I photographed this image for ELLE SA at Meerlust Wine Estate. The team was made up of fashion director Jackie Burger, make-up artist Algria, hairdresser Jeanette and myself. All four of us have roots that go deep into Afrikaner heritage, while our heads soar freely through the fashion universe. The theme: Africana Victoriana. When model Kate appeared in a billowing silk ball gown and tailored buckskin jacket, her long hair braided in small African, yet Victorian-styled plaits, the matriarchs of my childhood rose into my consciousness and the image unfolded seamlessly. I shot the sunset travelling through the Northern Cape. Juxtaposed in this context, it lends new significance to the image set in the poultry coop.
I recognised at a very young age there is more to life than meets the eye. Coming from the Karoo, I spent my younger years at the foot of the Swartberg on a farm with breathtaking nature all around me. Small town living served on a plate of vast nothingness plus a fair helping of fresh air equals a massive imagination and afternoons daydreamed away in the finest detail.
Fast forward 30 years and the Karoo is undoubtedly still my preservation and my safe regrouping space. On the surface this arid land seems unforgiving and sterile but to me it’s a bit like Emanuele Farneti’s white cover: “White is not surrender, but a blank sheet waiting to be written, the title page of a new story that is about to begin.”
I had the privilege of following the artist David Downton round Paris documenting some of his sittings and now I look back at these couture moments with incredible fondness. These irreverent glimpses into the workings of the high fashion industry – experiencing curation, excellence, creativity and clarity of vision on a world stage like Paris – and the consequent expansion of consciousness undoubtedly made me want to do better. I wish everyone could experience it just once in their lives.
The ability to use photography to evoke emotion and curiosity is what first made me fall in love with this medium. Being able to tell a story and to leave the viewer with a lasting impression is so important to me; it’s really about making people feel. I like to think my images are characterised by their composition, light and movement. I’ve always been curious about my surroundings and about finding beauty in the mundane. Sometimes the simplest things are the most inspiring to me.
Model: Summer Thompson/Boss Models;
Hair & makeup: Mary Gouveia; Styling: Tarryn Oppel
I like to think of my work as rooted in wonder and often it is wonder at what is unique to our country. I look for ideas that demonstrate the energy and creativity of this part of Africa and filter them through my own ideas of what I want to see as a photographer. I love to feature fashion images alongside something graphic and colourful. These two images demonstrate what inspires me most about working in South Africa. The first is of two models in clothes from the menswear label Roq Men Africa by the young designer Siyavuya Roqoza, who creates contemporary looks out of the traditional ideas he absorbed growing up in the Eastern Cape. The other image, taken at Kghodwana in Mpumalanga, shows the incredible colours and graphics created by Ndebele women to decorate their houses. I find ideas and inspiration in how this country balances the contemporary and the traditional and creates from them something beautiful and timeless.