Millenials Exhibition – FotoZA, Rosebank 1-30 June 2017

The Millennials exhibition is currently running till the end of June at FotoZA, a new gallery space in the top floor of the Mall of Rosebank, Johannesburg. The gallery is an extension of Kameraz photography shop, which is on the lower level of the mall. If you don’t know of the shop, Kameraz is my personal favourite camera shop in Joburg with a wonderful rolling stock of used gear digital and film at great prices. Recommended.

 

Millennials is a show meant to showcase the work of ‘the new generation’, my phrase not theirs. It is a collection of 4 works per entrant with their Instagram vital statistics displayed next to their name above their. The cynic in me wants to point out how those statistics are really actually vital to these Millennials. (Oh and I’m a millennial too I guess, so take it with some irony…) Likes, shares, faves, follows – it’s all that matters to some. I hate that and it’s a big problem with social media. But these are for another, longer, rantier post. But briefly lets say that when Instagram started it was about sharing images and your life through the cool iPhone devices changing the landscape of photography. Then it became a bit more of a portfolio showcase for photographers who figured out how to use their real cameras and make their feeds look a whole lot juicier. Now, however, it is a place that is just overwhelmed by people showing off in endlessly repeating video loops and other craptastic forms of making content just to be there and fill space and steal someone on the other side of the planet’s precious mindshare. It is now just like Facebook and Twitter and every other social media site there is and will be that gets big enough to appeal to the masses, be capitalisable by industry and just another place for people to make more noise than signal in their endless watery attempts to gain a foothold long enough to milk 15 minutes of fame and become, literally my worst thing in the world, an influencer. Vomit. Anyway..

Back to the exhibition. What I thought was most interesting was whether the entrants were able to create a good combination of works with the very limited space of just 4 pieces: how well did each complement the others and did they tell a story (however short), was there an overall aesthetic or style visible from the selection, or were these just 4 of their faves? You see, more and more, I believe that curation is become a new, much needed talent. We are inundated with content and we are able to create more content than we know what to do with. Can these young artists and new breed of photographers – as the exhibition wants us to view them – look at their own work critically and put together a powerful statement, even if it is very brief?

There are a few that I thought succeeded in this. Here they are.

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Nkgopoleng Moloi – @nkgopolengmoloi

A lovely study of a local mosque by Nkgopoleng Moloi. The tones and washed-out colours create a lovely, tranquil, if perhaps ominous, mood.

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Shipo Biyam – @iownthesphinx

Kodachrome-esqe colour,  bold compositions and a nice balance between the 4 images makes Sihpo Biyam’s collection very eye-catching. Also, apparently, Sipho owns the Sphinx…

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Armani Quintas – @black_moth_photo

Nicely balanced images and gentle colours hold together well with Armani Quintas’ work, which is like a small story about a girl. We are left wondering who she is. Also, just look at those bokeh balls!

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Sarah Harding – @sarahhardingwhat

There’s something whimsical about Sarah Harding’s 4 images. They are like a cryptic diary entry. We know almost enough to walk away and then we stop, wnting to know more but just can’t…

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Jennifer Wang – @hello_misswang

Fantastic use of double exposure. Jennifer Wang has skill in combining not just the images that make these double exposures work, but also in putting them together with one another. A playful and joyous group of images.

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Overall, a pleasant show, with some really nice images.

Also the coffee is great and the space is ideal to get some work done. Thanks Thandi for the excellent cappuccino.

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Love Norwood Day

This past Sunday I had a stand set up at Love Norwood Day. It was a lovely day and Norwood park was a brilliant venue.
Located on the corner of Ivy Street and Grant Avenue, Norwood park is about 10 000 square metres big and has big, shady trees. It is often filled with vagrants and so hardly used by the general public. What was particularly nice about the day was that the park was cleaned and utilised – there were a dozen stalls selling market-wares, half a dozen food trucks and tents making delicious goods and a stage and picnic area where musicians entertained the crowds all day.
Right in the middle of the park is a brick path. That is where myself and about 5 other local artists and creatives set up our tables. Next to me was my neighbour, Graeme, who makes african-themed children music. He was selling CDs. You can see his website here. I highly recommend their stuff, not just because I like him and his musical partner Erika, but because their music is a refreshing alternative to the usual Barney-And-Co-Gouge-Your-Eyes-Out-If-I-Hear-It-Again children’s music fare.
I had 16 prints on show. Mandela Man was the only sale but it was great to show my work and interact with people and get a feel for what they liked. I always enjoy this part of showing my work – I really love to chat about it with people. If they decide to buy then that’s just an added bonus.
So thanks to NORA who organised it. I really enjoyed the day, had a great view of the bands and was thankful to get my art out of the studio and show it to the public.

Here’s hoping that this becomes a monthly event and not just once a year. I don’t think I’ll have a permanent presence, just not my bag really. I prefer sales through galleries and decor stores. The park needs to be utilised more and the local residents came out in force to enjoy the park and had a great time.

