head down to Gold Coast for Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July, 2016
Venue to be confirmed- keep an eye on our website or Facebook page for confirmation of venue to come soon.

We look forward to seeing you all!

Just click on the link below to book in




Soldiers Rd’s debut in the New Zealand Herald!

On Wednesday of this week we had the privilege of doing an interview with the NZ Herald- read all about it and watch the sweet little video to learn a little bit more about why we love to do what we do 🙂
Shout out to Linzee for being our stunning model, and Alan and Moana from NZ Herald for taking the time to talk to us about our mahi.


He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

We had the opportunity over Auckland Anniversary weekend to set up a stall and do portraits in The Cloud down on Auckland’s Viaduct. Among the wonderful people we met over the two days we were doing portraits, was this gentleman who wandered up to our stall and spoke beautiful fluent Maori to us. He told us he would like to have a portrait with traditional regalia and moko. Of course we were happy to oblige, and felt overwhelming wairua as we dressed him and he told us how he came from Northland to Auckland as a young man into the Avondale Mental Asylum or Oakley Hospital as it was called then (which is now Unitec in Auckland). “Man 3, ward 15” he recalled. He hung around for a bit after we took his portrait to korero, make connections, and tell us where he lived. “I live on City Rd, or you can find me at the Auckland City Mission on Tuesdays” he said when we asked how we could get his portrait to him.

Since editing his amazing portraits and posting up on our FB page we have had several people come forward who are willing to help him receive his portrait. We are so grateful for the aroha we feel from all of you who tautoko our mahi, and for the aroha you have for one another as human beings.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!

Arohanui whanau ❤

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Days 4,6&7- Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and Veteran’s Day

