TheProducer.Com - CAPE TOWN CREATIVE COMMUNITY

This is a piece I created with Annika Howe from TheProducer.Com showing some of our favourite people in the Cape Town Stills Production industry. Obviously this is a handful of people in amongst hundreds of the most inspiring create folk I know. Maybe Julie is right and this should be a book? Well, maybe one day I'll get that to happen. But in the meantime here how the piece looked on TheProducer.Com . . .

CAPE TOWN CREATIVE COMMUNITY

July 03, 2018

 

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Over the course of one very long & productive day, I teamed up with photographer Nick Aldridge as he opened up his photo studio in the Observatory neighborhood in Cape Town. Together, we invited photo industry professionals & crew to have their portraits taken & share their story with us. 

Below is an overview of many who were able to join us, and links to their full interviews.  Cape town #CrewLove at its finest!   

Special thanks to Nick for the imagery & Alanna for the support!

 

Nick Aldridge - commercial, corporate & editorial photographer focused on creating portraits & visual stories ... and our key collaborator during this portrait series. 

 

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Dylan Culhane - artist, creative director & photographer focused on multiple exposure photography.

 

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Lesala Mampa - Model, choreographer & physiotherapist who will leave you feeling happy & energetically balanced simply by his sweet presence. 

 

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Emma Wilson - food stylist, chef & director. She'll have you laughing at her fine wit. Read her interview here. 

 

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Peter Ekman - a resourceful producer & the owner of Two-Feet Productions. 

 

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Michelle Parkin - commercial photographer focused on food & lifestyle content creation. Stay tuned for our hilarious conversation with food stylist, Emma Wilson!

 

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Steve Duke - chef & owner of No Fixed Address catering. Formerly of Vancouver, now supporting Cape Town productions & an Obz street food restaurant. 

 

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Gavin Furlonger - One of Nick Aldridge's mentors & pioneer of the 80s  Cape Town photography scene. He also runs a veteran archival photography agency and you spot him cruising past in a classic Mercedes as he waves goodbye. 

 

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Amori Birch - cruelty-free makeup artist & co-founder of Propolis Africa

 

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David Kwizera - photo assistant & aspiring photographer. 

 

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Julie is a producer and the lively, vivacious host of the weekly radio show "The Julie Show".

 

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Jan Verboom - Cape Town photographer and owner of Roodebloem Studios.  Read his interview here. 

 

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Louise Park Ross - wardrobe stylist and fashion designer.  Read our interview with Louise here

All images by Nick Aldridge. Interviews by Annika Howe.

Some Thoughts on Yoga Photography (and a Manifesto of sorts)

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There’s a scene in a surf movie, (possibly Thomas Campbell’s ‘The Present’) where Dave Rastovich says that the beauty of surfing, like music, is its ephemeral nature. The fact that things exist only for the time that you are engaged in them was kind of a standard way of existing (and certainly, of experiencing art) for most of human history.

David Byrne in ‘The Way Music Works’ talks about the idea that music is composed for the places and cultures from which it emerges, but prior to recording, the music required people to actually perform the music, and it was never the same ever again! It is also quite possible that an ordinary child in today’s world may have heard more Mozart performed than even Mozart himself, or anyone else of his generation. You’d have been very lucky to have even heard a piece once in a lifetime, properly played by an orchestra, back when Mozart was at the height of his genius.

But that isn’t the world we live in any longer. We now create stuff with an entirely different conception of time! We obsessively self-observe and are constantly bombarded by images of others showing us their peak moments which we then, sitting waiting at the dentist, for example, compare with the most mundane and dreary routines of our own lives. 

But I don’t want to get into the whole FOMO-thing here. Someone, smarter than me, has already given a bunch of TED talks about it. 

So photographing yoga raises a number of issues. It’s the outward appearance of something that is, in fact, an inner experience and the outer shell of it is, in many ways, completely meaningless, like looking at an iPod and trying to appreciate the owners music taste, while the iPod is switched off! 

It’s cool, but offers nothing of itself. So as a photographer, I have to conceive of what I’m doing in a different way in order for it to have any meaning at all. 

There are two parts to my personal thought process around this. 

The first (and more esoteric) is that the act of watching and recording something, or someone, fundamentally changes the situation. I became very aware of this phenomenon as a very tall, outspoken Jewish white guy trying to be an ‘invisible observer’ in a Muslim protest march, a township taxi war, or in a black nurses strike. 

My very presence changed the behaviour of the people I was supposed to be documenting. 

It was personally devastating, because without the anonymity I felt I should have had, I was unable to make the kind of images my photojournalist heroes made. 

People reacted to me, or performed for the camera with the power of the media I represented, in mind. 

I was simply a tool of the agendas of whoever was either in front of the camera, or more frequently, the people who were paying for me to be there. That’s a pretty devastating place for a sensitive little flower like me to find himself, so I quit and had to re-frame what I do.

The second aspect of this is that I’m actually making something. 

The image I’ve capture at a two-hundred and fiftieth of a second is not, in fact, a ‘capture’ of something as much as it is something which didn’t exist before! 

