Capturing a revolution

IMG_2444 Fashion blogger and stylist Nabilah Kariem

While the field of photography is predominantly male, female photographers are making serious moves in the industry and defying the norm.

 

Rizqua Barnes, a Cape Town-based photographer, is someone who has been at the forefront of the new wave of female photographers who have gained well deserved recognition and praise.

“Currently, with smartphones offering high definition cameras, just about anyone can label themselves as a photographer. However, it’s the professionals such as Barnes who stand out”

The designated playing fields are social media platforms such as picture driven Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Photographers and bloggers alike compete for a spot in glossy magazines, newspaper and online portals. The leading and popular photographer genres include general photography, socials, portraits, nature and fashion.

Carving your spot at the top is not easy, and like any other career, the field requires hard work, focus and individuality, says Barnes.

I first met Barnes about two years ago on live video sharing platform Snapchat. Her snaps (pictures of her daughter Nura melted my heart) and her everyday life intrigued me. Her diverse professional portfolio on Instagram includes photos of models, personalities, fashion bloggers and just about every other thing that catches her eye.

Curious about how she became a photographer, I asked her: “When was the first time you picked up a camera?”

She said: “I was in Standard 5 (grade 7). I don’t remember what type of camera it was exactly but I got it from my aunt and it was a film camera. I borrowed it for camp.

“I was way too young at the time and never really gave it much thought. Thinking about it now, taking pictures is something that I have always enjoyed.

“My dad Fuad Barnes had a camera as well and was always taking pictures of our family. When I finished school, my sister Quanita borrowed loaned me her camera when we went on holiday and I took pictures of everything.

“I went on a paddling boat and the camera fell into the ocean we still laugh about this until today. Since then I am always super careful with a camera.

“I was always obsessed with sunlight, light and trees. There is a certain time during the day, the hour before sunset, when the sun shines on spots which are usually hidden during the day the golden hour, it’s called”

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Model Ashleigh Herman wearing The Design Wearhouse 

 

Now a fully fledged “Girl Boss” #GirlBoss , Barnes credits Facebook for propelling her career to where she is now.

“I have been on my toes since the beginning of my career and I am still on my toes. Ever since Facebook happened, things have been happening for me and it hasn’t stopped,” she says.

“From weddings to engagements to 21st birthdays, matric dances and family photos. I have shot everything. Everything you can think of, I have shot it”

“But right now, I have found myself, after 10 years in the industry. I am currently enjoying fashion and portraits photography.

“All my life, I have always told myself that I want to be my own boss. I never want to work for anybody. I worked in retail for three years and it made me realise that I am worth more than a 9 to 5. I felt that I was wasting time being desk bound when I can be everywhere, meeting people, taking pictures and creating content. I have always been driven, entrepreneurship is just in my blood;

“There are times when working for yourself is scary but it’s worth it,” she says.

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Models Wekwa Tenzi and Alina Castle wearing Shop Brett Robson

Her portfolio now also includes wedding photography, a category she fell into by chance.“More female Muslim photographers started popping up and this was a nice thing to witness. At times when I couldn’t take on more work because I had too much on my plate, I would refer clients to other female photographers.

“It was a big deal for me because at the time I felt as if I was the only female photographer amongst males, especially in the Muslim community which was very male dominated and it was tough.

“Men and the older generations didn’t take a female with a camera seriously.

“When more and more women photographers came onto the scene, it was like a weight off my shoulders.”

How does she go from being a wedding photographer to shooting glamorous models?

“With weddings, I became more of a people’s person. I actually know how to make people relax in front of a camera. It’s a power that we have as photographers,” she explains.

“In fashion, you are one-on-one with someone, and it’s such a big deal because it’s up to me to make the person comfortable. Whether or not you are an experienced model, you still get nervous”

 

“Currently, my aesthetic is a clean and fresh look, but yet I still want the photograph to pop. I still want people to go wow! When they see it, there should be little for me to explain in a picture.

“I always want the viewer to know what they are seeing immediately. The model needs to connect with the viewer,” adds Barnes

Pic 5 Rizqua portrait by thabit.kamaldien

A portrait of Rizqua by Thabit Kamaldien

** Connect with Rizqua  on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rizqua_barnes/?hl=en 

*See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style-beauty/fashion/5-menswear-trends-you-need-to-know-10442700

*See more What drives a designer?

Kwena Baloyi hair photography series titled “Afrikan Krowns”

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Kwena Baloyi . Picture by Trevor Stuurman

For a long time the controversial issue of black women’s hair has been debated on mainstream media. Even though arguments continue as to whether it is correct or not to have relaxed hair and wear weaves and wigs, I am excited to see a shift in the narrative. The internet and social media are at the forefront in driving the story of “my hair, my crown”. I spoke to fashion stylist Kwena Baloyi, whose Instagram photography series of beautiful hairstyles celebrating black hair caught my eye.

