South African concept art and fashion photographer Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Fashion photography is one of the most sought-after professions but it is also one of the hardest to break into. For every photographer who makes it through the door of the glamorous industry, many others are in line, still knocking on the door. Only a few gain recognition in the various media, which ranges from street photography and portraiture to documentary and glamour photography. South African concept art and fashion photographer Jordan-Lee Garbutt has captured the industry with his latest exhibition, titled The Power of Sound, being showcased at Cape Town’s Mullers Gallery this month.
I chat to him about t his trade and his current work.


How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it for a living? After my studies, I dived head first into assisting. Assisting is the best way to gain experience, learn your craft from top professionals, and see what works in real life. Discovering how to work with people and photo shoot dynamics can only be learnt in the field.


“Putting in the hours of learning your craft, researching your subject matter and approaches, all adds up in the end. I assisted for three years before starting to build my portfolio. I created photo shoots that displayed my ideas, my vision and what I believed in.”

How do you get the person, place or thing that is in front of the camera just the way you want? Conceptualising and planning, 99 percent of the time, every detail of my shoots are planned. I work with stylists, make-up artists and other talented people to help create my “visions”.

It takes a team to create the end result. Collaborating is the only way to move forward, you can only do so much on your own, and other viewpoints, perspectives and talents will transform your idea into something more powerful.

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Which photographers influenced you on your career path? American fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon’s career initiated a change in the way I created images and how I looked at choosing to make a living from photography. He managed to balance his commercial work with his personal work and blended campaigns and exhibitions perfectly. That is something I aspire to replicate.

“Gregory Crewdson’s Beneath the Roses changed the way I wanted to create. It revealed the high-end planning and concepts with lighting that resonated with the way I create and how I wanted to create”

What motivates you to continue taking pictures? It really comes from inside. I knew from the first week of exploring photography that this is what wanted to do with the rest of my life.I love what I do, I feel my best when I’m creating. My biggest drive now is trying to initiate a change in people, change their perspectives and open their minds to a new way of thinking. Breaking down social, economic and personal barriers.

Tell us about your photography process? My creative process and inspiration varies but I have a general guide that I like to follow. Everything I create, I think in layers. Starting off with the base concept, everything else is added to that. I see the world in a certain light. I prefer dark tones and playing in the shadows. White, bright and “fresh” images have never resonated with me. I like the mystical, the surreal, and our innermost thoughts.


I’m at the stage where I cannot take images just for the beauty. I have to add an underlying meaning. It has to be thought-provoking.

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Copywrite of Jordan-Lee Garbutt

Which images would you say have been the most significant in your career? My latest exhibition, entitled “The Power of Sound, has had the most impact. From all the press to being on Top Billing. It has grown my brand, but what I have loved about the project is the way it affects people when they see the images and poems.

Collaborating with poet Mo Libretto transformed the project into something more. The words and visuals complement each other perfectly, proving how important a collaboration is.I

After that, I have two projects lined up. The first celebrates the diversity of South Africa through the 11 official languages and our diverse flora. It’s going to take me all over the country, showcasing our beautiful country and people in a way that has never been done before.


How would you say social media is changing the photography industry? There are two sides to this. It’s made photography and creating a lot more accessible to everybody. People who wouldn’t normally have any interest in photography or visual artistic expression now give it a go. It can just be a creative outlet, or it can help people gain knowledge.

The other side is that it has made everything a popularity contest and it has given people the platform to either spread love or hate.
The amount of “trolling” and bad mouthing has grown exponentially. But everyone is at their own stage of development and skill set, and everyone has their own taste of what is good.

“We should all be helping each other and not put others down to elevate yourself”

Connect with Jordan-Lee at 

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on September 7 2016. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58 


Celebrating Tourism Month

Archery in Parys

Trying my hand in Archiery at the Real adventures place in Parys, Free State province. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

My first road trip was with three of myvfriends. We planned the trip from Durban to Cape
Town in three months. We were young and carefree. We divided the trip into two parts with an overnight stay in Knysna.

For dinner we ate sushi for the first time, in a restaurant by the harbour. This was followed by a late night of drinking at the bar at the backpackers’ where we were staying before stumbling to our four-bunk bedroom in the early hours.

The next morning on the road was rough, we were tired, hungover and excited at the same time about reaching Cape Town. We arrived just before sunset at the Green Elephant backpackers in Observatory, our home for four nights.

