“It’s hard to explain, but digital wasn’t really doing a lot for me, at least not at the moment – As for preference, there’s of course the element of surprise as well as your grades, colours and effects that film naturally has, which has huge appeal. Analog can also be quite special and I think people enjoy that.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: LANI SPICE
You have been known to live quite a nomadic lifestyle for a couple of years now. Living mostly in-between Cape Town and Durban. You are currently living in Australia – what made you decide to move there and when can we expect you back?
Yeah nomadic indeed. I’ve been pretty lucky having my family live in different parts of the country and the world. It’s always given me a good excuse to travel more. As for Australia, it was initially a holiday traveling with a friend and visiting family in which I decided to stay and pursue my residency visa. It’s been pretty unreal as I’ve been in the most beautiful environment I have ever experienced. I am leaving very soon though for Bangkok where I’ll be working with a zine space called CEO Books for a short while. Then I will be on my way home, I’d really like to spend some time in Joburg where I’m in the very early stages of another collaborative project.
You seem to be only shooting on film right now, with the NIKON L135AF in particular – what made you decide to embrace the format again?
For me film has always come in waves depending on what you’re doing with your craft. It happens most when I travel I guess. It’s hard to explain, but digital wasn’t really doing a lot for me, at least not at the moment. I also picked up that Nikon L135AF for 5 bucks and being a sucker for cheap cameras I indulged and it did the trick and more. Sadly it just had its day and so I am now using a Ricoh XR-2000 SLR.
* NIKON L135AF
Quite a few photographers are shooting on film again with the loads of blogs dedicated to it – what do you think is so attractive about shooting in this format again?
Well, I think it’s always been attractive and appreciated, but maybe not always practical. However, as you mentioned with all the blogs and new platforms that have arisen over the last few years it’s become easier to showcase your passions and skills and therefore encouraging more exploration and practice. As for preference, there’s of course the element of surprise as well as your grades, colours and effects that film naturally has, which has huge appeal. Analog can also be quite special and I think people enjoy that.
Was it this mind-set that led to you recently publishing a collection of photos in your ‘Tow Aways’ zine? All the contributors were South African, how did you decide on who will be featured in that particular issue?
Without a doubt, I say this every time but it was as simple as being lucky enough to be surrounded by talented individuals, who all shared the same passion. I guess you could say they were also close to home and if there was going to be a first issue for anything then it was going to be like that.
It launched alongside an exhibition of the featured photographers in Cape Town while you are still living in Australia – it must have been hard not being able to be here and not be a part of the project?
It was extremely hard as I put a lot of my heart into helping organise it. There definitely wasn’t a lot of sleep involved and trying to plan from abroad was really testing at times. All I wanted to do was to physically be there for that whole process, but thankfully all those good people involved really pulled it off, like Melissa Williams who helped me bring it to life and Danielle Clough for giving her all in helping us. It’s never fun being away from that kind of stuff, but nevertheless it happened and that’s what was important.
How did RVCA get involved with the project?
RVCA got involved through advocate Melissa Williams who I mentioned before, she is also a featured artist in the zine and in connection with their monthly exhibitions at ‘The Pit’ it became the next ‘First Thursdays’ project. They were very supportive and their involvement in the zine itself was a wonderful collaboration
Are there any copies left of “Tow Aways” – where can one get a hold of it
Yip, you can pick one up at Clarke’s Bar and Dining room.
From what I gather it was a work in progress for quite some time – did you do half here and then finish the final touches in Oz?
That’s pretty much it.
The book has a very interesting title and cover shot – what is the story behind the chaos captured in that shot?
You might have to ask the photographer about the finer details, but for me the first time I saw it I pretty much knew that was the cover. I think that in the chaos there was a sense of calmness, I enjoyed and really took pleasure in all of its contrasts and textures. I felt the black and white was a classic way to ease in and eventually tie it all together.
You also get involved as a stylist in some shoots for other photographers – what is your background with photography and the creative aspects that go along with it?
