“I mostly just prefer the way that it looks. I also like that you have to be more careful with how many photos you take. It kind of forces you to concentrate on taking a good picture, and not just mindlessly shooting hundreds, and then having to go through them all later.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: ANÉ STRYDOM
You have been working actively as a stylist for quite some time now. What came first – the photography or the styling? Was it a question of one thing leading to another?
I started styling first. The photography kind of came later – as more of a hobby. It’s still basically just a hobby, but I like it more than my job (styling).
Do you find that working as a stylist helps with your approach to photography in terms of how you choose your characters or subject matter?
I think when I first started doing set-up shoots, as opposed to just shooting whatever was around me, it helped me because I could control every aspect of the shoot and have things exactly as I’d envisioned them, without having to worry about anyone else’s opinion. Not sure if that makes me a control freak. I’ve just recently started working with other stylists on small little shoots, and I quite enjoy having someone else doing the styling, so that I can focus on shooting what I’m meant to be shooting. In terms of choosing characters, I think my taste will stay the same whether I’m shooting or styling, so the two worlds definitely collide.
Your images and characters seem to portray a sense of complete freedom from the world and its woes. They seem to live in a world without certain morals or taboos. Have you managed create your own utopia through your work?
I guess I have. I don’t really think about it that much, to be honest. But I guess I do photograph things in a way that I would like my entire world to be. I actually don’t really see why it can’t be.
I find a lot of natural beauty within your work, which is also slightly provocative at times. Why do you feel so many of your subjects are comfortable with the nudity that’s required when they’re posing for your work?
It might actually just be because I’m a girl. But they shouldn’t be comfortable, because I’m a total pervert. Ha! Can I say that? No, but really, I think the female body is so beautiful, and I don’t think I ever approach my characters in a creepy way. I usually straight-up ask if they are comfortable with nudity, and if they’re not, that’s totally cool. Everyone feels differently about their body and has the right to control which parts of it are photographed.
You also have an eye for some incredible minimalist landscapes. Do you feel there is, in some way, a connection between your still-life pieces and the landscapes you capture?
I love shooting landscapes, and I definitely think there’s a connection. Sometimes, when I’m alone and shooting a landscape, I’ll wish I had a model with me to shoot in front of it. But maybe it’s also a good thing that I don’t always have a model with me, because who would want to ruin a perfectly good landscape?
Are you still shooting on the Minolta SRT 101b Revolt? What made you decide to use this particular model?
I am. I found my Minolta in a second-hand shop in Gansbaai for about R120. At first it didn’t really work, but my dad fiddled with it for a bit and it started working somehow. Before that, I didn’t really take photos, other than with the odd disposable here and there. I liked how the pictures came out and have stuck with it since. I’ve tried out some other cameras, but the Minolta will always be my favourite. It seems to make everything and everyone soft and wonderful.
Minolta – SR-T 101 / 1966
What draws you to shooting on film, and what are the biggest frustrations around it?
I mostly just prefer the way that it looks. I also like that you have to be more careful with how many photos you take. It kind of forces you to concentrate on taking a good picture, and not just mindlessly shooting hundreds, and then having to go through them all later.
It does get expensive though, with having to buy film and pay for development. But it’s still always so worth it.
How long have you been shooting in this format, and where did the interest in it come from?
I’m going to take a wild guess, and say about two or three years. I’m not really sure when or how the interest sparked. I think it really just started when I bought my Minolta, developed the first pictures and that they weren’t completely shit. I’ve become kind of addicted. It’s all I ever really want to do in my free time.
Is there a particular brand of film that you have found works best for you, or does it depend on the type of shoot you’ll be doing?
I usually just buy what I can find – I’m not really that fussy. I know that there’s better film out there and I should probably experiment a bit more.
Your Instagram account is quite popular. Do you have dedicated images that you use only for this format, or is there a lot of crossover work between both your Instagram and Tumblr accounts?
I usually post more of the photos on my Tumblr, and pick some of my favourites from it for my Instagram. I also like how Instagram makes it easy to crop images, and I often end up focusing on a specific detail of an image that gives it more appeal. I sometimes then go back and crop the image in the same way for my Tumblr if I prefer the Instagram result. I’ve been quite slack with updating Tumblr though, as it takes a lot of time, whereas Instagram is quick and I can do it on the go. My Instagram also holds a lot of images created by others that I just happen to like, whereas my Tumblr contains my own work only.
You used to contribute quite a bit to the online site cobrasnake.com. How did you end up shooting for them, and do you still go out documenting live events and parties?
They posted on their Facebook page, saying they were looking for photographers worldwide, so I mailed them with some of my disposable pictures from nights out. They liked them, but said I would have to shoot digital. I didn’t have a digital camera, so I borrowed my housemate’s, and my friend Martin and I started going out and shooting together. It was really fun and gave going out a new purpose. Mark Hunter (The Cobrasnake) is such a nice guy as well, which made it an absolute pleasure. But then Martin moved to London and I didn’t much feel like doing it alone, so I stopped. He’s back now, and we shot an album recently. We might actually do some more if we feel like it. I am also currently using a friend’s Nikon F-601, so I might start going out and documenting nights out on film as well.
How do you decide which pictures end up online? It seems that certain shots are from dedicated shoots, and that others have just been randomly captured?
Yeah. It’s a mixture of both. And when I’m doing a dedicated shoot, I’ll obviously shoot more of the same thing (still not as much as digital) and do more careful selects. Often, with landscapes, I’ll take at the most about two photos of the scene. If I don’t like the outcome, I just don’t use them.
What appeals the most to you about your work when you, personally, are looking at it?
Probably the softness and natural light.
What is your definition of beauty?
Captain of the high school netball team somewhere in the Free State.
‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’
‘Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon’
ANGUS AND JULIA STONE
‘Down the Way’
EMI / Capitol Records
‘The Whole Story ’