Firstly, sorry for the lack in posting.  I realise ACTUAL bloggers are updating their stuff everyday, and my uselessness is not from lack of things to say.  Everyone who knows me will tell you, that has never and will never be the case.  I ALWAYS have an opinion and something to say (I like to think of it as being the youngest of 7 children and the only girl syndrome).  We have just been really busy since we last touched base.  We randomly met some Maori people in a bar and on the streets.  We shot in some more awesome locations, we moved accommodation (and our million bags down the road, and my mother and brother (husband of Vienna) flew in from Aotearoa to hang with us on this trip.
But let’s take you back to where we left off…
As we all know, the All Blacks won! Before we go any further I need to point out that I am female, but I was bought up in a house hold of males.  I am the youngest and only girl of 7 children, so if you’re useless at maths (which you shouldn’t feel too bad about because I am too lol), I have 6 older brothers.  We all excelled at sports and all of my brothers played rep rugby, some going on further with 4 of them playing rugby overseas at various times.  So when you see that girl who knows all the rules and all the terminology and your like.. “MAN, that chick knows too much about rugby, she’s just trying to show off”. Stop. She probably had no choice in the matter! lol.  Getting back on track.  We decided the night before that we would definitely be going to watch the All Blacks game.  Eden had sussed the where and when, so early on Saturday morning (not actually early, but early for us night owls) we got up and headed to a bar/pub called “The Australian”.  If you’re in New York City around the time of an All Blacks game, head there.  It’s on 20 W 38th St in Midtown and although it’s called “The Australian” it feels closer to home in this metropolis.  Note- DON’T ORDER THE EGGS BENNY, sadly, it’s not what you will be expecting compared to home.  But other than that, the vibe is sweet.  We got there just after the haka, gutted.  I think Vie and I were fluffing a bit in the morning, and I literally sat on the bed for half an hour figuring out what I was doing awake, so Eden wasn’t too pleased we missed the best bit. Ha! But we got there and found a standing space in amongst the crowd of English, a couple of Kiwis, American rugby fans and some Aussies that were there.  The game was in full swing and I had to feel sorry for the super polite English guy that was foolishly standing to my right.  He got an earful! I was pom bashing and ref abusing and Vie and Eden were cheering just to the left of me, so lucky we had stationed ourselves next to someone wearing an AB’s jersey because I think we were in the middle of English supporters.  We also wore our moko kauae!  That seemed to fend off any comments that may have been thrown our way, they were probably too scared, which worked for us. LOL.  ‘Bout 20 minutes into the game, this tall guy walked past me, paused, smiled and said “Kia Ora”.  He looked stoked to see some Maori faces.  This was the first time anyone had said “Kia Ora” to me the whole time we had been in New York.  Don’t get it twisted, I had been saying “Kia Ora” to every Tom, Dick and Harry that had been staring at us doing our Soldiers Rd thing around New York, but of course, nobody had said it back.  So to have someone say it to me, I couldn’t help but feel a slick of home had been exchanged.  I said it back he gave me the Maori eyebrow chur nod and made his way down the back through the crowd.  Fast forward to half time and our stomachs were growling so we asked for a table down the back and luckily they had TV’s everywhere so we could still watch the game.  We went down there, and sitting on the table across from us we noticed another Maori wahine, repping an AB’s jersey and cheering loudly.  I had to smile.  She was exactly what you would expect a Maori watching an AB’s game in a pub to be, except she was in New York, which made her that much cooler.  Turns out, the bro who had said “Kia Ora” to me was her friend and had heard of Soldiers Rd.  So 5 minutes later, there we all were at one table, with him (Dean Walker) his beautiful girlfriend, the cool cheering Maori lady (Ata Papa) and their friend Jenni who I had been emailing but hadn’t met.  SMALL WORLD! Dean had come here to play rugby 16 years ago and had stayed.  Ata Papa was cool, I felt like she was a cuzzy, she had that real whanau feel and she is actually really accomplished and acclaimed singer here in the States.  She came here on the way to London 12 years ago to start an OE.  She headed to the Bronx to crash on someone’s couch that she knew, and she’s still here, repping Aotearoa as a talented entertainer.  Tau Ke Ata!  Jenni had come here as a nanny 19 years ago with someone working at the embassy and had been working here every since.  There, in the middle of Manhattan, was a table full of Maori people, living here in Manhattan, and us, all cheering louder than the Poms around us for the AB’s.  I couldn’t help but smile at the odds of that happening, but also at how Maori and awesome our table seemed in comparison to everyone else around us. HA!  We were giving them heaps when they mucked up and jumping around the place.  It was awesome.  We had a korero with them,  as all three of them have lived here for longer than 10 years.  These inspiring Maori living and dwelling here in New York, working and striving and hustling the rest of the city.  They were cool.  By the end of the game and with the awesome result, we all left our separate ways with a hariru and exchanged details.  We had even seen some other Maori looking people lining up for the bathroom that we had stopped to say hello to as well.  It was a cool morning, and it helped that we won!
