Street Photography: Conversation with African Street Photographers

Street Photography: Conversation with African Street Photographers

Taking the lens to the street sometimes comes away with a magical reveal. Great street photography always seems to stir up conversations. There is an intimacy to it and a closer look at life in a city. It reveals conflict and surmounting number of feelings from lighthearted moments to struggle that cities happen to display. This interest within our continent sometimes was taken by photographers visiting from other countries and their views always in an interest different from our own. In getting to know photographers on their own home turf (in Kenya & South Africa) taking to the streets to capture this vitality and happenings, we dig deeper to ask how this tradition of street photography helps the way we see our society today. Our conversation begins with three remarkable photographers : Marius W. Van GraanGerhardt Coetzee and Louis Majanja.

Photographer: Louis Majanja

What interests you to street photography?

Marius : To me, streets are a means, part of a process for people in their everyday lives, whether it’s getting around or whatever, people are usually in between one point to the next when they are on the street. I like to find those moments of people in their everyday processes whether it’s someone late for work rushing through the streets to get somewhere or people protesting in the streets.

Gerhardt: The raw quality and unpredictable elements of the street excite me. The streets don’t lie. I also enjoy playing around with the impulsive nature of the subject versus strong geometric composition lines, carefully composed.

Louis: I don’t know if there any single event or thing that has driven my interest. I’m still relatively new to this but I have always liked images and writing but I found that i’m not so good at writing, nor do I have the patience to sit down and write a long story, pictures for me are an easier way to tell that story.

Photographer: Gerhardt Coetzee Location : PortElizabeth, South Africa

What do you strive to capture in the moments and photographs that you take?

Marius : I am not always trying to find something, usually I let the moment dictate the idea, and then I’ll interpret that with an image. All art to me is a way of understanding the human condition, and I guess that’s what I look for.

Gerhardt: I generally work around a theme or an emotion so I go out into the streets with the intention of capturing specific moments. I slow a scene down by isolating a certain figure (or congregation of figures). I rely on the composition to pronounce the subject of the photograph as a focal point.

Louis: I strive to capture people and how they interact with their environment at a particular time. From  the mode of transportation, to the way they dress, how communication is interpreted through fonts, to architecture and what people do for work.

Photographer: Marius W. Van Graan Location: Mombasa, Kenya

There is a preservation of human interest in street photography. In 5 years from now, what do you hope people will learn from your work?

Photographer: Louis Majanja Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Marius : I don’t know, to be honest. Media today, whether design, music or photography has become so consumed, it’s shelf life is so short. I guess I hope my work will be timeless enough to last, so that in 5 years people can look at it and still appreciate a fleeting moment that passed in the process of someone else’s life.

Gerhardt: Through my work, I hope it becomes obvious what an important role planning your project makes. Street photography goes beyond just capturing a decisive scene. The technical quality of the photograph should be what distinguishes a certain street scene, making the photograph exceptional.

Louis: I really haven’t thought much about that – but i hope i’m part of the the process of preserving the historical record of the places i live in.and of the people i come from.