An article about me and my work as a photographer was recently published in the Polish climbing mag Gory. The shot of me is by another great SA climbing photographer Dirk Smith. Thanks to Wojtek Kozakiewicz taking the time to track me down and put the article together.
here's the link to the magazines online site, check them out http://www.goryonline.com/
The English Translation
here's the link to the magazines online site, check them out http://www.goryonline.com/
The English Translation
1). You graduated from sound engineering. Do you still have any connection with that kind of thing? What was the trigger to begin taking photos? Do you remember how you started? Your first camera, first photo that you've been proud of, first published photo?
Yes, sound engineering is still my main source of work and income. I haven't really been taking photo's for that long, maybe 4-5 years, so i still make most of money through sound engineering. This is changing though, and more of my income is being made through photography, hopefully it will be my only job in the next 2 years.
Climbing is what got me started in photography. I bought my first camera to take climbing photo's but as i learnt more about photography i started taking interest in other types of photo's and started branching out. Its a continuos process i think, and i try to learn something new every day. My first camera was the Canon 30D which i bought while recording sound for an IMAX movie on the annual sardine run in South Africa. My first published photo was for one of the big news papers here, i was working with someone to gain some experience but the editor liked my shots for the day better and used them for a large spread on page 2 of the paper. They offered me a job but unfortunately the pay was much lower than what i earned doing sound so i declined.
2). You live in South Africa. What is the best in your opinion place in your country for making climbing photos? Do you have any favourite one? Could you tell more about this places? Is Rocklands the only place worth to visit?
Rocklands is definitely the most popular and well known climbing area in SA and its very a beautiful place to photograph. There are however many other places that are very good for bouldering, sport and trad climbing. Unfortunately they maybe are not as good as Rocklands which is one of the best places in the world so they dont get the media attention. However, if you were to visit South Africa i could definitely recommend a sport climbing area called Waterval Boven, its really beautiful with over 500 world class sport routes up to 8c. There is amazing trad climbing around most of the country and many new bouldering areas being developed. in fact Paul Robinson is coming down this year for month or two just to climb the boulders around Cape Town and not even visit Rocklands. I think he was really impressed by what other areas we have. I'm considering putting a photo piece together with some video of the bouldering in Cape Town which is not Rocklands.
3). South Africa is a multiculture place. Does it influance on your attitute to photography? How do you find yourself in different, new cultures?
Culturally South Africa is an amazing place, there are so many different people here and its full of energy. It definately has influenced my photography and shooting people and different cultures is what i love shooting the most. I find it really easy to photograph when you are somewhere new and in a different culture as everything is new and exciting and you cant help but shoot. I feel very lucky to be living in such vibrant and changing country.
4). Last summer you've been in Spain for a 7 weeks trip. How did you find cooperation with polish climber Agata Wisniewska on Kalea Borroka? :) What similarities and differences can you find between climbing photography in Europe and South Africa?
Aaah Spain! I love that place, so much great climbing its like a dream. This was one of my favorite climbing trips ever and i met so many really inspiring and cool people, like Agata. She was really cool to hang out with in the camp and really fun to watch climbing, she is also a little naughty and enjoyed stealing our clothes from the showers and playing other jokes on us. I have been planning some revenge tactics for when we meet again, hehe. Actually all the Polish people we met we really friendly and strong, if all the poles are like the ones we met i think Poland must be a super friendly and fun country!
Shooting in Spain was different and i learnt quite a bit. The rock i find more difficult to shoot as it is very white and textured which makes it difficult to see the line of the climb in a photo. Its unlike Waterval Boven rock which is a beautiful orange color with a line of chalk marks heading up the wall. In Europe though there are so many strong climbers its really easy to shoot people on amazing climbs which is something we dont have as much back home, where the climbing community is much smaller so we dont have as many very strong climbers. I suppose everywhere you shoot has its own unique challenges and they are places where you can learn something new
I didnt take as many photo's as i should have on that trip and this is becoming a trend in my photography. I love climbing and i find that when i take photo's of climbing i dont get to climb as much for myself. So lately, i haven't even been taking my camera climbing with me as i'd rather climb myself than take pictures of people climbing. I do have some climbing photo projects in my mind though, so i'm not going to stop taking climbing photo's entirely :)
5). You have visited a lot of exotic places, eg. Badami in India. What do you prefer: exploring new places or catching well known aeras from different perspective?