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After basking in the glory that is victory, we headed off to Central Park.  Lucky for us, Vienna and Eden’s cousin Alexis had come to meet us at “The Australian”.  She was able to navigate us easily to places in Central Park and while we were there we did some shots with the wonderful scenery as a backdrop.  Central Park is HUGE! In some places you nearly forget that you’re in a huge city.  Then you look around and see that you’re sharing that huge green space with a trillion other people who are all taking photos, walking dogs, running (lots of people running) or biking or pushing prams.  Then you realise you are after all, in a huge city.  They have people there hustling to see if you want to be transported around on rickshaws (pretty much a bike with a carriage at the back).  They also have the option of a horse and carriage.  So for you lazy fellas, you’re in luck!  You will never be more grateful for the wide open green spaces we are given in Aotearoa until you come to a place like New York.  But in saying that.  They utilize the space they are given really well.  There are people sitting, reading, chatting or just hanging out everywhere that there is a place to do so.  Atleast they aren’t taking it for granted.  If you’re going to Central Park, head to “The Rock”.  It has an awesome backdrop of lake and trees as well as the New York city skyline.  Bit of both worlds in there.  There’s also Strawberry Fields which is a memorial for John Lennon right across the road from where he was shot.  We were lucky enough to have a busker there singing songs by The Beatles to set the mood.  FYI, the buskers there are given a time limit on how long they can sit and entertain.  Which is an hour.  You have never seen hustle like you have seen hustle in New York.  You can pay a guy a dollar to tell a joke and if you don’t laugh he’ll give it back.  You name it and people are doing it in Central Park, trying to bag a buck.  Vienna and I can’t help but admire the hustle that New Yorkers have. Age, race, gender, it makes no difference. EVERYONE is trying to make a dollar somehow and there is no shame in it.  You can’t beat it, but our upbringing, and I guess in some ways our cultural side, can’t help but feel a bit sad for the kuia and koro that are out in the cold, cleaning rubbish or wiping tables.  We don’t know how lucky we are!
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On a brighter note,  Sunday was a day of rest.  We do have to mention something funny that happened tho,  we met a lady who was really interested in us being from New Zealand.  When I tried to explain that we were pretty much like their equivalent of Native Americans she quickly interjected “oh, but you guys have to be mixed”.  I found this funny.  I know she wasn’t intentionally meaning to be rude, but it came off a little, well, racist.  When I tried to reiterate that where we are from, we consider ourselves Indigenous, she again had to correct us that we are clearly of mixed blood and not FULL native.  I know not all Americans think this way, I’m not that naive.  But I do find it funny that without really realising, the tone comes off as a little bit racist.  What if we WEREN’T of fair skin colour and looked full blooded Maori…  Would that make a difference?? Food for thought.
On Monday, we decided with the sun shining, we would head to Brooklyn Bridge.  Off on our old mate the subway we headed, and after sitting down for a feed, we went to walk up and across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Let’s just get one thing straight.  If you’re wanting to dilly dally your way up, stopping here and there or where ever you please, Don’t! There is a walking lane on the right, the opposite side to us at home, which is actually crucial, I’ve learnt that the hard way in the middle of my left-handed walk day dreams.  Secondly, there is a bike lane on the left.  Stay clear of the bikes, they are no joke! These cyclists aren’t in cycling clothes or nothing, they are in regular clothes.  Most of them dressed cooler than your average. But ALL of them are equipped with a bell, a voice box and the funniest I found, a WHISTLE.  They will use all of the above if you are in the way, and they are not ashamed to scream out at you.  There are also heaps and heaps of people on this bridge too.  We were amazed at the amount of people/tourists and just everyday New Yorkers that frequent this bridge.  Anyway, we found a good spot that we were both happy with, and out came the Maori makeover bag.  I got dressed on the bridge.  Everyone watched.  Some people took photos, others just watched on, wondering if there was going to be something happening.  We got some awesome shots on the bridge.  While we were doing these, I heard a “Tena Koe” from behind us!  Turn around, and sure enough, we saw a few Maori people that were as surprised to see us in piupiu on the Brooklyn Bridge as we were to hear “Tena Koe”.  It’s mandatory when you see a kiwi to stop and do the who, what, where, when and why.  It’s not like you HAVE too, but you just want to. You want to know what they’re about and they want to know what you’re about.  That’s the beauty of culture I suppose.  There’s a mutual interest in one another.  Turns out, they lived and worked in Toronto and were only visiting, but how cool it was to stop and chat to them where we were.
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We finished the day stopping off at our local diner across from Eden’s for some pancakes.  But not just any pancakes.  The best pancakes ever!  If you’re in New York Midtown, we feel like this is something you need to go and do.  The diner is called Renaissance Diner and if you’re on 9th Ave it’s between 51st and 52nd St, closer to the corner of 52nd St.  Ask for Tony because he was the man.  You see, we went to this other place on Saturday night.  We were starving and had planned to go to our local but couldn’t wait the 5 block walk. Lol. So we went to this random one and the service was atrocious.  DON’T WORRY.  We have not gone all American on you guys, but you do realise how important service is because you have to give tips here.  That’s how they earn most of their money.  So, when you’re not given good service, it’s actually really noticeable.  This happened here.  We tried to order pancakes the way we have them at home, with some whipped cream and some strawberries and the sorts.  It was a nightmare.  So going to Renaissance Diner and being served by Tony, who made it super easy to order all our extras, and then returned with the HUGEST plate of chocolate chip pancakes ever, was a dream.
