My gender identity influences everything I create! I create things that try break binaries of gender in a way to help me understand myself and my identity.
INTERVIEW: LUVUYO NYAWOSE
When and how did you start photographing and documenting your life, memories, peers and friends?
I started taking photos when I was about 11/12 years old. I got this tiny Pentax digital camera for Christmas and I took many photos with it. I was taking photos of candles, objects in my house, shoes and all very strange things that excited me. When I got older, I was taking many photos of landscapes and photos of animals and nature. I found peace in taking photos of these subjects as I felt very often alone and taking photos of forests and animals made me feel like i belonged somewhere. But whenever my I saw my friends, we would have photo shoots together, they would take photos of me and I would take photos of them. I always wanted a fire BBM display picture and likewise for them.
Who are you inspired by? And how did media affect you while growing up queer in South Africa?
Who am I inspired by? Wow! So many people. I am going to list a few people that have really inspired me in my art because there are quite a few! FAKA, Angel-Ho, Queezy, Athi Patra-Ruga, Jody Brand, Chris Riddel, James Bidgood, Harley Weir, Zanele Muholi, Sabelo Mlangeni, Tyrone Lebon and Petra Collins. Not all are photographers, but these people inspire me with the imagery that they create.
Media affected me in the way that I viewed the world. I was watching television but never viewed any characters like myself, therefore I was viewing queer bodies as strange and weird, which was a reasoning for my self hate for many years, because I didn’t understand who and what I was. The first queer character I saw was Kurt, Blake, Santana and Britney on Glee, and even then, i was finding it strange because I had never seen a gay narrative or gay romances.
But I was very inspired by usually the leading womxn characters. They way many of them were so unapologetic and strong, really inspired me. But currently, I am so inspired by the two shows, My House and Pose.
How does your gender identity influence your work?
My gender identity influences everything I create! I create things that try break binaries of gender in a way to help me understand myself and my identity. I like to work with other queer bodies that relate and don’t fit into the binary of “male and female.” And I use my feelings towards my gender identity with my photographs in a form of cleansing and dealing. If you view my painting portraits, you will see that each portrait in unintentionally gender ambiguous, these portraits are slightly based off myself as a way to try understand myself and my femininity.
What motivates your voice to shoot predominately film?
Agh, I just don’t like digital. I feel digital is fast and a quick way to get the job done. Whereas film is a slower process, for me, I really study my subject and take in their energy and work with them and not see it as a quick photo shoot but rather getting to know the person I’m working with. Also I’m just someone that likes to live in the moment and take in my surroundings. Also film has an emotive quality to it, which is something I love.
What message(s)/aims does your artistic practice aim to convey/address?
My message is always a queer one. My message is visibility. I am extremely passionate about photographing the community I belong to. But my message is always a message trying to convey our power and strength. Growing up I always viewed my people as weak,weird and strange. I was always told that I was a girl and I was weak and I screamed like a girl and threw like a “sissy.” This lead me to believing that I was a weirdo and weak. I never saw my people being portrayed as the heroes, the fighters, the good people. I decided to use this in my work, representing my people that I started to see (only when i came out) as these beautiful beings, because no one thinks about our daily encounters and harassment. I took so much inspiration from some of our ability to keep moving and fight back, therefore I always showcase my subjects as almost my idolislsed statues of power.
What do you think is distinctive in your photographic work?
I usually always shoot from a lower angle and my colour choice, and when I’m shooting people i usually enjoy having a plain backdrop, something simple to give focus to the person. And also my softness in my photos.
Tell us more about your creative process, from how you develop a concept and reach an end product?
I usually have ideas that float in my bed or concepts that I’ve been thinking about and usually an experience, a film, a painting or a photograph will trigger me into pursuing a project. Once I have a rough idea, i usually just write it down or draw pictures of what I want my end product to look like. When I have my idea, I also like to find artists that have dealt with similar subject matter that I’m dealing with, and I observe how they have communicated their concept. It’s really just a lot of Pinterest and website looking, this leads me into making moodboards to get an idea of how I want my images to roughly look as well as the visual language I’m trying to convey.
Are there any memorable images or shoots you could share with us? Tell us what made that image or shoot special?
My most memorable was shooting ‘Queenie’, I was shooting BTS for FAKA and Angel-Ho’s new music video. The screening of the music video will be soon! And I’ll be exhibiting my photos there! There will be a whole kiki promoting the song and the video. It’s going to be crazy exciting. But yeah, that was definitely my most memorable moment. I’ll never forget it.
What do you hope you achieve in the near future?
I hope that South Africa recognises me as a queer artist as well as worldwide. I really want to take my work further and work with people I really admire overseas and in South Africa. I’ve already worked with some of the most legendary in the Queenie music video which was such a fan girl moment for me. But there’s a few people I have in mind that I would dream to work with. I hope I am successful and I am respected in the fashion world and the queer world. I am someone that wears my identity so proud on my sleeve, so anything for my people.
What tips or traits do you have for aspiring young photographers like yourself?
I would love some tips omg! Someone send me tips!! Hahaha. But I think my advice would be, get yourself out there!! Socialise and immerse yourself within the people you see yourself in. Try and send your work everywhere to get people to recognise what you do and what you’re doing. I am a really big dreamer so whenever I have created a project I would send it everywhere I can think of. Also believe in your work, believe in your craft and do what makes you happy and fullfills your heart.
DANIEL WALTON @danielwaltonn