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Posts tagged ‘Cape Town’

A decade-long journey – Learning to love mobile phone photography

How I learnt to love mobile phone photography after I started to teach it.

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Writing a short artist statement

‘Art is not something one does, it is what one is. An artist is made up of all that she or he has ever done, felt, experienced or been. And the art that the artist creates—if she or he is true to self—is an expression of all that has been done, experienced, felt or been.’  Paul Donohoe (social documentary street photographer).


It has become increasingly clear recently that I had to sit down and come up with a short statement that defines the vision and focus of my socio-documentary art photog.  It is often a requirement when submitting work and it is an essential part of putting forward what drives and motivates me as a photographer in my work.  While I have a clear idea in my head, putting it all down on paper is a trickier business than it looks!  I spent a good hour going over my pics and reading all the synopses to try and define it all in a few sentences.

But it was also a great personal exercise.  Getting away from the ‘who, what, why, where and when’s’ of documentary or more precisely news photog and being given the freedom to express some sort of humble vision is emancipating and brings me closer to my own work in ways that I didn’t feel before.

Having to be more introspective has helped me to understand myself in ways I didn’t really appreciate too – the fact I am always seeking out the absurd and abstract in life at the frontiers of modern life is a reflection of my own desire to always stay on the outside – be the observer – maybe even voyeur but never truly engaging.  Photography was almost a match made in heaven in this respect.  It has allowed me to seek out the weird and wonderful but by being able to put a large camera body up to my face – it has preserved the distance and disengagement which I guess really mirrors my own way of life in many ways.

While I am excited to be finally presenting my projects soon (it has been a long time coming!)  Whatever the outcome I know I have become a better photographer because of them.

Artist Statement:

My work seeks out the spaces where clash creates the wonderful and surreal at the frontiers of homogenised Western society – Be it in wide open deserts or in densely packed urban spaces. Where contradiction creates upheaval and change. Where the chaotic and abstract evolve. Where the end of one cycle gives birth to something transformative that is always innately beautiful. I am driven to capture the process of renewal that on a larger scale are reflected in the rhythms of nature and life.


Few pics out of the Karoo

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Just came back from a week’s trip in the Karoo – as a continuation of a long-term photo project I am currently undertaking out there (Karoo – A Changing Landscape: ).  I was determined to undertake the challenging off-road journey out there- even if I have been distracted with things back in CT recently… Looking over past work in preparation for the trip, I realised I had to focus more on its wonderfully eccentric peoples to balance the opening part of the project (that has focused more on abstract and landscape images).  In the short space of time out there, I managed to start fulfilling that goal (although of course I also shot a wide range of appropriate landscape shots – it is so hard to resist the temptation in the idiosyncratic Karoo!).

Even in the short space of time out there on this occasion – the wonderfully warm and friendly peoples of the Karoo – from all walks of life – helped make my pic-taking job easier.  In many ways it is a hark back to a vanishing and more idyllic and simple existence – A way of being that I believed had been swallowed up by everyday modern urban life long ago. Will be making a 3 week trip in the next few months again… really looking forward to getting back out there too…


Palm Springs Festival – Part 3: The Video Editing Workshop and Moving Forward and other Issues with the Child Assault Documentary I have been shooting

I spent an important day away from the photography side of things to do a Video Editing course with Fletcher Murray.  The course itself was educational and I got to ground myself better in the important post-prod side of shooting video.  I have been undertaking a doccie last couple of years concerning the front line services, including counsellors, forensic doctors and police department involved with the dark issue of dealing with the deluge of child assault cases in the main township of Cape Town called Khayelitsha where as many as 1 in 3 children will suffer some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 18.

I have shot a fair amount of footage – mainly talking heads though – but have been unable thus far to move it forward.  One problem has been technical, falling a bit flat at the first edit stage partly.  In the past pre-digital era, editing was more formulaic but these days, editing is increasingly one of the most important part of the doccie production process and knowledge of it and technical know-how of prem pro or final cut is essential even if I am not going to edit the final cut myself ultimately.  It is not just techinical though – knowing what to cut and what to keep – even when I know my story intimately has been difficult for me.