The staff welcomed us with open arms and we formed friendships that are still alive today. We spent the days sightseeing in the CBD, shopping at the V&A Waterfront, sipping cocktails in Camps Bay and driving up Signal Hill.

2. Quad Biking in ParysPicture:Paballo Thekiso

The nights were spent playing pool in Lower Main Road Observatory and club-hopping in Long Street. Without realising it until the last night, we had spent most of our petrol money. Our parents came to our rescue, but not before scolding us for our irresponsible
behaviour. Memories from that trip remain fresh in my mind.

What made the trip extra special was we managed to save the little money we had at the time for an adventure that would see the four of us bonding… we learnt a lot about each other during the long drive in a small Corsa.

“I would like to think this trip ignited a lust for travel in each of us”

Since then, the four of us have travelled extensively in South Africa, as well as in Europe and the US. Contrary to what some might believe, one does not require a fat bank balanceto be able to travel, be it local or international. However, some saving and smart planning is key.

Common sense goes a long way. For example, buying a plane ticket a few months before you travel will be cheaper than booking the flight the day before you are due to travel.

In the past, I have taken the Greyhound bus to Durban to visit my family and overland trucks to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Namibia for holidays. The experiences are priceless.

New Image

Queening with the BaSotho women dressed in their traditional wear called Thebetha

“Venturing out of your comfort zone and learning about other people and cultures will teach you things about yourself and the world you won’t find in a textbook”



Enjoying a sunset cruise on the Vaal River. Picture by Paballo Thekiso.

One of my favourite Sho’t Left (domestic travels) trip include a visit to Joburg where I caught up with friends and family. On a recent trip there I spent a weekend in Soweto, which is home to some of South Africa’s world famous names, such as Nelson Mandela, and is known for history changing moments such as the 1976 Soweto student uprising.

During my stay there I visited the Mandela house in Vilakazi Street, a buzzing street lined with restaurants and cafés… a not so common sight for a township. There is an electrifying energy that hangs in the air that when I left, I felt empty .

Recently I paid a visit to my home town, but opted to stay at a hotel in the city centre instead of home as they were busy renovating. I saw Durban through the eyes of a tourist for the first time and I became one.

I visited art galleries, museums, took long leisurely walks on the beachfront promenade and discovered cafés where I spent hours watching people. I returned with a new-found appreciation for the city where people have no whims about striking up conversations with strangers. I realised how much I missed this simple act of ubuntu (human kindness) that is still alive there.


Last week I spent a week in the Free State visiting several towns. It was my first time there and I experienced a number of firsts. I learnt about towns I never knew existed, such as Vredefort near Parys.

I quad biked, I tried my hand at archery and went river rafting on the Vaal River. All these sporting activities were never on my to-do-list of fun things while on a holiday before this trip.

1. L-R Liam Joyce and Nontando Mposo river rafting in the Vaal RiverLiam and I slaying. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

September is tourism month, an annual celebration focusing on the importance of tourism for the economy. The theme for this year is Tourism For All: Promoting Universal Accessibility.

It aims to encourage everyone to explore and rediscover our country. So, round up a group of friends or family for a Sho’t Left somewhere. for more travel inspiration. 


Connect with me and follow my adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58. 

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on September 2016. 


Portraying the joy of African children


My favourite painting by South African contemporary artist Nelson Makamo is that of a young boy sporting a short afro and red glasses.
The expression on his face is pure joy… I can almost feel the warm laughter bubbling in his belly. Looking at the artwork brings back childhood memories of playing for hours without a care in the world. I have the image saved in my phone and I look at it each time I need a quick pick-me-up. It always makes me smile.

I tell Makamo this when I meet him at a Cape Town hotel for the interview and he smiles knowingly.
“When you think it, a lot of art that comes out of the continent, some would describe it as sombre or dark. However, come winter or summer it doesn’t matter, we always have the sun… that is the thing about Africa,” he says.


“It’s the beauty of how Africans smile through everything and that is how I look at my subjects and from a child’s perspective as well. It doesn’t matter where you go in the continent, when you find children playing there are similarities that take you back to your own childhood,” he says.

Makamo’s large-scale portraits of children display various features and personalities of quirkiness. Each lined sketch drawn in charcoal, watercolour or pen and ink is distinct and is often done in black and white with pops of colour.