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Tuesday here in the United States of America was Veteran’s day.  New York city has a huge parade that started at 11.30am and went all the way till 3.30pm going up 5th Ave from 23rd St till 59th St.  That is a huge and busy chunk of New York and after 9/11 the intensity and purpose of this parade means that much more to New Yorkers.  The traffic was crazy, but luckily for us we were rocking the waewae express.  But we definitely felt sorry for the detoured traffic, they were backed up all sorts of ways.  We headed on down to see if we could catch some sort of military contingent to snap some photos with.  We knew with the relevance of our name being Soldiers Rd we really wanted to grab some shots with some people down there. Equipped with our Soldiers Rd Maori makeover bag, we saw some Army trucks and smack bam on the sidewalk, got changed.  I was able to jump on one of their army trucks and they were pretty obliged to let us just do our thing.  We also were able to search out a few veterans.  One was called Nick, he was a returned servicemen in his late 60’s I’d say and he had no trouble posing staunch with me.  I was dressed up in our full on vintage, straight colonial days kakahu.  Hair swirled up and feathers adorned.  A few people thought I was part of the parade I think, because I posed for a few photos with people passing by.  One lady even followed me to ask me what Native American tribe I was from.  When I explained that I was actually from New Zealand, we engaged in a conversation about moko and the similarities between Native American culture and ours, and she couldn’t believe that with the way I was dressed and with the feathers I was wearing, that I wasn’t somehow a part of the Native American veterans contingent in the parade.  She snapped some pictures with me regardless and was grateful to have met her first New Zealander.  We also got a shot with a current U.S soldier dressed in his army gear bearing the flag for Black Veterans for Social Justice.  He was awesome and we asked for a Soldiers Rd shot with him and his son.  We did notice that the parade was divided into the relevant groups depending on their race.  We also saw loads of high school marching bands and caught up with a former Navy officer named Carl (sounded like Cole in his New York accent haha) that posed for a photo with me and also managed to get a kiss on the cheek from both of us, the old charmer. Lol.  After getting changed, I was randomly asked by some people nearby for an interview.  Turns out they were from SONY and were interviewing people for the newly released film called “FURY” starring none other than Brad Pitt.  They had me at Brad. LOL.
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A few little tips and hints about New York.  There are these things everywhere on the street.  Look out for them! They are pretty sneaky but  I have the slight inclination that many a wandering tourist looking up has fallen prey to their demise.  They’re kind of like trap doors in the pavement that lead down to the kitchens that most of the restaurants on the street have.  That’s how they load the food in and out and it’s kind of like a “service” door but in the ground.  BEWARE.  They are everywhere in midtown New York and we haven’t fallen down one, but I would hate if it happened.  Some have cones around them like this one, but some are just open doors, flat on the pavement.  You have been warned!!
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If you’re going to get a hotdog from the street vendors,  ask them for the cost of it BEFORE you get them to make it.  There is no actual price list up, so if you agree to it, and they make it, consider yourself hustled.  They WILL add on an extra dollar or two.  If you’re being charged more than two dollars, say you’ll go to the next one and they will say “oh for you, two dollars two dollars”.  The street vendors are pretty good cooks, they know what they’re doing.  If you find one you like, go back to them always.  If you become a familiar face they spruce up your stuff free of charge.
On the topic of food (again), we had dinner at Justin Timberlake’s restaurant ‘Southern Hospitality BBQ’ on the corner of 45th St and 9th Ave. If you have never had cornbread, this is the place to indulge- they serve it with the most amazing honey butter, it’s like have a beautiful, moist piece of cake with your dinner. And that ain’t a bad thing! We also witnessed some impressive displays of strength and balance in the waiters that carried massive trays full of delicious southern food up the stairs, one handed, up on their shoulder. Divine food, if only JT himself had welcomed and seated us. Haha! One can only dream. Prepare to drool, people:
Lastly, we just want to give a quick shout out Cynthia for having us to stay at her ONE bedroom apartment (where Eden has also been staying for a few months) for a week free of charge. In fact, we got breakfast cooked for us by Eden and Cynth even gave us her own bed!  So thanks heaps guys! Congratulations on the JOB to Cynth.  She is now in the process of moving coasts after getting the coolest job as International Footwear Merchandiser for Forever 21.  A huge and awesome clothing store here in the states.  (Please give your new boss/future bestie the nudge to bring it to New Zealand!)
Our next blog will take you to the top of New York city and introduce you to the wonderful lady from St Francis College in Brooklyn who is hosting our booked out portrait day on Saturday.  We are so excited to get back into something familiar and meet the people that have made this trip all worth while.
Till then,
Taan and Vie #SRPNYC

