by Andile Phewa
Andile Phewa is a name that I believe now melts immediately into the world of Photography. This is a medium that helps me open a window into my thoughts and concepts for the world to see. It is what I do for a living. It’s taken a lot to get here – pursuing a creative career is no easy feat. Growing up in Durban, where the creative space is quite limited in opportunity, would also prove that difficulty even more.
Most of my family, like my cousins, studied Finance and Engineering, so naturally, it was very difficult for my family to understand why I wanted to be a photographer. I studied Information Technology at the Durban University of Technology, and following that I moved to Johannesburg in pursuit of more freedom, working at ABSA Service Center. Six months later, I realised it wasn’t for me, and decided to tap into the world I’ve always been interested in. I wanted to do something creative, and luckily, I was in Johannesburg – the ultimate creative hub.
When I decided to stop working, I went to study Adobe After Effects at AAA School of Advertising. I completed the course and needed to do more. This struck a conversation on photography that would lead to what I know of my career today.
Prof. Zanele Muholi, to whom I’m related, and I have been in consistent contact since I started studying photography. We’ve shared an amazing bond together through ideas, laughter and good memories. A conversation between us found her mentioning that I should go study at the Market Photo Workshop, School of Photography, and it happened.
She subsequently paid for my school tuition and equipment during my time at the Market Photo Workshop, and it was fulfilling to see how much she realised my potential in the photography space. To have gone to the lengths she did to help me become a better equipped photographer in my student days is something I’ll always hold close to my heart and career.
When I was doing my last course at the Market Photo, I’d started shooting commercial work, and Prof. Muholi asked me to start paying for my own tuition. At first I didn’t get why she did this, but I later realised that this was an attempt at making me responsible. It was time for me to grow as an individual, and as an artist.
I then moved to Cape Town, where I started shooting more commercial work for fashion houses. I was under a photographic agency but wasn’t happy. I went back to my sounding board , Prof. Muholi, for guidance. “You are already there, Andile. You don’t need the validation of an agency.“ Moved by her words, it was the perfect way to seal what was already the inkling to go out and be the photographer I wanted to be, completely on my own.
I left the agency and fully began my career as a freelancer. Prof. Muholi has been there, continuing to cultivate my career with me as she had been the years before this, and I’ve decided to delve into the world of directing short fashion films as my new venture. I’ve been through various journeys, and finally starting to build towards the career I’d always wanted all those years ago, growing up in Durban.