PICTURES FROM THE INSIDE
This exhibition marks the culmination of Through The Lens Collective’s very first Advanced Course. 2020 began as an exciting, and later- extremely challenging year filled with much uncertainty. A moment of forced collective introspection on what it means to be alive at this particular moment, and a personal and collective reflection on our human condition. Against this background, 8 photographers embarked on a 9 month long journey to develop a photographic body of work that would begin to give expression to their individual ideas and experiences, using the medium of photography to bring themselves into a more intimate relationship with the world. With one lens pointing outward and the other facing within, they have made what we’ve termed pictures from the inside. Even though contact between students was limited over the months, the thoughts, feelings and experiences represented here are are inextricably linked.
Article in the Mail and Guardian:
Collaboration with Berman Contemporary:
"The Image is out Voice" , Exhibition from 20 March to18 April 2020
Curated by Els van Mourik
‘Subtle Bodies’ is an ongoing exploration of relationships between memory, displacement and un-belonging. The work reflects on my experience as a mixed-race migrant born to a white, Ukrainian mother and a black, Burkinabè father. I was born in my mother’s country and migrated with her to South Africa at the age of 2. The work reflects on the tensions of navigating identity in between transnational locations that can never quite be ‘home’ and the lingering feelings of displacement that cloud my everyday experiences.
I create images by observing the unseen, fragmented and emotive landscapes of my memories. I visually navigate representations between physical and affective landscapes to locate the political and intimate relationships between space and emotion. Through these layered images I blur the relationship between the ‘othered’ body and the land/’home’ in which I continue to un-belong in order to assert a presence of self that can, and does, exist outside of hegemonic boundaries that shape normative constructions of identity.
In-between: adjective [before noun] - between two clear or accepted stages or states, and therefore difficult to describe or know exactly.
I’ve recently become a father. I started creating this work while my girlfriend and I were pregnant, as a personal account of thoughts, emotions and encounters I continue to grapple with, a reflection on my and sub-conscious feelings about impending fatherhood.
In Between is an introspective conversation about the transition into parenthood, and a critical engagement with the concept of domesticity, and my own masculinity; a simultaneous questioning, defining and redefining of something that was never discussed between my father and I.
My images are a visual representation of a complex and layered headspace, an attempt to grasp what I failed to make of sense of at the time. My work serves to map the surreal landscape of my mind, with intention to preserve details of significance which may be overlooked in an outsider’s observation of this liminal experience.
Nothing for Us Here
I was born in 1991 and grew up in a non -traditional family due to labour migration. Typically in South African black communities, as young children we are left with our grandparents, whilst our parents seek employment in other towns or provinces. This tradition continues in the current dispensation. I too had to leave home to seek better opportunities once I left university. Being taught that education is the way out of poverty, I obtained a degree in Social Work, but little has changed. I spent years unemployed, and angry at the system that failed to give me a better life. I took on a job irrelevant to my degree, working as an IT technical support technician in the East Rand of Johannesburg, which presented the opportunity to access places of socio-historical significance, including private and public institutions which represent the governance of the most oppressive era in South African history. My images are a reflection on my own position within a shifting but unchanging landscape, and a representation of my layered and geographically scattered sense of home, characterised by a questioning of one’s belonging, a persistent feeling of displacement, of not quite fitting into a space - an experience shared by many of my peers, and generations before them.
"The colliding tensions that arise between woman and state through patriarchal suppression, control, and commodification are inherently linked to that of the natural world, for one cannot exist without the other. Both woman and nature are the generative forces of this planet. To kill one is to kill the other. To deny one is to deny the other. It is through this denial that causes separation in the human psyche — that all of humanity suffers"
Savannah City ‘House of Bond’
Bond 1. Tie or fix together securely, using external force.
2. A financial loan for which a house functions as collateral.
3. A close and intimate relationship between living beings.
This project was sparked by a long term interest in built-environment, how spaces are structured and constructed, and their effect on people’s finances, emotions, behaviour and mentality. This provoked a deeper questioning of ideas around space, land and confinement within my current home in Savannah City, Johannesburg.
