Year One: What I've learnt

My social media sabbatical is almost at an end and even though I didn't do as much as I had intended to do over December; I did manage to do as little as I wanted, which was pretty damn great if I am going to be honest.

I did shoot a tiny bit of work and my sister's wedding, but other than that it's been a lazy December. Here is some stuff I shot for Wêreld Records, just to give you something to look at.

A Hollow in the Land for Wêreld Records.

James Robb for Wêreld Records.

Unlike last year upon my return from the States having a fire in my chest and wanting to get to work right away I knew what to expect this year come the holiday season, so I was prepared for it. I won't lie, it's been a good year for me.

I know some close friends whom have not had such a great year and can't wait for 2015 to get behind them and I hope 2016 brings them awesome challenges, new work and good times. This is not to say that I didn't have some difficult times and challenges. Winter totally kicked my ass and I spoke about it here. I started a studio with a close friend of mine and that has proven to be equally awesome and challenging and we hope to get a handle on it in the new year.

As for my own work, I can't complain really. I completed my Dudes with Beards project (the shooting part of it anyway, I still need to make the book), I went to China, photographed old and new clients, made some rad new friends, took part in the Sasol New Signatures art competition and joined a small music revolution called Wêreld Records - read about that here. I've been able to pay rent and electricity and buy groceries and even spoil myself with some "new" gear which I am stoked to start using in the new year. The only complaints I may have is in not pushing myself more and I am hoping to change that by lighting a fire under my ass and enter work for the Barclays L'Atelier art competition, which I have less than 2 months to do.

I presented my first workshop on how I approach workflow and retouching in late October and it was pretty damn cool. I hope to do some more of those in the new year so keep your eyes peeled for that if you're interested in things I have to say.

So, what have I learned exactly?

It's damn difficult making a living out of being a photographer, however I can't imagine doing anything else with my time. Do I always feel this way? Hell no! There are days I really don't like it. It happens. You just don't always like what you do and that's perfectly fine. The great thing? YOU can change that at any time. Some days you just need to put the camera down and step back and just enjoy the view. And that's what my December has been about. You need it, I need it; we all do and it's okay, really.

Be safe and responsible, because I'd still like to see you in the new year. Sleep over, call for an Uber; hell, call your parents. I am sure they'd rather pick your drunk ass up at 3am in the morning than receive a call that their son or daughter are in hospital. 

Cheers to 2015 and hello to 2016.

Thanks for reading.

Engage

It's been a while.

I've been trying to put out new work fairly consistently. I'm working with some friends on making a print portfolio - something physical and tangible that you can feel, touch and smell (if you're so inclined).

I've been shooting regularly and it feels good to produce new work that I am stoked about and working with new people.

I just want to back up a little for a second. I used to hate working with people. I started off photographing bands, because there was a separation. I didn't have to interact with them, I didn't have to speak to them. They played their music and I photographed them; life was good.

At a certain stage - I believe it was 2013 - I realized that I needed to get over the crippling fear of approaching and engaging with people if I wanted to be a photographer, so I began a personal project called; "Dudes with Beards". I forced myself to engage with strangers. Here's a precursor if all of this is new to you.

Fast forward a few years, I still have said fear, but I've learnt to deal with it. And I kind of love it. It's like we are doing a dance - the subject and I. They have to trust me enough to lead them, but it's also a collaboration. We have to be synchronized and our movements perfectly timed, as not to miss a step and stumble.

Sara Lando once told me; "f*cking look at me, you're not looking at me". I was so frazzled when photographing her that I was not paying attention to her; which is really awkward for your subject. You need to talk to them, ask them about themselves, interact, explain what you're doing, tell them they are doing a great job. Engage!

A couple of months ago I photographed a poster image for a puppet theater production called Tallard & the Ladderbird. The writer of the story, Jessica Ng later approached me to photograph some portraits of her. From the onset though, she warned me that I would not have it easy.

Challenge accepted!

And boy; was it a challenge. Jessica didn't make my life too easy, but I liked that. I need these kinds of subjects to hone my skills.

A short little introduction. Jessica is an Opera singer and she needed some profile images. We actually did two shoots. The first two images was from the first shoot and the third image was from the second. I wanted to show some regality seeing as she sings opera in the first shoot, unfortunately it was a little "too stiff" so we rescheduled and the above image is my favourite from that shoot. I made a really dumb comment or something and Jessica gave this small glimpse of a smile. If you look closely, her eyes are a little softer and there's a little curl of the lips, showing an inkling of a smile and that is what I wanted and what she needed.

By engaging with her and not shutting up and making some sort of joke we both got what we needed from the shoot.

She also told me her mom would be flying over from Hong Kong to come and watch the second and final night of the show and that she would love some images of her and apparently she is even more difficult to work with.

I arrived at our friends place; where Jessica and her mom stayed at and set the scene. Her mom being a big fan of Vermeer; I wanted to emulate his style in a photograph. Obviously I am no Vermeer and I have come to find I need to study the master painters and their use of light to better understand the way I use it and to be better at using it.

Jessica's mom with her late husband's handkerchief.

Jessica's mom with her late husband's handkerchief.

After getting set up, Jessica went for an afternoon nap and left me alone with her mother. I'd hardly known her five minutes and now my only buffer decided it was time for a nap? Shit! I breathed in deeply, pulled the chair up to the window and asked her to take a seat. I then explained what my thinking behind the image was and what I wanted to try and capture. All while my camera was on the floor next to me.

In other words, I engaged. I speak for myself when saying this; that, as photographers we sometimes tend to treat the subject like an object and herein lies the problem. Before pulling up the camera to your eye, pull up a chair, look your subject in the eye, smile and engage and talk to them for a minute and tell them they've got this.

Thanks for reading