I used to spend a lot time focused on styling, however I haven’t for a while as I’ve been distracted with new passions, it’s something I’d always like to stay connected to. It began when I finished school, I had found myself in the company of photographers, fashion students and stylists and from there it fell into my lap quite easily. That was definitely my introduction into the industry, however whilst studying at The Cape Town School of Photography I was opened up to so much more and found myself exploring as many avenues as I could and getting a much better understanding of photography itself. I’ve since embraced curating and printing too, which has resulted in my interest in photographic zines and all that goes into it.
A lot of your pictures and portraits are focused directly on the people and friends that you have surrounded yourself with, wherever if you seem to be at that time in your life. It’s almost like you have been blessed by being around some very interesting and entertaining characters wherever you go?
That’s for sure, entertaining is right. I’ve been very fortunate enough to have rather unique friends and all the experiences that come with them.
Your work is very broad and you are able to shoot a lot of disciplines from portrait, fashion, fine art and documentary. A lot of photographers only stick to one or make a name for themselves by being good at only one. Do you think it’s important and which one do you personally enjoy the most?
No I don’t believe you have to necessarily stick to one at all. There are so many different photographers that I admire in fine art, landscape, skateboarding and more, those that are pushing disciplines like fashion and portraiture. Especially of late, I find more and more photographers are embracing variety. I would say focusing on colours, textures and shapes to represent a place or space is what interests me right now. It’s a character of photography that has always inspired me and one I’m still learning from. One of my other influences at the moment is documenting the homes and land here in Australia, I find them fascinating and it’s been pushing me to explore more. This is a refreshing change considering my inspiration would normally have been stemmed from people alone.
What would you say personally makes a subject or environment beautiful – what motivates you to remove the lens cap?
Lighting can always trigger something inside of you, or at least it does for me. I would say there’s a feeling you try and chase. If you are able to really execute the emotion and life of say an object, person, place etc. Whether it’s sexy or sad, that alone becomes beautiful. Depending where I am in my life or what phase I’ve adopted, it’s hard to say what always drives me to remove the lens cap as it can be a little unexpected, but as long as it makes me feel then I try my best. Did I answer that right? God I hope that all makes sense.
What would you say was your introduction to photography? Where did it all start – and whose work locally and abroad would you say has influenced your growth as a photographer the most?
It began in London in 2009 when my roommate lent me a camera that I practically owned later on, so I started to photograph some very wild experiences and everyone in them. Since then I’ve had a number of influences over the years. In terms of Analog, people like Jeff Luker, Lina Scheynius and Elliot Lee Hazel were some of the earlier film photographers I really got to appreciate, then there were other favourites like Patrick O’Dell and Ed Templeton who are always inspirational and then the geniuses like Rafal Milach, Taryn Simon, Alec Soth and William Eggleston that I will always thrive from. As for now the list is endless, but I’m going to say Clint Woodside, Grant Hatfield, Ola Paprocka and Luke Byrne. In terms of local, there are so many guys really blowing people away, and the easiest way to say this is everyone involved in the ‘Tow Aways’ zine and exhibition. I felt extremely blessed to be alongside them. Before I forget, there’s the Gods of Africa whose vision I’ve always enjoyed so much and that’s Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita.
Word on the street is that you are busy with a new zine involving only boys… can you elaborate more on it and when do you think it will be published.
Yes, there is a new zine and it’s featuring some really incredible work. It consists of five male photographers: Thomas Pepler, Justin Mcgee, Justin Poulter, Adriaan Louw and Kent Andreasen. Like ‘Tow Aways’ it is not necessarily themed, but more of a celebration of the artists. They have their own approach and I’m really enjoying bringing that together. I’d really like to be around for this one when it’s published, so it’s hard to say when but soon enough.
Do you see yourself getting involved in any short film projects in the future
I’ve got such appreciation for them, so yes absolutely.
INFO – LANI SPICE
INFO – DIRTY FLIRTS