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Photographer Stef Rose on their relationship with identity

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

No items found.

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

Photographer Stef Rose on their relationship with identity

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

Photographer Stef Rose on their relationship with identity

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

Photographer Stef Rose on their relationship with identity

As told to Tyson Beckett

"I am a proud morena, which means a brown Filipino woman. I am an artist, I am a creative, I'm a photographer and a DJ. My work is motivated by representing people like me in my community and adjacent and bringing visibility to Queer and Transgender People of Colour (QTBIPOC) excellence.

I have always made my brownness the forefront of identity when people see me, because I have occupied professional spaces where that is not the majority.

I am from Chula Vista, San Diego, across from the Mexican border at the bottom of California. I was lucky enough to grow up with enough diversity that European beauty standards weren't dominant where I am from. But leaving my community, I wondered about where I fit in and how authentic I could be with myself.

Photo / Becki Moss

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2020, and chemo and radiation were the best treatment to rid of the tumour.

It feels weird to say that it was lucky we went into lockdown, but it was good that people couldn't be around me. When I was going through it, it felt like I was in survival mode.

It is all hitting me now, what I have gone through. I wouldn't have wanted to make illness my identity and the whole pandemic thing masked that.

I am still working through my trauma. I don't think I will ever be the same. I have tried to create boundaries for myself with my mahi, to give me space to heal.

And I am really homesick. I love it in New Zealand, but I haven't seen my family, and they haven't seen me go through cancer. I am in remission, but I have spent two years without anyone close to me, and no connection back home besides communicating on the internet, so I really wanted to connect to my upbringing and my roots.

Photo / Becki Moss

To make myself more comfortable integrating back into society, I started taking socially distanced photographs of my friends in masks. Then I started to take what is known at home as “star shots”. I bought these retro-inspired backdrops from a Chicano artist in California.

It is a nod to strip mall photography from the late-1990s and early-2000s that I grew up with. It was really big in brown communities at home, and I have brought that to Aotearoa.

I started taking photos mainly of brown indigenous or Pasifika people here in Pōneke (Wellington) because that felt like it was adjacent to the lived experience at home. There are a lot of ways that my brown experience relates to the brown communities here.

I have found a lot of Māori and Pasifika people share my musical tastes. When I can see myself in the crowd, that is where my energy flourishes. Queer-inclusive gigs give me the opportunity to show that in a male-heavy drum and bass scene, here is a non-binary person giving music that is not typically played in the Pōneke nightlife scene.

Photo / Becki Moss

Cancer heightened my identity. It actually solidified why I identify as non-binary. I thought for ages that I was bisexual but that didn't really sit as a label, but non-binary made more sense after being diagnosed with cancer. I just felt like my identity was so solid but, pardon my language, no-one can tell me s..t now.

I feel solid in my identity. I have a strong foundation in myself and that took a lot of work. But it is my experience with lockdown and cancer and coming to know my gender identity that made me more discerning of who I want to share my space with, and protecting myself physically, and my mental peace."

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.