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Alternate look at Christmas stained glass

Alternate look at Christmas stained glass

SPAM (St Paul’s Arts & Media) is famous for its Christmas videos, especially with cute kids. This year they’ve taken an alternate approach. Following on from STAINED, their multi-faceted community arts event that drew from, and gave to, St Paul’s Auckland’s 31 historic stained glass windows, SPAM have created a series of photoillustrations that reinterpret familiar scenes around the birth of Christ, set in Auckland today.

Each year, St Paul’s Auckland puts on Alt Carols, a Christmas show for people keen on an alternate take on carol services, with five traditional carols musically reinterpreted by a variety of artists. This year, the photoillustrations were slowly revealed on a huge screen above the five bands or duos during the songs, with animated STAINED fluid art projected directly onto the historic church interior by projection artist Thomas Bilton.

The SPAM creatives chose five traditional window scenes that linked to the songs: the Annunciation, the Angels announcing Christ’s birth to the Shepherds, the Nativity with the Holy Family and Angels, the Magi following the star, and the Holy Family Travelling to Egypt. The photoillustrations have familiar historic window compositions and content, but are cast, dressed, propped and located in unexpected contemporary Auckland. The Alt windows have visual clues to look like stained glass, but aimed to surprise audiences, inviting them to reconsider the familiar narratives, in the same way Alt’s carols do.

SPAM cast from within their church community and Eleanor Calder photographed them around the city with producer Lauren Aitken. Using techniques developed for his editorial and advertising photoillustrations, James Bowman re-worked the shots into their final compositions, with additional imagery, like wings created from a single feather. The frames contain parts of St Paul’s windows, the halos are a design created for a STAINED artwork by E. Kim, inspired by St Paul’s iconic rose window, and put back into the church building in the final image. Historically, Jesus’ halo contains a cross, so Bowman used St Paul’s new logo symbol for him (resulting in pretty cute ears in the Travelling image). The colour palette also draws from St Paul’s new visual identity and its symbolism, the colours of their Advent Candles and twists on traditional stained glass palettes.

Additional information:

• St Paul's is the oldest church in Auckland, New Zealand, with one of the largest Anglican congregations in Australasia. Find out more about St Paul’s at and,_Auckland

• SPAM is a collective of individuals exploring arts and media and how it relates to contemporary expressions of spirituality and faith. Since 2005 SPAM has created community art events; service events; community & kids’ films, Christmas event creative; and 14 Christmas short films that have been viewed six million times on YouTube alone. Past projects and events can be seen here: Short films here:

• Find out more about Alt Carols here:

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