“ The whole process intrigues me. It’s the craft and process behind it. The fact that I don’t get to see what I’ve shot on that day gives me a chance to mentally recap on the day. I have to visit my local lab, wait for the images to be processed, scan the images – which is an exciting and comforting tradition in itself.”
INTERVEW: LANI SPICE
PHOTOGRAPHY: ANDILE BUKA
When did your film photography journey begin?
My journey with film started back in high school, where I photographed my friends using my dad’s 35mm camera, which had a 50mm fixed lens. Fast forward to 2011, I was introduced to Lomography and my love for film was rekindled – I haven’t looked back since. Looking back at the work created from 2011-2013, I rather miss those “honesty years”, before we all got clever about what to shoot and what not to. I documented everything and everyone I came into contact with, which I guess was how I was training my eye and honing my skill.
Have you had any formal training?
Not at all. I’m self-taught. During University I studied Tourism Management but I was always at the faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, attending exhibitions and borrowing art books, and that made me really want to be an artist, but at that time it didn’t occur to me that that’s where I needed to be.
Your work is predominantly on film, what is it about analogue that intrigues you?
The whole process intrigues me. It’s the craft and process behind it. The fact that I don’t get to see what I’ve shot on that day gives me a chance to mentally recap on the day. I have to visit my local lab, wait for the images to be processed, scan the images – which is an exciting and comforting tradition in itself. Shooting film is more than anything a savoury experience for me. The process of having a variety of films to choose from before I shoot any project still gets me. With film you are in charge of how your images will look from the word go and the fact that I don’t get to shoot 20 shots of the same thing, saves me a lot of time and helps me be more discerning when I’m out there creating work. Film is BETTER! . I love grain, I love blur and I’m a big fan of imperfection in photography because it is such a mechanized art form, we need to have some feeling of connection to the photographer, whether that is through the subject’s gaze, the point of view or the intensity and way the moment is captured. I think to have perfect lighting and correct ratios and all that, is an amazing skill, but at the end of the day it is something that can be learned, whereas you can’t teach people a voice or a point of view, that is uniquely personal.
What camera do you use and do you have a dream model?
Currently shooting with Mamiya RZ, Mamiya 645 and Contax G2. My dream model would be the Pentax 67.
Mamiya RZ, Mamiya 645
You shoot in both colour and black and white, would you say you have a preference? And why?
I enjoy shooting with both colour and black and white. It depends on the project I’m doing and how I want the photos to look like.
Do you ever use digital?
I use a digital camera for commissions and I would like to reach a stage where I shoot commercial work on film. It’s slowly getting there and I am really excited to shoot more projects on film.
Johannesburg seems quite the muse in your photography such as your series Views from Ponte City. Could you say why and elaborate more on these works?
There’s this quote by Daido Moriyama and I would like to paraphrase it: “People of Japan need to document every inch and corner of Tokyo, and do it over and over again, because it’s forever changing”. I share the same sentiment about Johannesburg. It’s one place I don’t get tired of photographing; it has allowed me to find my own voice and at the same time, allowed me to approach it differently every time I’m out there shooting.
You have recently done some traveling. You have visited Nigeria to participate in the Lagos Photo Festival as well as the 18th Internationale Schillertage Festival in Germany. How did this come about and what inspiration or experience did you take from it, if any?
I have always wanted to showcase my work at the Lagos Photo Festival and to be part of Designing Futures last year was quite an honor. I was one of the artists selected for the exhibition, which was curated by Cristina De Middel, whom I have admired for years. To meet fellow artists whose work I’ve admired for years was a humbling experience. I now understand why it’s the second-biggest Photo Festival on the continent. It’s well curated and I have seen so many exhibitions showcasing photographic work in one city. I was attending 3 to 4 shows a day, which were all running for a month, some even for 3 months. It was my first time displaying at the 18th Internationale Schillertage Festival and last year was their first time showing photographic works. Sipho Gongxeka introduced me to Marietta Kesting, curator of the show NOW SEE ME, NOW DON’T , when she was in Johannesburg, and it was an honor to be selected as one of the artists to show work alongside Sipho Gongxeka, Lebogang Kganye, Madoda Mkhobeni, Simon Fidel, and Gontse More.
Analogue photography seems to have come full circle amongst photographers and creatives around the world. It’s still used in various disciplines such as fine art, fashion, travel, zines etc. Working within film yourself, do you have a discipline you enjoy the most?
I would like to experiment more with publishing my own personal projects in the form of photobooks and zines. I think the culture of zine making and publishing is not as huge in South Africa and it would be great see artists publishing their own material and not waiting for Galleries or financial backing in order to bring their projects to life. In this day and age, the internet has made the world really small and there’s a number of platforms and opportunities one can utilize to showcase ones work to a wider audience. It’s a matter of finding the platform that works best for you.
Tell us about your photo book out called Crossing Strangers which seems to embrace your Johannesburg theme in more aspects than one. What were your processes behind it?
Crossing Strangers was a project I started in 2014. In that same year I met Hideko Ono, at that time she was still thinking of starting a publishing company, which she founded the following year. Crossing Strangers explores the landscape of Jo’burg, and the relationship individuals have with the city space post-apartheid. It is the first publication that has been made under the imprint MNK press, which is a publishing platform that collaborates with individuals in helping them engage in realizing a body of work as printed matter. With publishing Crossing Strangers, we both acknowledged the importance of representation within the imagined perceptions of South Africa, particularly Johannesburg. More often than not images create a reality which distort the truth of experience and they are often created by individuals who are disconnected with the people and context which they have documented. With this body of work we wanted to communicate a narrative, which in most ways is more representative of the experience, knowing that in the end it would be more powerful in its reflection. Included in the book is an essay by Rangoato Hlasane, co-founder of the community art space Keleketla Library, titled Monuments To The Eternal Spaces.
Crossing Strangers was also showcased at the Tokyo Art Book Fair. Do you have any idea how it was received? Are there plans for a further international presence?
The Tokyo Art Book Fair was amazing. I was at the fair for 3 days and my publication was sold out on the second day, which was both overwhelming and humbling at the same time. It was incredible to see so many young people publishing projects from their respective countries and also crazy to see how publishing is being embraced in Asia. I have plenty of plans to showcase the book locally and internationally. The book is available online at MNK Press web store. Soon it will be available at David Krut Projects in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Do you ever have any frustrations around working on analogue?
The price of film is ridiculous, which is putting some of my projects on hold. I have been scanning my negatives since June last year and that hasn’t been fun. I think scanning and waiting for negatives from the lab are two of my biggest frustrations.
What is the next step for you as photographer? Would you combine or explore other mediums?
I’m really keen on trying to shoot short films for my projects and see what might come out of it. For the past year or so, I’ve been planning on pursuing a post-graduate in photography and that’s currently what I’m busy with, in terms of applying to institutions mid-year, and polishing up my portfolio, which I’m excited about. I just want to be able to continue to do work that is self-reflective and not dictated by trends in the industry, and keep growing the kind of work I want to make. At some point I would like to get better at writing and start directing.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you don’t mind sharing? Any new publications?
This year I’m focusing on having a solo exhibition of my latest project Crossing Strangers locally and internationally. Also, I’ll be shifting my focus to applying for residencies that are suitable for the kind of work I’m doing.
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