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Kween Kwena. Picture by Nonzunzo Gxekwa 

Tell us about yourself? My friends and industry peers fondly call me “Kween Kwena”. I’m a vivacious, high-spirited and fun person (or so I’m told). I’m from Moletjie Ga-Makibelo in Limpopo. I’m a professional, on-demand TV, magazine and personal stylist. I’m also a fashion adventurist, who explores different clothes to come up with unique styles. I consider myself a fashion therapist because I help people find their fashion identity. I’m low-key obsessed with hair too.

Tell us about your interest in hair? Like every young woman I have come a long way with my hair.

Most of us, as black women, have had a contentious relationship with the kink in our coily hair and it’s been influenced by what society tells us is “acceptable”

I’ve been through that phase where my hair needed to be straight because I thought that was “appropriate”. My natural hair was called “untidy” or was not appreciated by those around me, so I thought it would be better to straighten or shave it. The older I got, the more I appreciated what my hair meant to me and what it represented to me as a woman in a society with so many negative connotations about African people’s hair. Now I wear my hair how I like because it’s an extension of who I am. It expresses my personality more than any item of clothing could.

CT TOTT Kwena pic 4Picture by Nonzunzo Gxekwa 

What inspired your social media hair photo series? Being a stylist affords me the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and to meet many different characters. Each person I have met has always had an interesting aspect of their hair. Some stand out for being unique, while some simply intrigue me because they choose to be “regular” for the sake of fitting in. Experiencing this variety of people sparked the notion of how people relate to their “crown” – which is what your hair is essentially. You can choose to have it bold and in your face, or like other hairstyles considered “generic” or “normal”.

 

I’ve also been attracted to how different tribes around the continent wear their hair – particularly in West Africa.

There is a lot of documentation by history scholars and international artists about black people and their hair. The natives of Ugogo, whose hair traditions are exceptional, are one of a few. There are also the Fante women of Elmina (Edina) in Ghana, who had beautiful thick hair and their hairstyles were always so intricate and crafted to perfection. In fact, my current coiffure hairstyle is inspired by women in West Africa. The hairstyle was later made popular by our beloved mama Miriam Makeba. South Africa also has threading and plaiting techniques that are unique and allow us to express our personalities.

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Who is responsible for creating the beautiful hairstyles? My go-to stylist is Ncumisa “Mimi” Duma. She’s a talented hair magician and understands the importance of treating natural hair with care. Can you believe my hair has not seen a hair dryer or endured any artificial heat since I started growing it? It’s the healthiest my natural hair has been in ages!

Does your series have a title? Yes. It’s called “Afrikan Krowns”. We are each Afrikan and each have a Krown. Your Krown is an extension of who you are and an expression of your personality/character. The series looks at how each person chooses to wear their Krown with pride.

 

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Can you tell us what triggered your hair interest? This will sound so clichéd, but do you know the song I am not my hair, by India Arie? It’s always been one of my favourites jams, but it wasn’t until years after I heard it that I began to understand what she was really saying. Often as young girls we sing along to a song without really understanding what its purpose or message is. The way India describes her “hair story” in the first verse is how my hair chronicles kinda went. You start with whatever hair your parents decide you need to have. Then you become a little girl who does certain hairstyles because that’s what the school deems acceptable. From there you become a teenager, get influenced by pop culture and base your hairstyles on what’s “trending”. Then you become an adult and still get peer pressured into doing what your circle finds palatable. Eventually, your hair starts to fall out because you’ve either put way too many chemicals in it or braided it for too long or sewn on too many weaves.

How do you see natural hair empowering women? For me it says you’re slowly, but surely, getting to a point where society’s standards of beauty don’t define who you are. You no longer feel forced to relax your hair or wear a weave just because the expectation to have straight hair weighs you down.

You are ready to celebrate your hair and turn it into whichever shape of krown you desire because it’s an extension of who you are, but by no means defines who you are. In many ways, I hope black women feel free to be whoever they choose to be through their krowns.

Any last words? Women need to understand that the type of hair they choose to wear is not linked to who they are or who other people assume them to be. Whether you’re into braids, weave, wigs, fades, cheese kop, dreadlocks, afro, or anything else you find appealing, remember your hair is your krown.

No one can dictate what it should look like nor what it should mean to you. What matters is that you love it, nurture it and make the most of it.

 

*Connect with Kwena on Instagram: @kwenasays

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en and find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in the Top of The Times on June 9 2017

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.

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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”

 

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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.

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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.

Visit:www@shotleft.co.za for more travel inspiration. 