At 34, the Joburg artist is one of South Africa’s celebrated talents. His paintings are worth thousands of rands with one of his drawings, So full of youth – not yet abused selling for R250 000 at a recent Stephan Welz & Co auction – a record for the artist at auction.


“As an adult there are a lot of things that we do that we pretty much fence ourselves around from, that we don’t feel or see certain things anymore. That free thinking and openness to learning we can only see it through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo.

Born in theLimpopo town of Nylstroom, now Modimolle, Makamo moved to Joburg to join the Artist Proof Studio in January 2003. There he studied on a bursary for three years and worked for another two as sales representative and curator of the gallery. He has since held solo exhibitions here at home and in France, Italy, the US, the Netherlands and Scotland.

His childhood was like any normal child raised in a small town environment, he says. Sundays were for church, weekdays were for school and his free time was spent reading Marvel comics such as Spider- Man and Iron Man… which planted the roots for his artistic talent.

“My stepdad pretty much made me the man that I am today. Being the only child in most cases there is this preconception that you are spoiled, but I never experienced that. During school holidays my parents would send me to my cousins so I sort of grew up with a lot of cousins around me,” he says.


“My love for art started early and was mostly influenced by cartoons. We collected a lot of Marvel comics at home… that is actually how it all started,” says Makamo.

He sold his first drawing in high school for R125.
“Most of my drawings then were about comics. I drew characters such as the Ninja Turtles and Batman and would show them to my peers.

Being an artist was not my first choice. In Grade 10 I decided that I wanted to be a chemical engineer, so after matric I briefly studied Engineering at the Vaal University of Technology.

“Three months into it I was like, “I don’t think I see myself as an engineer, this is not something that I want to pursue’.

“Looking at the communities we are raised in, one often doesn’t think that you can turn your Godgiven talent into a career. Some people even went as far as saying I should become a cartoonist , you get all sorts of advice,” says Makamo.



The beginning of his career was no walk in the park, he says.
“The first three years after graduating were not easy for both myself and my parents. They were always concerned about how I was going to make a living with art. It also didn’t help that there was little information on South African artists… there was no fully documented history of art that one could study. The focus is mostly on old masters, such as Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo.

“Digging deeper I discovered SA artists such as Gerard Sekoto and Dumile Feni, who belonged to a township movement of black artists. They became pretty much my influencers”

“Through their art you got to understand our country and where our cultures come from. This sort of gave me the confidence to say that I can make a living out of this. Most of them didn’t have proper materials to draw with so they used cheaper mediums such as charcoal and oil soft pastels.”

Makamo never leaves home without his camera and his “bible”, a small sketch book in which he scribbles things and sketches people who catch his eye.

“I always say that I am a storyteller because I live and see things from a third-person point of view. I draw mostly from memory, but sometimes I see a scene and I have to capture it quickly in my ’bible” or I use my camera.

“In my work I try to capture emotions in a language that the person next to me gets without me having to explain. It’s interesting if you think about it, how we are all connected.

“There are a lot of things that bring people together and a lot of those things you can only see through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo

“Children are the most forgiving beings. It is always heart-breaking when you travel or when you google African children, the images that they give you does not represent who we are, only that of poor and starving children.. it’s actually so disturbing when you think about it.

“I took it way too personal, that is why I started basing my work around it. It’s a way of saying, there is another version of an African child that I can give you.”

When some people ask me about my background, it’s almost as if they expect me to give them a poor background and take away the talent. I would be doing myself and the beautiful culture that I was raised in an injustice.  That is why I portray most of my subjects with glasses, as a way of saying they are geniuses, he explains

“Why do you look beyond us, judge us and have your own conclusion about us without sitting down and having a one-on one-conversation with us?

“The support I have from South Africans, regardless of who buys my work or not, is very inspiring and it is what drives me… makes me stand taller. It is as if people were waiting for someone to wipe away the stereotypes,” Makamo says. 

Nelson Makamo.JPG

l Find the artist Nelson Makamo on Instagram -@nelsonmakamo

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on August 8 2016. 

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58. 


Portraits share hope of addicts in recovery

Photographer Fiona McCosh, hopes to address the stigma that surrounds people who seek treatment for addiction through her "Sober and Sexy" project, a series of portraits that is currently on display at the Issi café on Bree Street

Photographer Fiona McCosh, hopes to address the stigma that surrounds people who seek treatment for addiction through her “Sober and Sexy” project, a series of portraits that is currently on display at the Issi café on Bree Street Cape Town. 