Day 3- Grand Central Terminal and Brooklyn

We had a late start today.  You see, we go to sleep around… 5am!  I haven’t quite figured out if it’s jetlag, our bodies not adjusting very well to the time difference or the fact that we are staying 3 blocks from Times Square so it is literally buzzing with noise, food and people outside all the time.  Either way, our sleep patterns are way out of wack.  We have decided tomorrow we will arise with one eye open if needs be at a more godly hour to get a good crack at the day.  On the positive side (which, let’s be honest, is our favourite side) New York is also running all the time, so we had a full action packed day today right up until dinner time at 1am. Ha! Incidentally, our midnight feast was where we had our first crack at adding tax and gratuity to our bill! Carry the 1, denominator…


We headed off, with our kirituhi kauae on, ready for the day ahead.


We had planned to head to Brooklyn to check out our venue for next week.  So we went down to  the subway ready to get some stuff done.  Thanks to Eden (Vie’s brother) who knows his way around, there really isn’t that much fluffing we do in terms of travelling around here because he knows all the tracks. Vienna is clever and since it’s my second time here, I know what a train looks like. HA! The New York subway system is AMAZING.  The amount of “lines” you can take and the way you get around is honestly one of the most thorough and well thought out systems I’ve ever seen.  If you’re gonna come to New York, and you don’t have a cool local to help you not get lost, grab this free app called HOPSTOP.  It will show you all the lines you need to take, Blue, Orange, Red and Green etc.  Once you’re on the right “line” there are F, C, Q, Z etc trains depending on where you want to go.  It’s not rocket science but you do need to be confident enough to stop strangers and ask if you get lost.  The last thing you want to be is a million stops away from your destination in the wrong direction.  Everyone loves a trier, but everyone loves someone that asks for directions instead of getting lost even more.

We sat down, our train today was running with 4 and 7 minute gaps.  While I was sitting this kid next to me asked me about my moko.  His name was Dominique.  I noticed him drawing and I noticed he had doodled all up his arm, and they were really good.  He was dope!  He wanted one straight away, so I explained “well the one I’m wearing is for female to wear”.  Next thing I know, another kid listening in jumps in and is like “oh yeah, the guy ones have it all over their face right?”.  I was stunned!  It’s funny because he knew more about it than most of the adults that have bothered to ask instead of just stare so far on this trip.  So,  we talked to him about Moko, we talked to him about Maori and we were able to leave our cute little friend Dominique with a reminder of some of the stuff he had just learned about our culture.

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“Hi I’m Dominique and this is a moko and I’m from Brooklyn”

I also noticed today, so much more staring than we experienced the other day.  I don’t know if was because of where we were? We were in the subway a lot more, in a smaller confined space and with more people in close proximity to our faces. Lol. But it felt like the amount of people looking at our moko was next level.  I managed to secretly snap a vid of some of their reactions. Check this and then imagine this ALL day!

