I’m always intrigued by the motivations of people to embark on community initiatives. It takes a careful blend of inspiration and perspiration to pursue projects where the major benefits are emotional rather than financial. To act on an impulse to correct some disorder in the world, not just as a knee-jerk reaction like tipping the carguard twenty rand instead of two, but to curate enough sensitivity to spend years plugging a social gap. Every small act of humanity reveals fractures of a darwinian social system.
For the past year I’ve been working with the City of Cape Town in conjunction with Work of Society, the social media arm of King James Advertising, to take portraits of some of the most socially active local citizens. It’s a way of encouraging their efforts and supporting their causes by increasing their platform and helping educate the public on how they too can support.
Cape Town People was loosely inspired by Humans of New York, a photoblog featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City started by Brandon Stanton which has gathered a huge social media following. Work of Society chose to profile a range of locals with a slant towards social programs. A young engineer who designed fire-detection devices to prevent shack fires. An opera diva who raises funds for Gugu’sithebe, a cultural hub in Langa, and drops Dickensian metaphors about the Tale of Two Cape Towns. A volunteer firefighter who battled the summer blitzkrieg that enveloped the peninsula. An organic farmer who turned a bowling green into a organic market. Frankie Murrey, the open-book festival organiser, who promotes South African authors and city-wide reading. Vincent Ntunja, a basketball player who achieved international success and started the Gugulethu Hustlers, a team that brings young talent into the spotlight. “If you survive the township life, you can succeed anywhere in the world.” The project features a range people involved in both small initiatives and others with grand World-Design Capital type ambitions (think yellow spot colours, flat-pack furniture and re-imagined communities).
I have a passion for shooting environmental portraits and enjoy the interaction with new personalities through the camera. Each shoot is an interesting challenge to shoot portrait in-situ using available light in some of the most unusual corners of the City. We’re visit places where gang violence happens so often that people don’t dare walk outside at night and murders are no longer newsworthy because it’s no longer new. I’m lost in the outskirts of Ottery on my Motorbike. I can’t find the music outreach group we’re supposed to shoot. I’m doing some cross-country trawling over refuse between gumtrees and forgotten skeletons of burnt out buildings. “I can’t believe you made it through there alive”, the music teacher says to me in a surprised cape flat lilt. “That’s where the gangsters store their guns.”
For more details see the City of Cape Town Facebook Page.