Stigma remains the biggest barrier faced by many seeking addiction treatment, making it harder for individuals and families to deal with their problems and get the help they need, says photographer Fiona McCosh.

British-born McCosh is trying to address this through a Sober and Sexy project, a series of portraits that is currently on display at the Issi café on Bree Street. The photographs are also part of a 2016 calendar of the same title, featuring individuals who are in long-term recovery from addictions such as alcoholism, gambling, eating and sex.

“I just don’t think enough people are talking about recovery… it’s still very hush-hush. One of my main motivations for this project is to encourage people to talk openly about recovery. It’s to say ‘let’s get vocal and let’s start talking about both addiction and recovery’,” she says.

picture by photographer Fiona McCosh

picture by photographer Fiona McCosh

“With the project I wanted to focus on recovery, look at the joys of recovery and the hope that there is for people to get to recovery. I think almost everyone knows someone who is in recovery or who has an addiction problem, but we just don’t talk about it because of stigma. My aim is not to name and shame, but I want to encourage people to get help and to know there is no shame in getting help… to say ‘let’s get out there and be proud to be sober and sexy’,” McCosh says

I meet McCosh at the trendy eatery where the 12 black and white portraits in her series hang on the walls. She is also a recovering addict, and appears in the calendar for the month of September.

McCosh was 39 years old when she reached “rock bottom”.

“I had a problem with alcohol all my life and I am an addict. I did get physically addicted to several drugs of choice and towards the end I was into a cocktail, moving from one drug to another. When one drug stopped working I would try another one… it’s called crossed addiction,” she says.

“At my rock bottom, I felt ugly and hopeless and was in a state of terror for my body as I was combining street drugs and prescription drugs… I was miserable, but I was just about coping. When I hit rock bottom I was given six months to live. They often say don’t deny someone that rock bottom because that is where you get the gift of desperation.”

“I was a mess and I couldn’t see a way out and that’s when I rang my mother and she took me to rehab in the UK. That didn’t work out and it was suggested that I come to South Africa,” she explains.

Picture by photographer Fiona McCosh

Picture by photographer Fiona McCosh

McCosh says she came to Cape Town for rehab in 2010. With only a backpack,
she was planning to stay for just a month.

“I never intended to stay this long, I have friends here now… it’s a clean slate. What is there not to love about Cape Town? The weather is great, the mountains, the sea and it’s cheaper than London… it’s my new home,” she says.

sober and sexy 2

But she’s also learnt that recovery is not easy.  “Recovery can be a frightening place in the early days. It is hard to trust people, an emotional rawness seems ever-present and often it feels as if life will always be this way. In time, with help, we can and do recover.

With this project I wanted to give back to the recovery community,” says McCosh.

The idea of a naked calendar came from the true story of The Calendar Girls, a hit movie about a group of British women who produced a nude calendar to raise money for leukaemia research.

“I tried to get as wide a variety of people in the exhibition as possible because addiction does not discriminate. Anyone can get it and it doesn’t matter where you are from. If you want recovery you can find it in the 12-step programme.

“This is my experience in terms of getting clean and pretty much all of the models featured in the calendar have gone have gone through hell, I have been through hell,” she explains.

“The images represent a positive message of hope and my deepest wish is that people who think that they might have a problem or know someone who has a problem are encouraged to seek help,” says McCosh.

“I think that most people generally think that once an addict, always an addict, but we can live happy, free and joyous lives. I am now free from cravings. I have a full life with friends, genuine friends, whereas in the past I only had the drinking and the using.

“It was a miserable existence, but now I have peace and serenity… not only am I clean but I am treating myself with respect and I get a decent night’s sleep.”

The Sober and Sexy calendars cost R200 each. They are available at Issi and nationwide at http://www.soberand All proceeds will be donated to the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre for the treatment of those who can’t afford it.

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on October 5 2015.

Symbolism… and ‘an eye for for the unusual’

'In with the new' by Justin Dingwall

‘In with the new’ by Justin Dingwall

Recognised locally and internationally for his portraiture, contemporary artist and commercial photographer Justin Dingwall describes himself as someone who possesses “an eye for the unusual, a passion to explore avenues less travelled and the desire to create images that resonate with emotion”.