Taking the course was important and will allow me to begin to move the doccie forward again.  But it is not just on the technical side where I had issues:

For starters, while being a strong and important topic to tackle, in practice there is not much leeway of what can be shown.  I was hoping to depict the gravity of what was being dealt with and essentially the ‘unseen horror’ (which could never be shown directly for obvious reasons) through the emotions and reactions of those working with the issue.  But what has happened essentially given the monumental task of achieving access through South African Governmental departments and of course the police force is that access is very controlled and restrictive and what essentially I have is a whole load of talking heads.

Professionals are also hardened to the issue and it is very hard to capture the emotionality of the subject and therefore the ‘unseen horror’ with people who have to protect themselves and form a professional barrier between their personal feelings and the terrible nature of what they deal with on a day to day basis.  And it is especially hard when the access is limited to a series of interviews.

I also realised a while back and even at the Palm Springs Photo Festival where I was pulled in so many directions – from photography to time lapse and then back to video editing – that I have very much spread myself a bit thin professionally and something had to give.  I see myself as a photographer first – but also know that I got into it as a photojournalist with a love and training in essentially telling linear stories.  The days for doing that in photography are essentially gone or going but in documentaries the possibilties are there and very much relevant.  I certainly feel that I will possibly end up in this field one day – but for now I have had to put the documentary on the back burner as I decide what to do and how to get the essential B-Roll that will make or break the doccie.  I have ideas and with more ideas about editing and the principles behind it will certainly help.

The fire on the mountain, World Press Photo Awards and Letting Photojournalism go as a Profession to save Photography

It is time to let photojournalism go as a profession and recognise it has and will become far more inclusive in nature. It is time to ring fence and protect photography’s exclusivity in the digital age and clearly define what is and what isn’t professional photography. And photojournalism no longer is.


Yeah I know, grandiose title typical of me but recent events on both the local and international stage indirectly lead me to have an epiphany about the state of photography as a profession and what in my humble opinion (however grandiose the conclusion) was the answer and way forward.

We had a massive fire here in Hout Bay around Cape Town but as far away as Cape Point that engulfed entire neighbourhoods, laid waste to thousands of hectares of pristine Cape landscape and nature reserves and destroyed houses, top hotels and prestigious vineyards. Just as the out of control fire swept into our area the strong winds thankfully subsided and heaven sent rain essentially killed it just as it threatened to sweep into Hout Bay from both sides of our village.

The response from the community was unbelievable. Fire fighters especially worked days on end without rest to stop the advance and were supplemented by volunteers from the community and by a constant stream of donations of supplies from us all. My poor mum visiting from the UK and who had to bear all of this on a supposed holiday wanted to volunteer but I never would have heard the end of it from peeps back in England so gently convinced her to stand down and we donated as much as poss to support the effort instead.

On the photography side, the first day (last Monday) that the fire arrived in Hout Bay I was up at 5 and on the road to take pics. I was stopped from getting too close to then then epicentre of the fire on instruction from the Fire Chief. I didn’t argue or wrangle my way too much as I would surely have done in the past and decided to go to the other side of the Bay and take more landscape pics of the encroaching fire. I didn’t try too hard though and my attempts were so half-hearted. These pics would have ended up on pic libraries somewhere probably which don’t really do well selling news photog images anyway. I didn’t even post on social media not wanting to alarm those nearest and dearest to me spread all over the world.

I actually started getting annoyed seeing loads of posts from photographers on facebook saying things like ‘SO AND SO PHOTOGRAPHY’ promoting their own visual take of the fire and ending their posts with some comment of concern or commending the bravery of those fighting it almost plastered at the end of their respective posts as an after thought. I guess when a news story starts to effect you personally you start to have a different take on it but I don’t think it is just that.

