Behind the Smile with Tom Gould and Voices of Hope

In Aotearoa, the statistics around mental health are dire. Since launching in 2017, Voices of Hope, a mental health charity co-founded by Genevieve Mora and Jazz Thornton, continue to create change and break the stigma around mental health.

Words by guest writer: Claudia Rose - Voices Of Hope

Through Voices of Hope’s work, changes are happening and people are being inspired each day to choose hope. Their ethos focuses on the power of sharing lived experience stories. On the 15 February 2024, Voices of Hope and Tom Gould launched their collaborative project, Behind the Smile, an interactive audiovisual exhibition on display at Allpress Espresso Studio – 8 Drake Street, Freemans Bay, until the 8 March.

Between 2022 and 2023, Voices of Hope launched their successful Behind the Jersey campaign. This showcased athletes from all walks of life speaking about their experiences with mental health. Seeing the huge impact this had on people, both in Aotearoa and across the world, Voices of Hope wanted to expand this to involve everyday people.

“As we go about our lives, we too often forget about what people are going through behind their smile, which inspired us to create something that fosters more empathy for each other and diversifies the mental health narrative" Genevieve explains. "We wanted to combine visual and audio to immerse them in the vulnerability and courage of these stories. We began this project at the beginning of 2023, so it's been amazing to see it come to life.”

Having internationally renowned director and photographer Tom Gould on board has been an incredible experience for those sharing their story, Voices of Hope, and Tom himself. “I went into this expecting to learn a lot from those we met (which I did), but throughout it all I also learnt a lot about myself. It’s been a beautiful journey and my wish is that you will take the time to experience this for yourselves” Tom said.

For Genevieve, it's been a labour of love. Using her compassionate approach while interviewing the subjects, she has created a safe space for these brave individuals to be open and honest. “It is such a privilege to be trusted as a safe place to share people's stories. This project means a lot to me and my team at Voices of Hope. I always feel hopeful when real-life stories are told and people learn from them.”

Each person was interviewed and photographed in their ‘happy place’ as they shared part of their journey. These stories are diverse and will resonate with people from all walks of life. What they all have in common, however, is the power that each portrait and interview evokes and the hope they inspire.

Behind the Smile aims to inspire people to start conversations around mental health and to remind people they aren’t alone in their struggles. Behind the Smile is the first-ever exhibition that Voices of Hope has done. “It has been a HUGE project and there have been many people involved, so to see it come to life has been truly special. Having the opening at Allpress and seeing so many people visiting to hear and see these stories has given me hope,” Genevieve explains.

“The more people immerse themselves in these narratives, the more ‘normalised’ these conversations become which I truly believe will have a huge impact on people seeking the help they need.” Genevieve continues, “The exhibition is a call for all Kiwis to be more curious, empathetic, and in touch with our humanity – everyone has struggles you can’t see behind the smile.”

The VoH team, outside of the mental health space, are also coffee aficionados. Genevieve's coffee of choice is an oat milk flat white. “Usually just one a day but if I am extra busy or tired, I will have two!” It's been a busy time for Genevieve and the VoH team but thanks to Allpress, they continue to spread hope while enjoying delicious coffee, “We are SO grateful for the support of Allpress. It’s an incredible space, an incredible team and an incredible location. Plus VERY good coffee!”

“We are SO proud of this exhibition and so grateful for everyone who has been involved in making it what it is.”

Behind the Smile is open to the public with free entry from Friday 16 February - Friday 8 March at Allpress Studio, 8 Drake Street, Freemans Bay, Tāmaki Makaurau.

A special thanks to Someday Studios for helping us bring this to life.

Weekday Hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, 7am - 2pm
Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7am - 5:00pm

Weekend Extended Hours:
Saturday 17th February, 10am - 3pm
Sunday 18th February, 10am - 3pm
Saturday 2nd March, 10am - 3pm