The Joburg-based Dingwall recently exhibited a series of portraits, Albus at the FNB Joburg Art Fair held at the Sandton Convention Centre last month, featuring a series of striking photographs of Durban- born model Sanele Xaba, who has albinism.

Dingwall also made the top 10 list of visual artists in The Absa L’Atelier Art Competition 2014, an annual art award competition for South African visual artists between the ages of 21 and 35. The Tshwane University of Technology graduate says the imagery he creates is not bound by language or culture. Instead, he wants his work to speak for itself and for people to interpret it in their own way.

Dingwall explains more about his work and what inspires him.

Sanele Xaba by Justin Dingwall

Sanele Xaba by Justin Dingwall

How did you start the craft of photography? I have always been very artistic, but the first time I picked up a camera was at the age of 18 when I applied to Tshwane University of Technology.

Tell us about the ‘Albus” portrait series, what inspired it and what message did you hope to communicate with it?   The discourse about albinism is generally avoided as taboo in the South African context. When discussed, it is usually viewed as negative or as a sought-after “oddity” in fashion and art trends. My aim is to create an intimate perspective to foreground the myths surrounding albinism.

“This series developed into an exploration of the aesthetics of albinism in contrast to the idealised perceptions of beauty.”

It began as an interest to capture something not conventionally perceived as “beauty”. I began this project with the ethereal portraits of Thando Hopa, a legal prosecutor who is using her visibility to address the negative perceptions surrounding albinism. The inspiring new work features Xaba, a young model with albinism, and uses specific elements to foreground the symbolic meaning behind each work.

“My intention is for the images to become a celebration of beauty in difference. They are not about race or fashion, but about perception, and what we subjectively perceive as beautiful.”

I wanted to create a series of images that resonate with humanity and make people question what is beautiful… to me diversity is what makes humanity interesting and beautiful. The symbols of light and dark are a reflection of my medium.

I use the characteristic nature of photography to capture a unique frame of reference and paint with light in such a way as to represent the revealing of the unseen.

Light represents truth, and it is contrasted against the element of darkness to emphasise the unenlightened state of mind of previous misconceptions.

Water is another element l use to reflect society’s perceptions. Water suggests self reflection and it is often used in literature as a symbol of change.

'Reveal' by Justin Dingwall

‘Reveal’ by Justin Dingwall

The snake connotes transformation – as in the shedding of old skin to make way for new and also, as in medical discourse, to represent healing. The butterflies aim to influence the
viewer’s vision to be transformed, allowing them to view albinism in a new light – as something unique and beautiful.

'Mob' by Justin Dingwall

‘Mob’ by Justin Dingwall

“Butterflies go through a major metamorphosis, and embrace change unquestioningly. For this reason, they have become symbols of growth, surrender, transition, celebration, resurrection and fragility.”

What would you list as your best accomplishments?  My career highlights include my Albus exhibition, which is a major milestone, shooting for Adobe (The creators of Photoshop and Indesign) and creating a mosaic with 48 other artists from around the world that was exhibited at the Lincoln Centre in New York for the launch of Adobe Creative Cloud, and winning the image and magazine cover of the year 2015 at the Caxton awards. And that I have exhibited in London, Seattle, South Africa and New York.

What is your favourite photo shoot you have done over the years and why?  There are way too many to count, but one that really stands out was when I flew to Zanzibar for a week to photograph the actress Terry Pheto from the movie Tsotsi for a magazine cover, inside story, as well as a portrait shoot of a fishing village on the north coast of Zanzibar.

Embrace 2

What/who inspires you and now? Every day life inspires me, but I also do a lot of research. I am inspired by many great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Lucian Freud, Charles Thomas “Chuck” Close and Eloy Morales.

And photographers Richard Avedon and Roger Ballen.

Before I became a photographer I was an assistant for four years, and learnt from many local, as well as international, photographers the craft of photography.

But if I have to single out two photographers that have influenced my career, it would be Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz.

“Their dedication, time spent crafting, researching, production and planning to produce a single photograph is very inspiring.”

A place in the world that you have not been you would like to photograph? Without question, India. It looks like an engaging, colourful, chaotic, beautiful country. I have heard from friends and family that it engages all of your senses – all of them, nearly all of the time. I also have a soft spot for Italy.