Slowly but surely I have become so far removed from news photography that the ambulance-chasing (or in this case fire truck chasing) type work on which I have commented plenty of times in the past especially concerning its moral ambiguity is not part of my professional make up any more. I have thought about doing a post-apocalyptic more arty photo series instead that in my opinion would stand out far more and I could prob get far more coverage for anyway and would in all fairness also get the message across of the far-reaching devastation that has been caused. That is more the type of ideas I work around these days and my take on such an issue now although given the short time I have before I travel and the preparation I have to still do I don’t think it will happen (if any photographer reads this, think it a good idea and does it and is successful with it just buy me a drink if you ever see me!).

It has been far more interesting though for me to see the amount of ever improving quality of citizen journalism – esp with video and photography –during the outbreak. I think increasingly – especially as the quality of citizen journalism improves with better cameras on smartphones and the such and the fundamentals of not being biased in a story take hold in this genre (though with a fire of course there is no real controversy in terms of bias reporting) then we will see citizen journalism become more and more important especially on the ever-growing social media platforms whose purpose of disseminating news info in times of crisis is growing exponentially.

Photo news is becoming ever more inclusive which is great for us in general as a public. But as a profession this creeping inclusive nature of news photography is slowly but surely spelling disaster. Swamped from the outside, news photography increasingly has very little monetary value. It has been well-documented that the profession has been long in decline – especially with falling advertising revenues in traditional media houses who increasingly don’t have budget for newsy type photo series.   Many have let go of all their staff photographers internationally (here in SA the classical model appears more robust and still works well) and tend instead to rely heavily on wire feeds who themselves are cutting relentlessly on costs: A good example of this being the whole Africanisation of the news wire services here on the Continent which has more to do with one massive cost-cutting exercise rather than empowering local populations.

All the issues and debates above finally came to a head and spilled over with the more than usually heated debate raging around the World Press Awards Winners this year. Serious questions have been raised concerning the judgement process involved. To put it in a nutshell many in the profession were outraged by the choice of such winners as Giovanni Troilo’s ‘The Dark Heart of Europe’ photo series in the Contemporary Photography section. The fundamental argument is that many of the pics were actually set up and in so doing contravened one of the very fundamental pillars of photojournalism and that is not to intervene in the subjects and material you are photographing, otherwise it becomes more portraiture or art photography. Giovanni’s photo series was eventually disqualified but not for the reasons above but more on a technicality that one of the photos he entered was taken 30km outside Charleroi where he claimed the entire story was based.

On the other hand, it has also come out that almost 20% of all potential finalists who made it to the last round of the prestigious competition were disqualified because they manipulated their images too much, especially darkening some areas of an image so much that it supposedly changed the content and message of the image itself thereby contravening the second rule in photojournalism and that is not to digitally alter images to affect overall message and content.

The argument has become so heated, that Visa Pour L’Image, arguably the largest photojournalistic festival globally and held annually in Perpignan in France has taken the most unusual step of categorically refusing to showcase all World Press Winner photos which it has done religiously for as far back as I can remember.

For many photojournalists the arguments that have now spilled into the public arena have been simmering for years and I have often spoken here of the increasing moral ambiguity in the profession, always under pressure in the new digital age to create more visually striking images which is harder to do naturally with object trouves (found objects) without interfering somehow and digitally altering the photo to the point where it might be judged to be have been altered somehow.

It is interesting to me though, that the judges have been very lenient on one side of this argument – judging many set piece situations to be acceptable while almost to compensate and try and keep in line with classical ideas about photojournalism have come down heavily on the other side in terms of disqualifying the slightest bit of supposed digital alteration (I haven’t actually seen the images that were disqualified and am purely going on what has been widely reported in the press). I have a lot of sympathy for Lars Boering, it’s new managing director appointed last October who one suspects was brought in to make the competition more relevant today and bring it closer in line with art and gallery photography. Indeed his appointment was announced on the World Press website with the quote:

Lars Boering is well-known in the photography scene but for World Press Photo he represents new blood, combining continuity with innovation. We believe he is the right person to future-proof the organization and to take it to the next level.”

