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take a tour of alt-house – the cool new agency and studio run by two melbourne creatives

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Alt-House is an artist’s dream. Recently launched by photographer Jess Brohier and director and editor Grace Moore, the project is a combined co-working space, photography studio and creative agency – all wrapped up in a converted warehouse in Fitzroy, Melbourne. We caught up with the ace duo to have a squiz at their super-cool set-up, and to find out more about the community they’re building.How did Alt-House begin? Jess: At the start of 2021, a rare opportunity was presented to us to take over the lease on the space. We decided to take a leap of faith in a very uncertain time and start this business. 

Grace: We hardly knew one another but we had a shared vision for what the space could be and how an artist-led agency and co-working space was needed for the community, especially after such an isolating time for creatives in the pandemic. 

What’s it like to share the space with a bunch of creatives? Grace: I love it. I feel so inspired by the other artists working in the space. I really look up to a lot of my Melbourne peers like Mikaela Stafford (animator) and Tré Koch (photographer). I still pinch myself that I get to share a space with people whose work I used to admire online. 

Jess: Sometimes when you are your own boss and no one is holding you accountable, motivation can dip. Seeing people who you admire work so hard really helps you push through blocks, as well as consider new paths in creativity and the way of doing things.What kind of equipment can be found at Alt-House? Jess: We have a full commercial photography studio consisting of location and studio lighting kits, as well as stands, modifiers, paper rolls and many props, plants and plinths – everything needed to run a commercial campaign or lookbook shoot!

What do you love most about the space? Grace: I love the morning light that comes in through the windows and opening up the roller door to the street to see what’s going on. On Friday afternoons we often lie on the couches and sit on the steps, debriefing on the week that’s been. 

Jess: Definitely the amazing humans we have working alongside us. The space itself is also such a gem. Having a heritage building with original pillars and beautiful natural light really makes it hard to be in a bad mood.What goals do you have for Alt-House? Jess: The first is to change the way commercial work in Australia is handled by offering opportunities on large projects to more femme, queer and culturally diverse artists, both in front of the camera and behind. We want to build a community space centred around supporting other small businesses, local designers and artists.

Grace: We’re also hoping to represent more artists in the future, in a way that suits their practice and ethos as a creative. I’m really passionate about having femme and non-binary people in technical film roles like camera and lighting, so I would like to see more of that happen. Describe your creative process. Jess: Usually, a project starts with a client meeting, understanding the fundamentals of their label and how to best elevate the imagery we are going to create together. I plan all elements quite considerably for weeks before the shoot with either my clients or creative friends, to figure out how we can create something better than we ever have before. 

Grace: My creative process as a filmmaker is constantly in flux. I’m currently working on a lot of music videos, so that involves bonding with the artists and sharing our influences and inspirations to realise the visuals for their music. My documentary practice is centred on my personal ethics, which are social and environmental justice and hearing the stories of other people.Tell us about some of the projects that have been shot or created at Alt-House. Jess: A standout for me is the Volley Australia Pride campaign we shot here. We had stills and video capturing all the incredible talent and their particular personalities, loud and proud, for an iconic Australian label. I also really enjoy supporting emerging labels and local makers in our studio. Recently, we’ve shot campaigns for slow-fashion labels like Nelson Made, Post Sole and Oats The Label. 

Grace: We recently filmed a series of conversations with Kath Ebbs, who is an actor, writer and activist. It was beautiful to hear really deep conversations about issues of love, queer identity, creative practice and mental health. I felt the film crew and talent were really in sync that day and, to me, that is what Alt-House is about. 

Jess: Our Alt-Curated events are also a standout. We have 10 to 15 local designers and makers in the space over a weekend. It totally transforms the space into a pop-up shop full of unique and amazing slow fashion garments and locally-made objects. When you launched the business, did any part of the process surprise or scare you? Jess: All of it continues to scare and surprise us! Signing the lease was one of the first and largest leaps we had to take. Taking on staff was probably the next. Overall, running a company comes with a new set of responsibilities and challenges that we, as freelancers, have never had to face before. It’s constantly a process of learning and re-learning in order to improve and continue moving along. 

Grace: It’s interesting. I felt so excited and motivated to start something new after the pandemic that I pushed through any fear or doubt. Jess and I had to work very quickly to set the business up so we didn’t have time to second-guess ourselves. That was helpful. I’m surprised at how quickly Alt-House has grown and how much need there was for a shared space in the community. Any advice for creatives who want to turn their passion into a small business but don’t know where to begin? Grace: Back yourself and be ready for change – in life, in relationships, in time-management. I think it’s important to really sit with why you want to create a small business because when setbacks inevitably happen, you can come back to that purpose and it propels you on. Learn to lean into your joys and pleasures outside of work, too, as these self-care practices become essential to maintaining mental health and creativity.

Jess: It depends on the business! I've found running a business as a sole trader very different to running a company. Generally, I would say try not to focus on the money aspect if you are wanting to work as a creative; just work on making the best work you possibly can and people will respond to that. If you are aiming to sell a product, always invest in the creative team. In this age of social media marketing, the visuals and feeling are what you are actually selling, so try your best to work with a team that can do your product justice, to get the best possible response from your customer. For more small-business stories like this, visit frankie.com.au/strictly-business, or sign up to our monthly e-newsletter. Have a small-business story you’d like to share? Pitch it to us.