My project explores the contemporary housing development economy and the creation of a bond/tie with working class individuals in local South African townships in a post-apartheid context. The work looks at the illusion of security, comfort and privacy that is advertised and promised upon purchasing a new house in cluster home ‘developments’ such as Savannah City, which eventually gives way to feelings of discomfort, confinement, and ‘spontaneously’ the attachments of long-term payment and further financial constraint within a rigid economy - a continuous and repetitive cycle of political and social engineering, since the beginning of the development of townships in South Africa.
Savannah City ‘House of Bond’ is also a marker of our pride, resilience and desire for progress as human citizens who are able to adapt and create an intimate and loving sense of home within confined and limiting spaces. My experience and observations of this structure are complex and bittersweet.
This work explores the endless phases of deconstruction, disruption and re- discovery of my physical and mental self during the first year of the Covid -19 lockdown, reflecting my personal journey in the state of isolation. Having moved away from home, and being isolated from my ordinary life, it felt like I was sitting in a silent noise, which I believe these images reflect through their dream-like state. During this time, I have confronted parts of myself both light and dark. Creating this work was my way of escaping and confronting the noise in my head.
We’ve all been forced to sit at home, in isolation with ourselves, unable to escape our subconscious thoughts and feelings, in a space where we can no longer ignore what makes us uncomfortable. We’ve had to relook at ourselves and introspect, as well as relook at the world reflectively and see things again, for the first time and without distractions, and realise our common human frailty as beings with shifting psyches and emotions, heavily influenced by surroundings and circumstance.
"The Union of Kensington"
I was once the chairperson of the Kensington Residents Association, this feels like eons ago, since those days I have moved on and become a regular resident of Kensington.
Kensington, despite trying to cling onto it’s colonial past, has become diverse in every way, and is a part of Johannesburg that has evolved into a truly global village. Butting onto the CBD, overlooking Bez Valley, bordering Malvern and being ignored by Bedfordview, this suburb is made up of almost 5000 households with many personalities, and is a space deeply representative of our awkward political transition into a multi-cultural society. Home to South Africans, Mozambicans, Ethiopians, Congolese, Nigerians, Germans, British and Portuguese; with names such as ‘Queen Street’, and recreational spaces such as ‘Rhodes Park’, a Buddhist Centre and a bowling club - this community ranges between the wealthy and impoverished, a landscape at once peaceful and crime ridden.
The area has changed over the years, in fact I’m not sure whether it ever existed without change. From vegetation (both alien and indigenous), to places of worship and historical monuments, we see evidence of ongoing transformation and a re-purposing of what has come before, resulting in a curious intersection of histories, agendas and ideologies.
To My Grandfather, My Mother's Father.
I was told you were a strict, outgoing and confident man with traditional ideologies. I do wonder what you think of me? I can't even speak Benin. Your daughter, my Mother married a man from East Africa with no ties to your culture whatsoever, and now having lived and grown up in South Africa… I feel even more estranged from you. Looking at your photograph, something tells me you were a bit more special than the average man, I might be biased because you’re my family, and I’m striving to connect my identity to yours.
Mine is a personal story of growing up as a first generation immigrant. Constantly battling with my own identity, and feelings of insecurity about my heritage; always from a different culture to the community I lived in - adapting to these shifting landscapes frustrated me as a child …I’m sure many can identify. Many immigrant families can relate to the story of sacrificing much to move to a country with more opportunities for their children, as well as young people with the pressure of not failing due to the unspoken understanding of what has been sacrificed for their success. My existence as a first generation immigrant, without a complete knowledge of his culture of origin, is an ongoing process of research, learning and re-identification. I have come to accept that this process of constantly battling with the notion of ‘identity’ is an identity of its own, and that I am but one of millions worldwide.
(work in progress)
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cover image by