What are the greatest challenges to making it as a photographer or an artist in South Africa?  As a freelance photographer you can never sit on your laurels, if you aren’t working you aren’t earning. You constantly have to be promoting yourself and getting your work out into the market.

“The very early mornings and the very late nights. But one of the most important things is to be a problem solver. You have to be able to think on your feet.”

What cameras do you use and how important is photoshop to your final images? I use both digital and film. When I shoot film I use a Hasselblad medium format camera and when I shoot digital I use Canon or Hasselblad.

When I started studying and working as a photographer there were no digital cameras, only film. So it was very important to get everything 100 percent correct before shooting. I still live by that principle, but Photoshop is an important tool.

Justin Dingwall

Justin Dingwall

Who is a young or emerging photographer or artist you consider one to watch at the moment?   Tony Gum. I recently viewed her work at the FNB Joburg Arts Fair and she is creating some amazing self-portraits.

        “I live by these two quotes: Gary Player: “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” and “You reap what you sow.”

This feature first appeared in the Cape Argus on September 30 2015.

Charting the emotional quest of a photographer

Activist Jes Foord by photographer Gary van Wyk

Activist Jes Foord with  Gary van Wyk

Cape Town photographer Gary van Wyk was 18 when he took his first memorable photograph – of a Caribbean sunset.

“It just happened to be this amazing sunset. I witnessed a photographer setting up his camera and tripod to take a picture and I took a picture myself. When I looked at that photograph at home, I went ‘wow!’ There was just this connection… it was like zooming into the sunset as if it was in front of me again. I liked the idea of being able to represent something like that,” Van Wyk recalls.

That was during a two-year gap period which Van Wyk spent travelling after completing matric at Plumstead High School.

“When I finished school I was 17 years old and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I went to London after hearing great stories about it from a friend’s sister who had visited there. I was the first person in my family to leave the country… I literally left with a few hundred pounds.  That move changed my life,” he says.

After taking that photograph, Van Wyk saved up for a Minolta camera and started taking pictures.

“I decided then that I wanted to go back to South Africa and study photography. Nobody in my family was a photographer or doing anything artistic… I had no idea what photography was,” says Van Wyk,

who was raised in Belhar and Lansdowne.

Returning to Cape Town, he started studying photography at Peninsula Technikon, now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2001, and was headhunted by Independent Newspapers during his second year.

“I started my internship at the Cape Argus in 2003. I was supposed to be there for only two days but I stayed for five years. When Cape Town photographer George Hallett introduced us to documentary photography, I jumped at it… it just made sense to me,” he says.

“It was the best training and experience I could have asked for. I learnt how to shoot under pressure. It was the best way of learning… the best thing that ever happened to me.”

After leaving Independent Newspapers for another company, Van Wyk was approached by photographer and filmmaker Adrian Steirn to join the production team of the socio cultural multimedia project 21 ICONS, which was working on its first season.

Launched in South Africa in 2013, 21 ICONS is the brainchild of Steirn, who is known for his black and white portraits of some of the nation’s most notable individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Nadine Gordimer.

The series, which is produced by the Ginkgo Agency, celebrates the lives of extraordinary South Africans who have been catalysts in shaping the nation’s global landscape in politics, the environment, athletics, sports and the arts.

That was in 2013. Now in its third year (and third season), Van Wyk, 34, has taken over from Steirn and stepped up as principal photographer while Steirn captures the behind-the-scenes images.

Visual artist Athi-Patra Ruga photographed by Gary

Visual artist Athi-Patra Ruga photographed by Gary

“Working with the people from the first two seasons was an incredible privilege. It meant having the chance to be a part of South Africa’s history. Now in Season 3 we are getting to meet emerging South Africans. These are our country’s new leaders and change makers, and working with them, taking their portraits is an extraordinary opportunity,” says Van Wyk.

The short-film series will launch its new season on Sunday on SABC 3, and will feature 21 youth icons, the next generation of South African leaders and influencers. The season will also see a move from black and white portraits to colour photography.

The season’s first five icons include performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga, rape survivor and gender activist Jes Foord, community activist and co-founder of the Kliptown Youth Programme Thulani Madondo, paralympic wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole, conservationist and eco-preneur Catherine Constantinides, and textile and knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo.