I know Lars from the Noorderlicht (Northern Lights) Masterclass in Groningen in the Netherlands which he runs with Marc Prust (another great in the photography world) which I undertook back in 2011/12. I was mentored by Marc (and whose instructions and advice have had a massive influence on the direction and expression I have been trying to take these last few years), but had enough contact with Lars to know him to be an outstanding agent and an absolute asset to the world of photography that he clearly is so passionate about. His background though is more from the art world of photography. World Press seem to have brought him in to try and re-invent the competition to make it more relevant today and bring it closer to the art, gallery and established book world of photography. But in so doing, his new bright and innovative ideas clashed horribly with the classical notions of what photojournalism really is. And hence the furore and heated debate raging right now.

In my humble opinion the two are anathema to each other and never the twain shall meet. Its fundamental nature means that mainstream photojournalism can and never will be brought in line with the modern and more commercially viable art photography world (although this world is also suffering the last few years from severe recession). By even trying to do so, it is making art photography look insidious, superficial and frivolous when it is anything but. You simply cannot make something as serious as the subject matter many photojournalists tackle more arty in nature, fiddling with composition to make it so without a massive backlash from those with very traditional and classical concepts of what photojournalism is that is essentially far more humanistic in its approach which ultimately had its heyday back in the 1950’s and peaked in the 70’s.

With the far more inclusive nature of photography in the digital age where everyone has access to a decent enough camera, and especially with the advent of citizen journalism, photojournalism will and even already is lost to the masses and no longer a viable profession. I am a strong believer in the fact that if you can’t essentially feed your kids (or even yourself these days) from what you do, you can no longer call something a profession.

If awards such as world press continue to try and update photojournalism to make it more part of the relatively successful art photography world, it will damage photography as a whole. And here I come full circle in my argument:

It is time to let photojournalism go as a profession and recognise it has and will become far more inclusive in nature. It is time to ring fence and protect photography’s exclusivity in the digital age and clearly define what is and what isn’t professional photography. And photojournalism no longer is.

I think in the future, as technology gets better and better, internet speeds get inevitably faster and people become more media savvy and able to edit, video footage and news clips will, for better or for worse, be the next to fall into this brave new world of increased inclusivity. But that is another story all together.

I was trained as a photojournalist. I had varying degrees of success in it and have always gone in and out of that side of photography. And I must clearly note here that I entered the World Press Awards this year and didn’t get anywhere (sour grapes I hear?!). But I also knew it would be for the very last time (my work in South Sudan qualified for entry). In a previous blog after coming back from South Sudan last year I said it might be worth every now and again doing something meaningful as a news wire photographer in a war zone. I no longer think so. I have been moving away for years and now that door is finally closed. And I love the work that I do now and see it as more personally fulfilling and meaningful than anything gone before – especially news photography.

Time Lapse Photography in Khayelitsha

I was recently commissioned to shoot a few interviews and a time lapse sequence for an international charity with an office here in my locality in Cape Town.  They made up part of a larger promotional piece for the charity that is still in post-prod.  Interviews were pretty straight forward shot with the 5D MkII on video legs and using a simple shotgun mic for audio stream…
The time lapse provided somewhat more of a challenge.  I was specifically asked to shoot a sunrise over a township where you would first see the sunrise associated with the beauty of South Africa and only as it came up would you slowly realise that this beautiful scene overlooked one of squalor and poverty that is of course the trademark of many townships still in SA.Living in Hout Bay I tried first to shoot it locally over the tonwships in my locality of Hangberg or Imizamo Yethu.  Getting the shot meant I could only try once of course every day so got up at 5am on two separate days and went to a pre-chosen location.  I found in Hangberg – in the colored township (which I am of course doing a photo book project at the mo) there weren’t enough shacks to make the piece viable and in IY – while it was def what they would be looking for, the sun unfortunately rose from behind me onto the township that is set on a mountain side and couldn’t get it to work logistically.