Shooting in new areas i find easier as the newness of the area is an inspiration to shoot. But trying to capture something interesting and different in place that has had lots of exposure is also a valuable challenge but it takes a lot more motivation. But yes, i much prefer somewhere new and different.
6). As a photographer you're dealing with different topics. In the beginning of this year you've been in Cameroon to document the first in the history of this country election campaign, in which a woman took part in. How did you get involve in this topic? How do you find a contact with different culture and mentality? Could you please write something more about this venture?
Through my sound work in the film industry i have contacts with a number of NGO's around the world and have started shooting photo's for many of them. Taking photo's of people in exotic cultures with the hope of the photo's being used to make some positive change in the world is my photography dream, and one of my goals in life. The shoot in Cameroon was for an American NGO started by Hillary Clinton called Vital Voices. They work with emerging women leaders around the word and support them in their efforts to make the world a better place by investing in women. For this shoot i followed an amazing lady called Kah Walla as she started her campaign trail as the first woman in Cameroon to run for president. Its really inspiring when you meet people like this and gives you hope that things in the world might actually get better if we have more people like this.
7). Apart from outdoor photography you raise tough topic of Africans life. What makes this topic interesting for you? How do you find yourself in such tough situations - both as a human and as a photographer? What is your attitude for that kind of photos?
I love shooting people and i am very passionate about raising awareness about the reality of the world, and the different ways in which people live. I think that many people just live their lives thinking about their house, their car, their job and how can they make their own lives better without realizing how other people live. Seeing people in very different and difficult situations makes me realize how lucky i am, and also how everyone is connected. They way people with fortunate rich lives affects poor people and many people dont realize or think about this. Everyone should be thinking about the world and how to make it better every day and how they impact the world, otherwise nothing is going to change. Through my photo's i hope that people can see some of the differences in the world and maybe start to think about things a little. I also donate money to a school in Cambodia for street kids and look after rescue dogs from townships in Cape Town occasionally, and i think we should all do little bits to make things better.
I haven't yet done some very tough shoots although i would like too. I'm still pretty new to documentary photography but i think this will come in the future and hopefully i can make an impact on at least one person.
8). You're a many-sided photographer. Is there any subject, that you would never ever get involve in?
Hmm never is a big word. I think it just depends on the situation, i might not do something if i think it is too dangerous or if i think the photo might do harm. I haven't been faced with a situation where i have to choose between taking photo of a crisis or helping someone, i dont know what i would choose, i guess i would have choose whichever i thought would help the most. I do often feel guilty about taking photo's of people in poverty, as i'm making some money off photographing their situation which i dont think is fair. This is why i do other things like donate to a schools and try use my photo's to raise awareness. I dont think its right to just take without giving something back.
9). What photo equipment do you use? Do you have some special for you bodies or lenses to shot different subjects? Which lens and why this one is your favourite?
My kit is pretty simple which is good if you need to move fast in documentary. I have a Canon 5D mkII, Canon 16-35mm F2.8 L, Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS, Canon 580exII speedlight and a bunch of other accessories. I shoot mostly with my 16-35mm lens as you need to get really close to your subject and you feel this in the photo's, its like you are in there in the photo, well to me anyway. I'm slowly expanding my kit as i venture more into studio photography and i'm starting to figure out ways of taking my studio experience out into the field in documentary. I think my next purchases will be a lot more speedlights and of course some more lenses! you can never have enough toys :)
10). On many of your photos you're using flashlight, every time in a very special way. In what way have you learnt taking photos with using external light? Were you tought or you've been inspired by someone or was it your own piece of working it out?
All of my photography i have taught myself, Google is very useful nowadays if you want to learn something. I think i was first inspired by flash photography by some of Keith Ladzinki's climbing photo's and i think most climbing photographers have ended up copying his style a little. In climbing photography a flash can be very useful as climbers climb mainly in the shade where the light is pretty flat and boring. So you add some extra light with a flash to add some interest and help the photo. Lately I have been using my flash remotely on documentary work and its great, you can overcome a lot of difficult lighting situations with some extra lights. The learning is trial and error though so sometimes you get it right and many times you get it wrong, you just have to keep trying.
11). Do you have some tips for those who want to start taking photos? What they should focus on in the begining of ones way?
My advise for starting photographers ... shoot all the time! the more you shoot the more you learn. Study your equipment, its a tool for your creation so the better you understand it the better you will be able to use it. Look at and copy other photographers work, if you can figure out how they did something and copy you can make it your own and work forwards from there. But most importantly just keep shooting!