How funny is the guy at the end! So happy/amazed to get a close up look of my moko! We got up close and personal in the subway carriages again too- some of the regular commuters have amazing balance! Got a sneaky shot of one guy we hailed as Boss of the Subway- he was holding and reading a book with one hand, and holding his man satchel with the other, he barely even swayed when the train stopped and started at each station! Kill’n it Subway master! (woops, totes got snapped taking a sneaky pic! Haha)

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So our trip to see the venue got a bit sidetracked.  For anyone that knows Vienna and I,  that’s kind of normal.  It’s not that we are really unorganised, okay maybe a little bit that, but I like to think that we just look to enjoy the things that come our way.  This time, that just so happened to be Grand Central Terminal (Station to nearly the whole world, but we were corrected that it was wrong haha)

This part of the day was cool, and by cool, I mean really freaken awesome.  See, we decided pretty much straight away that we were going to do some shots here.  We walk around everywhere here with a Soldiers Rd ready bag, equipped with all we need to give myself the vintage makeover to clash with the iconic and sometimes urban backdrops that are New York City. Vienna is on hand with her camera to shoot.  We are literally like walking art. Especially here.  So we did some shots in the middle of Grand Central Terminal.  The awesome thing about Vienna and I is that we work so well together.  She knows what I’m like and I know what she’s like.  She also has the most amazing eye to accompany my crazy ideas.  Somehow our artistic chemistry just works.  I think this shot we got in Grand Central was one of those times.  (So excited to show you guys these shots!)  We caught the eye of so many people who watched from afar or even came up to ask more about what they saw.  One awesome lady from Chicago who is the an executive for ProActive skin care gave us her card and said that she was now our “contact for when we wanted to come to Chicago”.  Can you believe it!

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After working around Grand Central for about an hour, we were hungry!  Vienna and I are big on food, Vienna is more of an expert baker/cook and I’m just an expert eater. Another reason why we make a good team.

At Eden’s recommendation we headed downstairs to Shake Shack.  If anyone has ever been to In & Out Burgers in LA,  this is kind of the same thing.  The burgers are basic and they are boss.  Just really really yummy with a mean pattie, a bit of lettuce, tomato, cheese and some sauce.  But somehow so much nicer than other ones.  The dough of the bun is a bit different/softer too.  Order a chocolate shake as well.  They taste like Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream melted in a cup.  It’s a sweet little spot downstairs from the main terminal in Grand Central and if you’re nearby, go eat there!

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On a side note,  I’m not sure how you’ve ever perceived Grand Central Terminal, but you could literally spend a day looking around there.  It has heaps of shops, MAC, an Apple store, clothes, honestly everything you would find at a really awesome mall back home.  Go downstairs to where Shake Shack is and there are about 5 other food places all around it.  Just around the corner from there are some market type stalls.  It’s almost an attraction in itself.


We stopped off at MAC, basically because we are girls and it is MAC.  This part was crackup. You see, as soon as we walked in and started talking to the workers there, they straight away wanted to know about our kirituhi moko.  Probably because it is something they have never seen before, it’s on our face and they are makeup artists.  So, unfortunately for Eden,  we were in the MAC makeup store for a good 45 minutes.  Sharing our business, sharing our culture, talking about our portraits and what we do.  We even did Moko on some of the workers there to rock around at work! Shout out’s to Rene and Ashleigh!  You guys are too jazzy.  FYI.  The funny thing is, I think this could only have happened in New York.  Like, I’m just assuming here, but I shop at MAC back home a fair bit, so I get a good enough vibe on the place. I doubt that we could walk into MAC in NZ and they would let us put Moko on their workers and let them rock it around work for the day while they sold to customers.  I find that strange, how you can come to New York and be embraced for your difference but that back home people may be offended by it.  Food for thought.  Anyway, we bought stuff from there too. Lol. Couple of lipsticks and some much needed Skin Finish powder to go along with some makeup brush cleaner.  MAC makeup in the states is like, ridiculously cheaper than it is at home.  I don’t know how much the plane ticket costs for it to get to us, but man, we are getting RIPPED! Lol.


