The immediacy of photography
The first in a series of interviews by Roxsanne Dyssell, a South African writer based in New York City. First: Photographer and photoblogger, Karabo Maine.
Welcome to the inaugural post of our new weekly feature profiling the people behind blogs and/or tumblrs curated by Africans, on the continent as well as in the diaspora. The posts will highlight influences, genres, and point to the kinds of work being produced by young African photographers/curators. Most of those featured are at the start of their careers. We hope to introduce you to artists you either have not heard about or whose work does not saturate the mainstream (yet). First up is Karabo Maine (that’s him in the pic just below), a photographer based in the Botswana capital, Gaborone. Maine works for a newspaper there, the Botswana Gazette. A recent Fine Art Photography graduate from the University of Cape Town, Karabo has worked in various other mediums such as sculpture, painting and drawing, in both Swaziland and South Africa. He maintains a Tumblr page – BRKFST where he shares his recent photography and illustration work. The images here are all his own. The first question he answered is: What made you decide to set up a Tumblr page?
The main attraction of having a Tumblr page is the fact that you can share your images, instantly with friends and people with similar interests. And it’s free. It’s as if everyone has their own mini galleries and can exhibit on this platform. One can exhibit other people’s work, as well as your own. The way I see it, a photograph of one of my drawings, even with the edges of my carpet, or whatever surface I’m photographing on, it can and does exist as a work on it’s own within the realm of Tumblr. Sure it’s a sometimes slightly cropped still of a drawing, but it’s lack of tangibility does not mean it isn’t an object in its own right.
What exactly is for BRKST?
BRKFST came out of the need for me to show people what I can do as artist. I can’t afford a domain name, and I’m not ready for one, and a Tumblr page provided me with the perfect forum to show content created exclusively by me. I wanted my Tumblr page to be nothing but images, and text will only be present when it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve always followed Tumblr blogs, and its amazing seeing people from around the world swap and share images, and essentially ‘curate.’ You don’t actually have to have taken that photograph or drawn that face, it’s how you order and archive your collection. It also depends on what theme you use, but i would like to confidently assume that people consider how their images are ordered.
What is your creative process like? Is there a means by which you determine what subjects or events you want to shoot with a camera versus illustrate with pens?
I’ve always thought of myself as an illustrator first and photographer second. The action of drawing (in my case) seems to be an almost masturbatory and self indulgent one, as I can spend hours drawing one face, exploring its details. At this point in my fledgling creative ‘career,’ I have an intense fascination with facial forms. I see a face in a magazine, or possibly on the street, and use that face as a template for a drawing. Then I add my own unrealistic and stylized shadows and highlights. It’s only recently (last 6 years) that I’ve begun to appreciate this lengthy process of mark making, on paper, with a felt tipped pen, ball point pen, pencil, and or a finger. This process contrasts with my photography, as the medium is an immediate one. I, along with many people, (I think) still find the immediacy of photography amazing. You can photograph almost anything in the world. That’s awesome. That’s a powerful thing to do. ‘Taking’ a picture. You own that image (depending on your copyright laws). You can press the shutter release button, and all these processes happen within the camera body and lens that seems so removed from you. And they happen so fast! It’s also a violent act, as you’re still taking an image. I was reprimanded for taking a picture of an airport bar. “Why are you taking pictures of the facilities sir?” Imagine. That’s how powerful image taking is. Once I’m gone, the airport staff has no power over the image. I’m ranting. Working as a press photographer I’m given assignments, and I have to photograph specific actions. I must get that minister shaking hands with some guy, the child receiving glasses or that one shot at the soccer match. My own private photography process is seemingly random, but I do return to similar themes, or signifiers; faces, myself, detail shots, people photographing. At this point i can’t say there is that one thing I’m photographing. No series just yet.
Any pages that you visit regularly for great content and inspiration?
I’m following quite a lot of photographers at the moment, but the two that stand out for me right now, are South African, Kent Andreason, who lives and works in Cape Town, and 13th Witness, a New York based photographer. Their work is very different. Where Andreason provides an intense intimacy in his images, 13th Witness’s work is epic in its scale, even in it’s most intimate moments. They are very varied and skilled photographers but these are things I’ve personally noticed about their work. I’m a big fan of both them.
Do you feel that your page adds to/changes the perception people have of Botswana?
I have yet to include images and drawings that are informed by my current residency in Botswana. In terms of changing or adding to perceptions of Botswana, I’m not too sure if I’m doing that yet. I would like to be part of a creative force that gets Botswana some play on the international design scene. That would be dope. Since I’ve started working it’s been a bit harder trying to create more content, but I just need to keep pushing my own practice.
One question we’re posing to our featured photo-blogger is to comment on something we’ve recently blogged about. I wanted to ask you your take on the launch of a new Dutch TV show The African Dream, in which two young Dutch men, two brothers travel “to Africa … to look for answers for their Western questions and African solutions for their problems.”
I’m not too sure if I’m sold on the Dutch show The African Dream. Seems way too familiar. I’d rather see two Zulu guys exploring their continent.
And, finally, your predictions for who’ll win the African Cup of Nations 2013?
Haha! I don’t really watch soccer. But I am cheering for South Africa, since I see myself there in the next two years.
- Karabo resides in Gaborone, Botswana. His website is here. Feel free to message us candidates for this series to our Facebook and Twitter pages.