by Lebo Mashifane
The love we have for photography.
Inkanyiso opens doors to the BLY (black lesbian youth) of Kwa-Thema yet again in 2016.
A group of six BLY from this community participate in a Photo Experience (PXP) Workshop conducted by Inkanyiso in May. Zanele Muholi gives back the photography skill to township citizens.
Unemployment rate is high and continues to increase in South Africa, especially in the townships. Sharing of skills activates the combat against the disgrace of this nature. Photographers, Lindeka Qampi and Zanele Muholi facilitate the 7 day PhotoXP attended by Boitumelo “Tumi” Nkopane, Khanyisile Mtungwa, Lebo Mashifane, Lerato Dumse, Lerato “Maphike” Rafedile and Luyanda Mthembu. We didn’t have access to a training facility and Boitumelo offered her place to accommodate us for the entire workshop. Regardless of the power failures in the township, m’shito otswela pele (the vibe continues).
It is a beautiful pick six and an amazing XPerience to be holding such cameras for the first time and also to take such astounding shots. “I didn’t know that shooting photos is so intense”, says Maphike, while expressing her experience of watching
photographers shoot to being the photographer that shoots. “You are now photographers”, says Zanele Muholi to the participants. After that, Muholi gave the platform to Qampi who started by saying, “Someone from oversees, who doesn’t even know me, will want to write a book about me. Whereas you are here! I live with you and you know me. Why don’t you become the capturers of this history?” says Lindeka, before sharing her story with us.
Those who don’t own cameras were each given a camera to practice with. Everyone appreciates the opportunity and is dedicated to complete the PXP with the aim to continue taking photographs after the 7 day workshop. Lindeka’s story touched souls and we realized how sentimental photography is. Lindeka taught us the basic elements of photography – frame, focus and shoot.
Frame is to place your subject in the correct parameters in the shot. Focus, well sounds self-explanatory, means adjusting the lens so that your subject appears clear.
Then the fun part, SHOOT, where you execute your framed and focused image, BANG!
We also learned exposure techniques; which means controlling the amount of light that the picture gets exposed to. The techniques include: Shutter speed: if shutter speed is decreased then more light enters the camera.
Aperture: when the f-stop is decreased then more light enters the camera. ISO: when ISO is increased, then more light enters the camera.
Lerato tries to understand the technical incorporation of proper image exposure to light. “I should get the book that elaborates the correspondence between F-stops and shutter speed.”
We were also taught lighting manipulations such as creating silhouette images by shooting a subject with more backlight. All of us were given the chance to set the camera on self-timer in order to take group shots and include ourselves in the shot. Self-timer is when the camera is set to take a picture a few seconds after the shutter button is pressed. The shutter button is the button pressed to take a picture. Eventually we all accessed cameras to take shots in the community and our visual story telling began. As we walk down Job Maseko Street, Tumi says “Job Maseko was a
soldier. He built a school and named it after himself and this street is also named after him.”
Khanyi was not feeling well but showed determination and zest. She added “We were not forced to be part of this workshop, it is our choice.”
The pick six of BLY makes herstory of Kwa-Thema through the lens of a camera. Our next challenge began, approach people and interview them. Find the 5 W’s and 1 H (What, Where, When, Who, Why and How) from the interview and the pictures should also be just as elaborative. We went out as a group and divided ourselves in pairs to shoot in different places. We were in different places at the taxi rank.
Duduza Rank, the hub of transportation in Kwa-Thema, is the gateway in and out of our township. Different types of businesses are found in Duduza Rank – live chicken, grilled chicken feet, traditional medicine, vegetables, mats made from grass, etc. You can imagine how hectically busy this area is, there are a lot of people moving about.
There are different modes of transport in my township, some elders and children are taking taxis and others board the bus, other residents are seen walking and shopping, people are selling, platting hair, gambling etc. There are also those who are up to no good, looking for someone to mug and publicly smoking illegal substances.
It is risky to shoot at such spaces because there are hungry eyes looking at your camera and want to snatch it away. Although there are unique and interesting shots that can be taken at Duduza Rank. Township life is not found just anywhere in the world. It is also very bold to decide to shoot there because it is something unusual and it can make you a target to the criminals. However, you are guaranteed to get brilliant photographs. It would be amazing for the community to showcase the photographs there, in that busy-ness.
Something that has probably never been done, an exhibition of photographs in Duduza Rank.
We have also shot images in some of Kwa-Thema’s landmarks such as BuliThando Park, Ndaba Tree and Kwa-Thema Customer Care Center. For our self representation we were advised to photograph ourselves, our families and our environment. It gave us an experience of capturing through various framing objects and people. It was fascinating to frame using objects such as a cup handle, window frame, a reflection of someone else, the keyhole, etc.
My biggest challenge in this workshop is approaching people. It is difficult to take photos without consent, sometimes one has to avoid disappointment more especially when the subject disagrees to have his/her photo taken. Some people in our townships do not know not appreciate photography. They are concerned about being exposed or scandalized on the newspapers. If you carry a camera, they think that you are a journalist working for African Reporter a local newspaper in KwaThema.
Members of our society still have wrong perception on arts as a career. They believe that you are wasting money and time going to school for such a nonsensical course. Their conception is that one need to be a lawyer, doctor, accountant, teacher, etc. Not everyone is academic, other people are creative and artists. It should be considered that not all the SA youth make it to tertiary institutions due to poverty and high drop out rate. Even some of those who’ve made it suffer under the academia prejudice.
Self destruction becomes their gateway while their stories perish untold. They become forgotten and never embraced.
This then leads to high level of stress and anxiety amongst the youth due to doors of opportunities shutting them out.
It is not everyone that gets a chance to hold a camera and take a photograph. It is not easy to teach photography because cameras and back up equipment are expensive. It is really a privilege to have people that dedicate or sacrifice their time, money, equipment, emotions and effort- amongst other things, to give the black youth in townships such a skill.
Now we can tell our stories of Kwa-Thema and be part of the mark of existence, through a skill acquired – PHOTOGRAPHY.
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