There was only one thing for it in the end.  On my third and final attempt (given the strict time-frame within which I had to make the piece) I drove into Khayelitsha – the main township in Cape Town at 4.30am.  While I have been many there many times, driving in on my own with all the camera equipment when it was still effectively night time was a bit daunting.  Once I had pulled out all the equipment I did get loads of dodgy stares and a few people shouting ‘watch out for your stuff – be very careful!’ from their cars as they past which didn’t instil any confidence! But mostly people were friednly and mostly inquistive as to what I was doing there so early standing on top of my land rover on the side of the road with a camera!

Before I could get my equipment out though I had to first find a location where the sun rose over the township at a point where there were enough shacks to make the piece viable.  In the dark, this was not easy to say the least! I also had the problem in that I didn’t know where the sun came up from! In the end, I pulled out my iPhone and used the compass to work out where east was and drove around – jumping on the roof rack of my land rover from time to time – to find the perfect spot.

In the end – after much fretting – I got the simple piece done.  Technically, it was a bit of a challenge too in terms of adjusting the aperture and shutter speed manually as the lighting conditions changed rapidly especially once the sun began to come up (thankfully – due to the mountain cover in the background the sunrise delayed on the loaction and I had til 7am to find my location and set up).

My one concern once I had put the piece together in post-prod was that I noticed that on top of a Land Rover – the slightest movement – esp from the passing buses whizzing by and causing the Land Rover to move slightly on the shock absorbers – caused the picture to move a bit. Otherwise though – the piece came out to spec and the charity that commissioned me seemed more than happy with the piece.

I am excited by time lapse photography to the extent I went out and purchased the Epic 100 robotic camera mount.  In conjunction with the intervalometer, it will allow me to take stunning time lapse sequences where the camera will seem to pan across the scene I am capturing… look forward to playing with it soon!!

The bad side of news photography as a freelance (con’t)

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On the way back home to Hout Bay, Cape Town after a short outing I was informed of the terrible tragedy that had befallen those on the catamaran, Miroshga near Duiker Island.

It had already been several hours since the event and the first set of survivors had been brought to shore and the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) were busy in attempting to rescue a second set of survivors from the overturned vessel.

A broken engine had left the catamaran stranded and the boat had then capsized in the high winds and choppy waters.  Of the 33 or 34 tourists on board, 1 was later confirmed dead and several seriously injured.  Many of the passengers had had to wait hours underneath the overturned catamaran surviving on small pockets of air until the NSRI had been able to reach the boat.  Several poachers (of perleman and crayfish) had gotten to the site earlier and had made brave attempts to rescue as many of the passengers as they could.

After assessing the situation I realised this would be an international story of sorts and had to go down to the harbour where the passengers of the Miroshga were being brought in.

The first sign that things for the media were amiss was when I got down there and spoke to several news people from local and international outlets.  They had not been briefed and were already annoyed at the lack of access and the way the police was treating them.  We found ourselves being mishandled, told to always move away and were kept as far away from the survivors and the rescue operation coming in as possible.

Apart from protecting the identity the deceased survivor until next of kin had been informed and on a larger scale minimising any PR damage for the Cape Town tourist industry – whatever the good intentions, being mishandled in such a manner was both demeaning and was a general affront to the press and the work they do. We could just as easily have been briefed on the do’s and dont’s and would have respected any reasonable guidelines given.

A fellow photographer working with the local newspapers aptly said after an argument with a policeman that the next time they wanted to feed a ‘feel-good’ story to the press, they wouldn’t oblige them.

I have already blogged about the professional value as a freelance of working as a news photographer.  Here though was the other side of the coin I also dislike – the photos themselves are restrictive in terms of quality and what you can achieve but also in many events now in news photography, everything is carefully staged and choreographed on the whole.  You will find the most media savvy people in even the remotest parts of Africa keen to try and control access.  Not only is it necessary to use your best skills in a limited setting to convey whatever you are photographing (for little reward as a freelance as I have written in past blogs) but increasingly you must also at the same time navigate a mountain of control and access issues of what pics can and can’t be taken.