“Black and white photography deals with the past, it deals with memory and is very nostalgic. Season 3 is about the people making a difference now, who are under the age of 35 and up-and-coming South Africans. Colour just makes sense moving forward… showing the rainbow nation for what it it now,” Van Wyk explains.

“Colour is literally what life is in the now, it describes more than what black and white images could. Also it gives a new energy to the project,” he says.

“Behind each portrait lies a carefully planned concept that captures not only the essence of each icon visually but also their spirit. Each portrait pays tribute to the unique path carved by each icon,” Van Wyk explains during our meeting at the Ginkgo Agency office in De Waterkant where a few of his portraits are displayed on the wall.

“It’s a very interesting way of doing it. There are many ways of doing cool portraits with cool lighting and angles, but it’s not enough to tell a story so that even a child can look at the portrait and ask, ‘Why is that woman standing next to that shadow?’ Or for an adult to be able to look at it and say, ‘I remember that moment’.

“Each portrait has to tell a story. We had to take into consideration everything, including the location and lighting. There is a lot of pre-planning and production involved and it can be tricky. When you watch the films you will realise why the portraits are like that, that makes it even more powerful,” he says.

Working for Ginkgo means Van Wyk travels a lot, photographing a variety of things – from the world’s biggest tiger in Nepal to capturing the Amazon rain forest.

“I get to meet all these famous people and it’s amazing and a privilege, but for me photographing everyday people is the most amazing thing.The most powerful shots for me are spontaneous, raw moments. I live life and photograph the experiences that I have in life.

“A lot of people say that when you take photographs you are missing the moment but for me it heightens the moment. Normally if you are looking at things, you are passing by. But because I photograph things I look at things so much more intensely… I look at the colours and the light.

“I find that I pay much more attention to things since I started photography. The way I look at the world is completely different, everything fascinates me.”

Van Wyk’s girlfriend Caron Gie, who is a teacher, and the works of great photographers are among his biggest inspirations.

“My studies taught me the technical side of things, but technical ability doesn’t teach you photography, photography is a way of life. Everyone observes things differently and if you are able to photograph the way you see things, you are able to photograph the world. You need the technical ability to interpret what you see,” he says.

“You can’t become a better photographer with a better lens or camera. You become better by being more in touch with your emotional state, the way you observe things – deeper and deeper, that makes you a better photographer.”

And what makes a good photograph? “A good photograph strikes an emotion in someone. Even if you can’t explain why, but it does. It has to do with what you see and how you interpret it,” he says.

Van Wyk’s tips for budding photographers include studying the works of great photographers and as taking as many pictures as you can.

“Work hard, that is the only reason I am where I am today. “I don’t think that I have any special skills or ability, I’ve literally shot every day from the time I started and it’s the only way I learnt. I carry a camera every day, everywhere I go and I photograph anything and everything.

“There are many reasons I take pictures. I love the art of photography. There is that magic that you can freeze time. Being a photographer gets me out of the house, it gives me purpose in life and it gives me an excuse to stare at things. It gives me an excuse to be inquisitive.

“It also gives me an opportunity to explore the world and exploring is the biggest reason that I do photography,” he adds.

●21 ICONS (season 3) debuts on SABC 3 on Sunday, September 6, and will run for a further 20 weeks.

This feature first appeared in the Cape Argus on the 1st of September 2015. 

Nomadic culture inspires Ricci Janse van Rensburg latest designs

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

The brand  Ricci JvR is well known in South African fashion circles. Now the fashion brand by Cape Town designer Ricci Janse van Rensburg has gone global, launching its “Neo Native” collection with New York-based fashion tech lab Nineteenth Amendment.
Created as an alternative to traditional industry business models, the Brooklynbased high-fashion platform connects emerging designers from around the world with consumers and retailers. The garments are sold online and are manufactured in the US on behalf of the
designers. Janse van Rensburg answers questions about herself, her brand and her “Neo Native” collection.



Why did you become a fashion designer? Since the age of 12, I have been dreaming up my own designs and walking around with a sketch pad drawing outfits for my friends and princess dresses for my Barbies. I guess to me it was never really a decision I had to make, it was made for me way before I even realised it. I simply stepped into something that has always been a big part of my life and I was lucky enough to make a career out of it. I have always been mesmerised by fashion – the way it can influence how you feel, how you carry yourself and simply how you can express yourself through clothing.