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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

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

 

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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. 

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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. 

 

No poser: New York’s Shamayim shoots it like it is

Carmen Solomon by Shamayim

Model Carmen Solomon by Shamayim

Fashion photography is an art form that is part of our daily lives – on billboards, in magazines, books and online. These days, it is no longer just about photographing great clothes or posing with hands on hips and looking down at the camera.

Fashion photographers are changing the game by producing work that reflects a certain kind of attitude and creativity. One who has a carved a name for himself worldwide with his distinct style of shooting, mostly focusing on models of colour, is award-winning New York-based photographer, Shamayim.

His body of work includes fashion editorials, beauty as well as advertising, and has been published in high-end magazines and featured in advertising campaigns around the world.

I spoke to him during his Cape Town expedition, where he worked with several local top models.

Shamayim began his career after noticing the lack of diversity in fashion magazines, he says.

“I noticed that a lot of fashion magazines did not have many women of colour in them. And the magazines that did were mostly men’s magazines… and I just hated the way that they were portrayed”

“I didn’t think that they were shown in a very classy or classic way ,” says Shamayim “I just had an inclination to want to change that. Also, I had a girlfriend I was dating at the time who was a model, and I hated her photos because she was such a beautiful girl.

“She was very classy and all her photos looked trashy… it wasn’t really her fault, but she said that photographers never wanted to shoot black models in a glamorous way,” he explains.

 

“I picked up this little disposable camera and took snapshots of her and she really liked it. That was about 10 years ago. It has been a process ever since then.”

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Eli Cruz by Shamayim

“I keep getting better and better at it, creating not only test shoots for women of colour, but test shoots in general… iconic and legendary images, but my priority will always be women of colour,” he says.

Shamayim’s pictures, mostly in black and white, display models in various forms of dance-like poses. Shot at dramatic angles, the images are captivating and different from your average portfolio shots.

Shamayim spends most of his time doing international photo shoot expeditions and workshops, working with top modelling agencies, fashion designers and make-up artists in countries including France, United Arab Emirates, England and Egypt.

“I like to concentrate on black and white because it is symbolic to me. I feel like there are two energies in every human being – like low and high vibrations or negatives and positives”

“I really think you can capture that when you take away the colour and just concentrate on the contrast of the negative and the positive. It complements my work more because it captures the struggle between two people.”

“I use the most minimal amount of retouching because I was trained to capture a photograph in the camera, and not after you have taken the photo.

“I fix things you could not fix, like make-up or lighting… I might also sharpen the image a little bit just to show contrast of the shadows, but I am not a big fan of overly retouching,”

The likes of American fashion photographer Steven Meisel and photography duo Mert and Marcus count as some of his biggest influences.

“Outside of them, I don’t really follow too many photographers. I like to create my own style. I do admire many photographers’ work.

“I study film directors – how they light their work and how they direct their cast and actors – more so than photographers.

“English-American film director Christopher Nolan is my favourite film director because he brings realism into his work.

“And, weirdly enough, I like to follow wildlife photographers because they can capture animals in natural poses, being themselves. I like to incorporate that with my models.”

“I want them to be natural, I want them to look fantastic and beautiful, but also I want them to be real,” he explains.

“I would rather see a beautiful woman running through the streets with a gown flowing behind her than just standing with her hands on her hips.

“You can get that from wildlife photography; they are really excellent at capturing motion and natural behaviour,” says Shamayim.

“Cape Town – and South Africa in general – offers an impressive range of diverse model talent,” says Shamayim.

“This is one of the reasons I will be moving to Cape Town soon. South Africa in general has a wonderful pool of where models from all over the world come to build their portfolios.

“I visited almost all the agencies in Cape Town and I was so impressed with the diversity that is represented here. I pride myself in having one of the most diverse portfolios in the industry.

“I shoot men and women from all different cultures. And coming here, I saw that represented in the agencies… which is quite refreshing,” adds Shamayim.

●To see more of Shamayim’s, work see www.shamayim.net or his Instagram page: Shamayim. 

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on January 6 2016. 

 

Amazing pictures of the week

This week I came across the most beautiful, captivating and amazing pictures that I had to share some with you. There are so many beautiful pictures that I am going to make “amazing pictures of the week” a regular post. I am a big fan of portraits and black and white pictures but will try to mix it up. Most of the pictures are from Pinterest and most were not captioned.

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A boy captured during a march in Washington, 1963

A boy captured during a march in Washington, 1963

Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Steve McCurry

Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Steve McCurry

Independence Day in Zimbabwe, 1980

Independence Day in Zimbabwe, 1980

 

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By Marc Riboud: Rowers, Ghana, 1960

By Marc Riboud: Rowers, Ghana, 1960