I am a photographic artist - Art is perception, what you or I perceive to be Art, another will see as Junk, Likes and dislikes are a reflection of the individual psyche', reactions to art are not a reflection of the artist, but a reflection of the viewer.
What is a photographic artist? One may as well ask, what is an artist? Depending on who you are speaking to, you could get a million different answers. Do you imagine some crazy guy in a white lab coat, spattered with a hundred negatives? Or do you see a guy with 20 cameras slung around his neck, looking like an overeager tourist? It’s neither of the aforementioned, just an inconspicuous normal guy, quietly going about with a lens and an eye to capture moments of emotion on disk.
I'm a bit of a maverick, I truly believe that nothing is impossible, I know that everything has a solution, so I will go out to find the solution, and make things work. I have always been a creative, as a child my grandmother encouraged me to use my hands and create, I grew up around her feet, and perhaps it was her way to get me out from under them, but, it worked. From tinkering away in the garage and the backyard with bits of wood, and drawing and painting on everything in sight, for which I must add I regularly got my rear end paddled, I progressed to more structured art in primary school. Progressing through my teens and into my early twenties into the field of sculpture, I started my creative career at the tender age of thirteen, making those awful macramé' which are now again coming back into vogue, I then went on to do sculpture, and also did the impossible I trained and performed in an equestrian display team, teaching and doing the voltige (gymnastics on horseback) At 22 I packed up everything and went to Europe, ended up in Iceland where I started my career in Fashion. I worked as a fashion designer for 26 years, but always it has been about creating or capturing an image.
My journey into the world of art photography began 12 years ago, with an intense desire to capture and preserve the images that I see; it has been a long journey in coming to terms with trying to present my vision as apposed to being a technically precise photographer, often getting severe criticism from the photographic purists for not obeying and following the rules of photography. I did all the training and began to shoot these technically perfect images, which were totally without emotion, and didn’t excite me in the least, taking the advice of a friend and colleague I went back to presenting my images as an art form, photography after all is defined as painting with light, and I am excited with the way light plays on the surfaces around me.
For me photography is about capturing the essence of my subject, of finding the beauty hidden within, I want to capture an image which anyone would want to display with pride, I try to reach across to my subject with the projection of my lens, if I can touch and capture the moment or the emotion with heart, then I have succeeded. My photography is a part of me that will continue to grow and to evolve as I test the limits of my own creativity with each passing day, perhaps one day I will leave a part of my soul behind, in the heart of my pictures. People often think that as a photographer I just point my camera and push go, if only it were so, I always choose my subject, and sometimes I will shoot the same subject a thousand times before I get the shot I want, for example the local "Karretjies" (horse drawn carts with car tyres, that the local farming folk use) they are seen in the village on a daily basis, and they come cantering down the streets regularly, I have about a 160 good pictures of them, but still I haven't been able to capture, the emotion and movement of the subject that satisfies me to be an art-work, but I will eventually get the shot that I want. I also never shoot staged or posed pictures, as they tend to lack emotion.
Fine art is very subjective, I know that some people will love my work, and others will hate it, all I am doing as a photographic artist is capturing an image and presenting my vision to the world, and I hope with each that the viewer will be emotionally affected by my work, and I allow that the viewer will put their own interpretation into the piece, which may or may not be my own. My hope with each art work that I create that I will reach every viewer and impact on them in some form, and to excite them emotionally so that they each carry away a different experience of my work, whether it be to hate it or to love it, if I have raised a reaction with the viewer then I have succeeded.
Portraits are an absolute favourite of mine, but I am totally turned off when I point my lens at someone, and they go into some sort of pose, which is totally artificial and carries no emotion. I need to capture the raw essence of my subject, to capture the hidden depths of their soul, and then I am happy with the photograph, my family hate it when I am around them with my camera in hand, as they say I take the most awful photographs of them, yet they are some of my best, with all the flaws, wrinkles and raw emotion exposed.
Being a photographic artist means having a captive audience, and being responsible, I have been given a voice through my lens and having been a philanthropist most of my life I tend to use that voice to raise awareness of various social issues, and especially now having achieved international recognition with my first ever exhibition having opened at the Riverside Gallery in London which ran for 2 months. I’ve never had an exhibition in South Africa, and I’m quite honoured to have been invited to be part of a joint exhibition in the world’s art capital, and even more honoured to have one of my works being used on the posters advertising the exhibition all over London, and another of my works on the “Private Viewing” catalogue, perhaps I’ll yet get my day to exhibit in either Johannesburg or Cape Town.
I was really quite honoured in when I was approached by My Artspace for an interview, on both my work as a photographer and my work with poverty stricken communities, The poor will always have a soft spot for me, and as I have devoted the past 12 years to making a difference in the lives of communities who are only victims of circumstance, I will also spend the next 10 or 20 years trying to make life a little bit better for them, and through my artwork, raise awareness for their plight.
I have often entered photographic competitions, where I’ve had work sent back to me, with the following penned comment “Disqualified, this photograph has been Photo-shopped!” I’ve accepted the compliment with good grace, as I don’t even own Photoshop, I am always being asked how do I get my works to look like they do, all I answer is that I stick to the definition of photography, and I paint with light, lighting is a very important part of my art, and I look at each subject through the lens, and capture the lighting at the right moment, if I don’t the artwork is ruined. The next step is my developing of my work, as here again I use only the contrasts of light to achieve my final product.
I have always been a creative, making things, creating things, capturing and creating beautiful images of the world as I see it is part of my nature, and yes I accept that some people will, and some people won’t like what I do, but it’s not going to stop me from doing, just as my heart won’t stop me from caring about others around me, before I even spare a thought for myself.
I am a born social worker, and have been a philanthropist all my life, spending the past 15 years running poverty alleviation projects on a full time basis, with everything else taking second place, and even though it's hard to find time to be an artist I juggle it rather successfully with my community work. In 1998 I began my journey of reaching out to the needy where I began working in the informal settlements around Roodepoort, I built and started a crèche for the wandering children of the squatter camps and of course feeding them, and generally trying to help the families where I could, In October 2000 I packed up everything and with Dorcas Aid South Africa I rushed off to South Africa’s first cholera epidemic in Kwazulu-Natal, where I ran a water purification programme, driving some 600km’s every day to pump water and deliver safe water in barely accessible rural areas. From early 2003 to late 2004 I worked for an organisation called AIDSLINK, and spent my time crawling through the Hillbrow slums, counselling, caring and feeding destitute AIDS victims, and holding many a hand while they were dying.
In 2005 I went to work for Sparrow Schools, where I began a skills development programme, and eventually progressed to teaching. In 2009 I came to Richmond in the heart of the Great Karoo, ostensibly to start a skills development project for the 84% unemployed, but this never happened due to a lack of funding for the programme, So I started a literacy programme with the children of the local soup kitchen, where I simply read stories to them every lunch time, even on days when it snowed, I have now started a programme with the children of the high school, where I assist them with school projects in the hopes of improving the matric pass rate, and all of this without any donor funding. I wish that I could do more, but unfortunately I am only a man, but still I do whatever I can with all that I have, which is myself.
“The greatest gift a man can give is himself.”
I am a grandfather, who raised my grandson for the first 6 years of his life, and who turned eight this year, it was hard being a single grandparent, but such a joy seeing the world through the eyes of an innocent, had a lot of fun stimulating his creativity, he loves the camera, and I would always hold my breath when he got his hands on my camera and started taking pictures, (petrified that he would drop it) I think I have some serious competition, as he takes some fabulous photographs, maybe I'll start a page for him one of these days!