Over the years, I have learnt to gently push in such situations to get the pics that are required – but given that my pics – however good (and they def weren’t in this case) – would not have received any interest from media outlets (who as I have said before would go to Reuters, AFP and AP for such pics whose staff photogs and cameramen were already on the scene at the Harbour) I decided after a couple of hours and a few weak pics to go home and continue with my relaxing Saturday.

This event was even more confirmation for me that moving away from this type of photography was a good and positive move for me both professionally and personally.

Teaching photography and the great rewards that come from it (part 2)

Winning Image: A view of Hangberg and Hout Bay beyond. With such clear economic divisions in South Africa as a whole it is hard to foresee a time when true reconciliation will occur in the country. Until such inequalities are addressed, South Africa will never truly be at peace and stable as the current labour unrest is further evidence of. As in many Western societies, peace and social redemption is rooted with the emergence of a strong and large middle class in society.


One of the students who I was working with won the photography prize for the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation Awards – There is no greater reward in teaching than that..


Teaching photography and the great rewards that come from it…

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I have often tried to dispel as many of the sloppy clichés that photography – especially photojournalism has unfortunately sunk in to while writing on my blogs… Teaching photography def falls into that category.  It is often said in our rather snooty circles that only failed photographers teach… what a load of rubbish – or at least it should be with all photographers.  Teaching is not only about a job or even ‘giving back’.  It is an amazing way to hone your own skills and better yourself as a photographer on both a professional and a very personal level..

I had the pleasure recently to work with a group of 18 year olds – the first from the generation of ‘Born Free’s’ as they are called in SA from the townships in my locality through a local NGO called Lalela.  I taught them about photojournalism and mentored them in taking images for a nationwide competition organised by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation.  The theme was ‘Reconciliation’.

I found the kids amazing to work with and surprisingly receptive to ideas that students at international schools sometimes have difficulty grappling with.  It made me realise – that past the technical side, photography is such a personal expression and statement in life – I knew that before – but seeing it unfold before my eyes so easily with students that obviously have so many varied and different experiences and obviously have a lot to say was revelatory.

Being able to walk freely through the two local townships was another eye opener in itself – not so much because of the places themselves – I have obviously been to many for work – but the fact that literally 150m from my house is almost another world and existence so different from my own suburban one.  Where I live in Cape Town can be described as a micrcosm of the country as a whole – different communities living side by side but – on the whole – not really connecting with each other apart from the most perfunctory of contact.  It is such a shame and addressing it is fundamental to South Africa’s long-term prosperity – I’d even go as far as to say survival…

On a professional level, teaching the 18 year olds has been great in terms of making a breakthrough myself.  I had wanted to go into Hangberg – the local coloured community to do a long-term project there.  It had been hard for me to find ways to enter with cameras.  Unlike the black South African townships – such as the largest, Khayelitsha where I have ventured many times since I came to SA in 2009, always through local NGO’s, coloured communities – being slightly more affluent – do not get as much attention from NGO’s.  To be frank though the main problem is that coloured communities all over the Western Cape suffer from some of the most violent and lethal forms of gangsterism on the Continent fuelled in large part by an explosion of crystal meths use (or rather a dirty form known locally as ‘Tik’).  Recently, the army had to go in and restore some semblance of order in the main coloured community on Mitchells Plain.

While Hangberg is nowhere near as bad, it still suffers from the problem – and by all accounts it is getting worse. One of the boys I met while teaching who really took to the photography classes and understood what it was all about offered to accompany me as an assistant and I in return offered to firstly pay him and also train him further.  If it works out the teaching would have opened a big door for me professionally.

For the record – I love teaching photography in general– and teaching the 18 year olds from the townships has not only hopefully helped them in some small way – It has helped me.  I have found without fail that to be a better photographer you simply have to become a better, more focused and honest person. What better way to make a step towards this by teaching what I myself love so much. It is only when you are constructive and happy that you can realise your true expression in the art form.

This morn I received a phone call at 6.30am – I thought it was my girlfriend calling so I invariably answered and said ‘Hi sweets’ without even checking the number.  There was a pause.