It is a Thing!

To call a photograph a ‘capture,’ as some people on Instagram seem to do, irks me. 

It’s like calling an oak tree a snapshot of sunlight, while not acknowledging the tree for being a thing in, and of, itself! 

So with this in mind I always set out to ‘make things.’ 

A big part of that process is planning and previsualisation. 

Ansel Adams said he stopped being just a’photographer’ and started being a ‘artist’, when he returned, days later, from a mountain trip with his pack mule, massive cameras and attendant gear to print a photograph that he had preconceived before he left home. 

The Thing-ness of a negative, a glass plate or a print is easier to grasp than the Thing-ness of a digital image, but it is essentially the same if it has been ‘crafted’ by an artisan or artist.

I struggled with this idea for years because my images were never entirely as I had set out to make them. 

I thought there was something wrong with my work or worse something wrong with me! This is a very hard judgement to disassemble, and in many ways I’m still doing it.

On the other hand, there are artists like Gary Winogrand, who’s street photography was the essence of the random occurrence. But in the case of Winogrand or or any other artist who sets out to ‘capture’ the randomness of the world around us, it seems to be the conscious ‘looking for’ and ‘opening up’ to randomness that is the previsualisation part of the process.  herman de vries, for example, has worked very explicitly with this.

There’s a randomness that infuses everything that I do and I like to leave space for it. I loosely understand the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi to be this very idea. Allowing nature into the rigidity of one’s composition, or creation, in fact makes it better and deeper, rather than making it a failure. 

So I have to some extent found a comforting philosophical way out of that dilemma.

But back to the yoga photos that proliferate so many Instagram feeds around the world. How does someone (me) work with the bodies of dancers and yogis, in photographs, and on social media in a way that doesn’t simply advance the narcissism and shallowness of this bizarrely trivial period of human history? (Not doing backbends in doorways, in a bikini, in Zanzibar, India or Bali while on holiday is a good start!)

How can I a) make good art and b) speak to something deeper than creating even more gym-bunny-porn? 

(Don’t get me started on food-porn, that’s a whole other level of fucked up and is even more pervasive and tragic!)

Honestly, I don’t necessarily know that I can. But I can try. So here’s my approach, I try to work like a choreographer. I try to compose the compositions to express something more than just an interesting body shape, perhaps approaching something emotionally, but more often, my personal framework is more Jungian, so it has very subtle references to Archetypal and Mythological teaching stories. So I’m working is the same lineage as many of the great artists from the Renaissance on (I’m not claiming any status by this, just framing my work). Sometimes I discuss this with the subjects in my images and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I only see the connection in the editing process. I try to work with a strong ‘brief’ for myself. I hate going into a shoot without a clear plan. But I’m completely comfortable with deviating entirely from the plan I started out with. 

In fact, deviating from the plan is 100% necessary for any creativity to exist, because as William Kentridge apparently once said, ‘You start at A and head for B in any creative process, but B is a known point, so in order to create something new, you can’t actually just go to B. Somewhere, on the way to B, you find C. And C is a new place!’ That’s where the creativity and the planning and the study and the years of training meet and magically create Art. 

It is not to say it’s good art! 

That isn’t for the artist to decide. All the artist has to do is create and create and create. The final value judgement is not for the artist to make, just the constant self-reflection of the process that refines the work.

Remember that the yogis, models and characters in my images are people who have worked incredibly hard, or lived very specific lives, to achieve the things they can embody, and while this external shape may not reflect their inner experience, it can create an inner experience for the viewer and that is what I consider my craft to be all about. 

So, when you look at my work, you may just see yoga-porn, you may see a well-crafted image and you may feel the whole thing as something deeper, but while I want you to ‘get it’ I can’t really tell you what to ‘get’, or have any attachment to your opinion or judgement at all. 

In principle, while you’re viewing my work, I should be off creating something new, because that what I do. Or surfing, because thats what I do too.

Love Deluxe

Here's a little piece I shot and edited for fashion designer Love Deluxe recently, featuring Kathy Lee from the Pole Project as dancer and choreographer.

Necklace of God

  • This story originally appeared on Zigzag Magazine's Website on 20 APRIL, 2016
  • BY NICK ALDRIDGE
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The Maldives, Mala Deva, is a dreamscape for many adventurous surfers. ‘The necklace of God’, is a three part story following a mixed bag of surfers into the tropics for a 10 day surf charter adventure. All words and images ©Nick Aldridge.

THE LUCKY PACKET

The world rocks like a boat in the channel. I dream of coral bottom barrels, warm as a bath, the flow of swell refracting impossibly around the reef in a crazy horseshoe that leaves me facing the place where I took off.

I push under and parrot and butterfly fish scoot away. I dream of a tropical island with perfect waves, white beaches, palm trees and crystal water lapping at my feet under bright blue skies. I dream of ocean crossings, watching atolls and islands drift by and disappear into the blue horizon. I dream of perfect four foot waves, clean offshores and only a couple of friends out. I dream of sleepy islanders emerging from their houses as the relative cool of sunset makes an evening stroll with friends nothing but a pleasure after a long hot tropical day.