How did you develop your interest in fashion design?  Curiosity, creativity, a need to express myself, passion and a fascination with people all played a large part in developing my interest in fashion.

Also, the fact that fashion has the ability to boost your confidence, change your mood and the way other people perceive you, what is socially acceptable. All these elements further fuelled my fascination and passion for this industry.

What was your first job? In retail at a clothing boutique in Tygervalley Centre. I only worked there over weekends and some afternoons. I worked there for almost three years. The job helped me to understand the retail side of the industry a lot better.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What were your inspirations for the designs you created for Nineteenth Amendment? The nomadic lifestyle has always been an underlying source of inspiration to me. I am mesmerised by the raw beauty of nomadic tribes/cultures and exploration of the unknown.

“To me, strong lines, textures and layering played an extremely important role in the design of this collection. I like to incorporate an unexpected element when styling to keep it more interesting.”

The nomadic influence can definitely be seen in my garments especially in the finishes and focus on detailing.

For this collection, I focused on comfortable clothing – layered and styled in an effortless way. The silhouettes are relaxed, soft and draped with roomy, romantic volume.

How did you select the materials and colours you used? It is all about combining textures. I looked for unusual fabrics and trims to complement the vision I have created for the collection. With this collection I tried to choose as many environmentally friendly fabrics as possible.

Describe the woman you envision wearing your clothes? I don’t design for a specific woman in mind, but I design various pieces and then combine and style it to create the final look. The design process and realisation of each piece is important. Therefore I focus on individual pieces at a time. I do, however, try to design diverse pieces, ensuring that no matter your taste – you would find something in the collection that would suit your style.

“It is important to make every client who wears my garments feel amazing and confident.”

Who are your most influential fashion designers and why? Locally, Joburg-based designer Suzaan Heyns. I just love her conceptual approach to fashion. Internationally, brands like Balmain and Viktor & Rolf inspire me for their exceptional concepts, intellectual approach to fashion and unconventional elements.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

Of all the creations you’ve created, does one stand out as your favourite and why? I don’t have an all-time favourite piece. I guess this is purely because I always try to challenge myself to grow, to become better, to expand my comfort zone, to experiment and to give my best. Each piece represents a different stage of the design process and therefore I consider them all valuable as an ongoing design process.

Who’s your style icon, and why? Businesswoman and interior designer Iris Apfel. Her confidence, boldness, refreshing and fun approach to fashion is simply captivating. I figure that when it comes to getting imaginative, there’s no-one quite as inspiring as this 94-year-old.

Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What’s the best part of working in fashion? Always being able to be creative, being surrounded by creative and like-minded people and to have the freedom to express myself through every garment that I design. The entire process from researching trends, finding inspiration, designing and manufacturing to shooting campaigns and seeing clients wearing my designs.

What do you think of the talent of young South African designers currently in the industry and who are some of your favourites?

“There are more than a few incredibly talented designers in South Africa with very strong aesthetic signatures.”

Some of my favourite of the new generation of designers are Selfi, Lara Klawikowski, Adriaan Kuiters, Shana Morland and MaXhosa by Laduma.

What can be done to encourage people to buy local or support local designers? We have a lot of talent, enough to compete with international fashion designers; it is just less explored and exposed.

“The entire world looks at Africa for inspiration… why not use this to our advantage?”

It will largely benefit our country not only financially, but also mentally, if people start appreciating our diverse culture, authenticity and everything we have to offer. It’s about creating conscious consumers and understanding where your clothing comes from, and also believing in the designers behind it.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

What are your plans for the Ricci JvR brand? My focus is on developing my brand into a more established and recognised label, both nationally and internationally, and maybe opening a boutique at a later stage and expanding on my current collection.

For now I will be working on new collections for Nineteenth Amendment and continue working with my clients here in South Africa.

What do you think of eco-fashion? 

“The fashion industry leaves behind a huge environmental footprint, from the pesticides used in growing cotton and the leached chemicals from the toxic dyes, to the landfill impact of clothes that wear out and the energy required to produce each piece.”

Buying clothes labelled under the Fair Trade Act is sustainable on several levels: you can be sure it was produced under safe working conditions, it’s sweatshop- free, and the person who made it earned a fair wage. Therefore, eco-fashion is very important for various reasons.

Photo by Sivan Miller

Photo by Sivan Miller

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on September 15 2015