‘Errr – Hi?’

‘Hi? – whose calling?’. I said realising rather embarrassed!

‘It’s Nomtha.  What time is photography classes today?’

‘Oh sorry Nomtha – you’re up early!  I’m afraid there are no more classes – you’ve entered the awards now.’

After a very brief moment’s reflection though – and maybe feeling the disappointment on the other end of the phone I added:

‘But I’ll talk to Lalela and try and arrange more.  You enjoyed them?’


‘Then let’s do it!’

And I meant it.  Look forward to doing it again some time soon…

Crisis, Re-working and Learning to Work with Others…

Film Treatment_Complete_TXT

Well – been a while since I last blogged… been keeping up the commission jobs and still doing the stock photography.  I have started outsourcing cleaning images to a company based in Bangladesh.  They found me on Linkedin and after a process of tests and trials I am happy with the output.  I found it hard to let go though of doing it myself – even with stock – as many photographers will testify – I am extremely fussy how my pics are cleaned.  Allowing others to do that I have found hard and have been putting off the decision to do it for a while.  Given the volume of pics though and the time it would take to do, it was def a wise decision and prices were reasonable when compared to potential returns.

I am still looking for someone to keyword the images – and given its importance I want to be careful with it… I’m sure though – just as with digital cleaning – I will prevaricate for a while before giving in finally and outsourcing.

I find it strange working with people who I have never met, but in this brave, new world it really is becoming the norm – my entire website has been developed and has evolved with 1 designer over 10 years who I have never met in person.

And on that note it brings me back to my short film.

July and August proved to be a nightmare with it as it became evident I had def taken on more than I could chew as 1 person.  I started having dissent from frontline staff who would be intimately involved in the piece.  While permission were sought and cleared at the top of each Government body and organisation – the actual people on the frontline of child protection services were not included in the process and properly informed.  When I started appearing they rightly demanded to know what was going on.

The main gripe was where this piece would eventually end up.  I was originally hoping to make it a multimedia piece for an online section of an international publication.  On that front, I have been in contact and there has been interest.  As the piece grew, I started to broaden my scope and hoped to make it into a longer TV or cinematic doccie.  Frontline staff were simply not happy with this.

After a series of further consultations – and a couple of very helpful meetings with internationally-recognised local film production companies, I decided it would be best to scale back the scope initially and make a simple short 10min piece that would be uploaded online and attention would be garnered independently rather than through mainstream media.  By doing this, it would ease the concerns of many frontline staff who would be involved and – if successful – open the door to make a longer piece.  In this way the process got back off the ground.

I was always worried about working with film production companies – or even experienced film crew who I felt – given the budget limitations would have to be personally invested in the project and therefore would want a say in the central ideas and concepts behind the doccie – something I was extremely unwilling to do at first.  I have now found an audio and camera peeps nearly out of a top film school in Cape Town.  They are technically great and are both invested in the ideas behind the short film.  I have also found it has helped a great deal for me to start understanding better the whole process of filming by divulging responsibility and learning from those around me.

I hate feeling even slightly out of my comfort zone when it comes to the technical side of things and the whole filming process has been a massive step outside it and has taken a lot more time than I had hoped for to bring the project to fruition.

I’ve attached the doccie treatment I put together for it here if it may help others.  I again asked a local director to have a look at some of his treatments to get basic ideas on how they should be structured.  As a pre-shoot script, it is a bit general compared to say a film treatment.  But given that you never know what content exactly you will get it is always better to leave it more general and then write a far more detailed post-shoot script once you have more of an idea of how the piece will ultimately look like.  If it is of interest to anyone, I can wetransfer the entire treatment with the photographs used as visual aids the finished document contains.

I am finally starting shooting again on 1st October.  This time I am far more confident and am actually excited.  The prospects of the short film look far better than they did a couple of months ago… and what was important to achieve this as a photographer was learning to let go of my babies and put them into the more than capable hands of those around me…

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