Disorientated, I wake up in a stripped-bare hotel room that still sways as I stagger to the shower, under a cranky ceiling fan, wondering when my world stopped being the perfect simplicity of life on a charter boat.

WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE

The Maldives. Mala Deva, Sanskrit for ‘the necklace of god’. A chain of atolls strung in a vertical line just south west of Sri Lanka. The atolls mark the crater rims of ancient volcanoes. Atolls contain atolls within the atolls, circles inside circles in a kind of oversized series of cell diagrams from biology class.

We cross the street from the airport, jump on a ferry and head out into the parking lot of super yachts for the mega-rich, looking for our home for the next 10 days. The Hamathi is an 80ft surf charter, run by True Blue Travel in partnership with ‘Perfect Wave’, that earns its crust ferrying surf tourists, like me, through the uncrowded waters of the Central Atolls. The boat is perfect. Simple, yet comfortable.

Unlike the experience of being on a boat trip with a bunch of your mates, we’re a ragtag group of individuals. It’s a lucky packet surf trip. A group of strangers thrown together in a confined space for 10 days, united only by our enthusiasm for surfing and the fact that we’ve all managed to stump up the cash to pay for the experience. A benign group of white men, mostly with kids, mostly in our 40’s and early 50’s. Living the dream? A modern reflection of the old surf cliché.

We come to relish the drone of the motors and the gentle listing of the Hamathi as she cuts through the viscous blue, it’s the sound of not needing to be anywhere else, not having to do anything other than watch the horizon, surf that wave, drink this beer. My phone is off. I’ve forgotten to set an out-of-office thingy on my email, but fuck it, I’m not a heart surgeon, no one’s gonna die if I’m AWOL.

By the third day, I can’t remember the names of the places we’ve been and the waves we’ve surfed. It’s only by looking at my photographs that I have a vague recollection of spaces and times that are not the present. I don’t know where we are on a map and I’m not 100% sure where we’re going, because I don’t have to think about any of that.

The Maldives, Mala Deva, is a dreamscape for many adventurous surfers. ‘The necklace of God’, is a three part story following a mixed bag of surfers into the tropics for a 10 day surf charter adventure. All words and images ©Nick Aldridge.

BEHIND THE POSTCARD

Surf travel has changed. Or maybe I just couldn’t afford this kind of surf travel before. We don’t have to explore or think too much. We don’t have to suffer to get to the perfect surf. Someone will take care of it. I’ve never imagined myself on this kind of trip. But there is a deep sense of contentment amongst our motley crew. They’ve worked hard to get here.

Chris grafts ten hours a day in the blazing sun fitting roofs in Australia, comes home to look after three girls under 8 years old as his wife goes off to teach at night school, and then puts in three more hours on the admin after the kids are asleep. Everyday. He surfs, eats, sleeps and reads novels and laughs quietly at the banter over meals. He deserves this. The other guys on the boat are no different. By the sweat of your brow you’ll get to go on boat trips with your bros.

And while the Hamathi bobs on the tides of this hard-earned idyllic escapism, the resource that fuels the country’s economy, the reality of the Maldives shimmers as if in another dimension.

It is well known that the Maldives is the lowest country on earth, a string of islands on the verge of being wiped off the map by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Swallowed entirely by humanity’s indifference. Beneath the surface, and on page five of the international political headlines, this is functionally a one-party-state, where the nation’s first and only ever democratically-elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, a former human rights activist who brought the country’s environmental plight to global attention, is now serving a 13-year prison sentence on politically motivated charges of ‘terrorism’.

Posters and graffiti around Malé town demand the release of their ‘Climate Hero’. The social and environmental activism of the imprisoned ex-president Nasheed are a distasteful smudge on the marketing strategies of the Maldives property / political elite who run the country’s tourism industry. Politics, environmentalism and democracy really (or is that rarely) interfere with the story of escapism that Maldives tourism sells the world. The island chain seems to exist solely as a playground for our sterile nouveau-riche tropical fantasies.

On a boat trip in the Maldives you will not be challenged. The locals will not bother you in the line-up. This isn’t Uluwatu, or J-Bay, or the Gold Coast, where the residents surf better than you. There is only this endless horizontal blue line punctuated occasionally by the blips of coral and palms trees, like the pulse on a dying man’s heart rate monitor. The Maldives is like a blank canvas, depopulated and packaged for sale so you can occupy it, for a price, and fill up the space, momentarily, with your dream of paradise that invariably reflects your version of tropical surf adventure back at yourself – to be shared on Facebook later, of course. For you the national language is English (it’s actually Dhihevi) and the currency US Dollars (it’s actually the Rufiyaa). Because you, the visitor, will never see behind the curtain of this extremely private place.

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The Arsehole, a Dark Comedy

This is from a while ago. I was Director of Photography on this little film by Phil Gardner. I won an award at a short film competition for Best Cinematography. I'm still quite proud of the nightclub singer scene because I build the entire set alone in an hour in a church hall.