We then headed to Brooklyn.  Finally, after 5 hours of being sidetracked, we reached our destination, just in time to catch the New York Festival of Lights.  WOAH!  Firstly, getting there was crazy.  Because everyone was trying to head there,  and New York is packed with people, after we got off the train and headed for the exit there was a bit of a line, and I’m not talking, let’s all wait in a nice single file line to get out the gate.  I’m talking, a million people cramped into a tunnel where you couldn’t actually see the destination, or the gate, for at least 5 minutes and just people, boobs to back kind of proximity close the whole way.  I’ve never been in a Zombie apocalypse, (Vienna and Eden are both huge on Zombie movies so it must have been fresh on my mind) but that is EXACTLY what this situation felt like, if ever there was to be one.  The funny thing is, nobody pushed.  There was no screaming or yelling of “what the hell is going on up there”.  Everyone just sussed it out in a very cramped orderly fashion.  I guess when you live here long enough, it helps just to work in with the million other people sharing your space!


New York Festival of Lights was craaaazy! There was a full disco ball Micheal Jackson guy dancing on top of something he could have easily fallen off.  There were lasers going and an opera singer/ accordion player performing with the laser light show. There were people and food and lights, lights and lights everywhere!  We loved it.  Just took it all in.  Its amazing just how much stuff goes on in the city, all night.

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We decided to cruise, but NOT the way we came because being cramped back into the subway with the outgoing tide seemed like a silly idea.  So we went off walking to the subway stops a few blocks down and on the way we actually caught some AMAZING views.  Of course, with amazing views and sights comes inspiration and would you believe it, but in 0 degrees, this Maori stripped down to her singlet to get changed again for some shots with the skyline and Manhattan bridge backdrop.


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We had a Russian photographer stop to see what we were doing- now if a Russian is shivering, you know its cold! So she probably thought we were crazy.  We just used the lighting from the street lights and the bright city backdrop and it played right into our hands.  Here’s a funny side note- Vienna has to deal with photographers giving her their 10 cents all the freaken time!  I think they find it crazy how she just uses the bare essentials of lighting and reflection (pretty much whatever we have and the lighting around us).  I think by nature, kiwis and Maori are really resourceful.  We work with what we’ve got, which isn’t that much most of the time, but we make it work.  This is what Vienna does and we really don’t need to point out that her shots work.  It’s obvious they do, you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now if they didn’t. Lol. She’s good at what she does, so we always have to have a little chuckle at photographers that come to question her technique or just look on in awe at her amazing skills.

On our walk back to the Subway (we are still in Brooklyn at this stage) we saw that there was an open art space selling books and handing out free drinks and showcasing some artwork, and did I mention that it was freezing outside?? So you know what we did.  In we popped to “check” it all out and grab some warmth.  Turns out it was pretty awesome.  There must have been a launch of something, because there was a guy in there signing books and lots of people trying to talk to him.  This space was HUGE, and it had a little bit of everything. There were photos on display on the walls with their explanations.  There were tables and tables of books and people just standing around reading and buying them.  There was a drinks table next to the guy launching and signing his book.  There were church pews in the back and huge steps leading up the wall for you to sit on and watch a video of time lapse photographs from someone riding around on a motorbike in India or somewhere like that.  There was even a Sitar player and a bongo guy creating some sweet mood sounds.  We thawed out a bit there and had a nosey.  I enjoyed it, kind of got a cool sense of how anything goes in Brooklyn and how art there is pretty much the life source of the place. I’ve heard that from a friend that lives here, but I got to see it first hand.  That was neat.

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So Friday the 7th of November proved to be a busy one for us here in New York.  Our culture is rich in originality and our country is lucky to have it so ingrained.  People here are curious, rude, excited, ignorant and all of the above when they see us on the streets.  But that’s what we came here for, to showcase our beautiful culture in a place like New York!

Stay tuned for blog post #3.  We go watch the All Blacks smash England at a place called The Australian, and bump into and hang out with some Maori people living full time in Manhattan!

Till then,


T & V


Day One- Highline, Chelsea, NYC

We are staying in Hells Kitchen, New York.  For the first week anyway.  We managed to be the ultimate of scabs to Vienna’s brother Eden, and dump our 4 massive bags at his extremely convenient crib on the corner of 52nd Street and 9th Ave.We went to sleep at 5am this morning.  After clocking Social Media the most EVER in our Soldiers Rd life, we dozed off full of excitement and to the sound of a busy busy city already awake.


Today was cool.  How could it not be, we are in New York city on a work trip purely for inspiration, artistic expression and whakawhanaungatanga (sharing of our Maori culture). We dealt with foreign smells like a champ. Every fourteenth step on the side walk you get a whiff of what smells like either urine/spew/rubbish OR all of it rolled in to one.  Did that faze us. Nope!  We mastered the subway. Get in, bag a chair ASAP or at least one hand on a pole ALWAYS.  You do not want to hongi the ground when it jolts to move after every stop.  Do not be alarmed if you are touched or brushed by someone in any way, you’re on the subway with literally a million other people who are all more interested in getting somewhere than they are in accidental inappropriate body brushing.  Sometimes people look like they are asleep,  probably because they are.

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We also decided to grab a korowai and our moko stencils to practise doing some shots that we have had rolling around our minds and mouths for some time now.  We hit the Highline walk in Chelsea today and spent a few hours taking some experimental practise shots up and down the old monorail with the urban backdrop of the city.  We wore moko to promote our business but more so to express ourselves and our culture.


What an interesting reaction we received from New Yorkers.  Pretty much every person we passed was staring at our chins. Ha!  We smiled and said Kia Ora, but other than one german girl we met who had been on a trip to our country last year sometime, New Zealand may as well be out of space to most people here, so sharing our culture here is proving to be more interesting than we anticipated.


All that walking was clearly gonna work up an appetite so we headed down some stairs to Artichoke Basilles on the corner of 10th ave and14th St.  Eden, who we had dragged along for the ride to be our compulsory photog recommended it, and he is a genius for it! The slices are HUGE.  Even for Maori food portion standards, still HUGE!  Its pretty much just pizza bread, lots of it, a massive crust, artichoke and cheese with some kind of magic of seasoning.  It was amazeballs.  We recommend these $5 slices of pizza that you will never be able to really finish to everyone!

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Before heading home, we remembered a convo we had just had with Bruce, the camera guy from our Te Karere filming on Monday before we cruised.  He mentioned an artist by the name of Susan Te Kahurangi King, who had just been in New York and opened an exhibition with a gallery somewhere in Chelsea.  The neighbourhood we had been rolling round in all day.  So of course we did what anyone would do, jumped online to ask Uncle Google and sure enough.  We had an address for the Andrew Edlin Gallery and were already on the street we needed to be on.  In we popped to have a peep at the gallery.  In all fairness, there was an obvious glare, probably because we were wearing moko.  But we asked about her exhibition that we could already see on the walls and mentioned we were from New Zealand as well.  She isn’t of Maori descent, but her parents gave her a Maori middle name meaning “the treasured one”.   When she was 4 years old for no apparent reason Susan stopped talking but continued to express herself through drawings and sketchbooks.  Most of her work is “…strange abstract combinations of knitted-together landscapes of cartoon parts, notably Donald Duck, arranged with the piecing together of body parts and distortion”


It was awesome to see someone from New Zealand have her work displayed on the scale in which it was.  Heres a link to her facebook page if anyone is keen to check out what she does.  She’s pretty cool.


Its now 10.14pm and we’re probably gonna go grab a hotdog from the street dudes and go check out the MAC store in Times Square because NOTHING is closed here.


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