Urban Rebirth

A refresh, a face-lift, a change for the better.
This is the garage across the road from where I live. It is undergoing some change. I wonder if it will be radical or subtle, garish or beautiful Can a gas station be beautiful?

I love the green and orange. You see these colours in nature, in plants and flowers; on fish in ponds.

It is spring here in Johannesburg and all the trees are starting to bloom. Leaves and flowers after a dry winter. I feel like this rebirth of a garage is the city’s way of being one with the change of seasons.

Buy a print if you like: http://www.danrosenthal.net/36084/buy-prints

Christmas Eve Street Photography on Louis Botha

This past Tuesday was Christmas Eve. I was lying on the couch, reading about Sebastiao Salgado and looking at some of his remarkable images.

I felt the pang for creating work, not just ‘taking pics’, but making something more substantial, something with meaning. I don’t know if I did, except to say that it was meaningful and enjoyable for me. I suppose time will be the judge of it’s meaning – time and critics and a body of work larger than I have yet made.

In any event, I went walking down the road on which I live, Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg. This is a walk I have made before with my camera. I have written on these electronic pages and shown pictures before.

This was somehow different. I had recently sold my digital cameras. I made a decision about the work I would be doing from next year and the tools and expectations I would have for this work. I would be rethinking the way I earned a living, reassessing the rigor of my art.

I have a small compact still, a Sony W110. It is outdated and severely limited. I could have taken it out to get fast feedback and faster editing and upload times. But I have made a decision and the Salgado work only seemed to reinforce those reasons behind the idea.

I took out my lovely Ricohflex VII twin lens reflex camera. I could have taken my Canon system with wider and longer lenses and a self-timer and cable release. But I wanted to shoot sparingly and edit my photos. I wanted to be able to have the speed and enjoyment of digital. but I wanted to shoot Black and White film. Was I being silly?

I loaded the camera with Fujifilm Neopan 100. I’d never used this film before. I went out and finished the current roll of Lomo 800 colour film and began to shoot the Fuji stock. It was slow. It was hard to frame on the dim waist-level finder. It was starting to drizzle.

I used my Minolta lightmeter to check light levels (I also usually use my iPhone and a lightmeter app but I left it at home tonight – this is not the safest street to be walking around at night with valuables…) and then held the shutter open for anything from 4 to 30 seconds, being ever so careful not to bump the camera as I tripped the shutter then let it go. It felt a little bit arcane. It was beautiful.

I got home and loaded the film into a developing tank, surprised that I was able to feed it onto the spool first time. I have had rolls of 120 that simply refused to load. I developed the film in D76 for ten minutes and the watched an episode of Hannibal while I waited for it to dry.

Soon enough, scans were made and an image had been uploaded to Flickr. Then within minutes, it had 60 views and a fave. We are living in splendid and fascinating times.

I felt revived and humbled to have been able to make the images I did, in the time I did and share them with the world, knowing that I am just a microcosm of a wonderful whole.

Here are the photographs, in the order they were shot. There was a blank frame and so there are only 11 shots. I have no idea what happened with that empty frame…

Thanks for looking. What does the new year hold for you and your photography?

little house BIG HOUSE

little house BIG HOUSE is a project I have been working on for a few months now. Here’s what it’s about:

Johannesburg is a city with high levels of crime. People live in fear and often have tales to back up the terrible and deplorable statistics, the accuracy of which are probably rounded down to censor public opinion. One of the remnants of the Apartheid regime is the massive discrepancy in wealth, education and housing. Johannesburg, just like many big cities in the world, has lush, leafy and exclusive suburbs a short drive away from squalor and decaying shantytowns. This is not unique: many big cities show the inequalities of a country in this crude and shocking way. But, because of South Africa’s past and complex history, it is a unique example of this phenomenon.
The rich live in mansions. The poor live in shacks. The middle class live somewhere in the middle, somewhere far closer to the rich.
Johannesburg’s suburbs, all of them walled, have a strange phenomenon: there are little houses outside the big houses where the poor guard the rich.
Set up as a deterrent to petty crime (and probably in principle but not actually to major crime) they are an effective and laudable effort. They provide jobs in a country with a pathetically high unemployment rate. They give residents a sense of security. But they are also a strange part, both literally and figuratively, of the landscape. They stick out but somehow also blend in.
Often equipped like tiny houses, they stand in stark contrast to the lavish homes they stand in front of. They have little stoves and little heaters for the cold winter and long nights. They have radios for entertainment and plastic chairs for comfort. Some of them even have windows.
But you will not really see the guards spending their time in these houses, or more correctly tiny wooden boxes. They are expected and paid to be guards and to be vigilant. They must patrol the street. Some companies have a system where the guards have to click a time-keeping box on either end of the street to ensure they are walking up and down that street, more chore than vigilance.
But these men, and very occasionally women, are a part of the modern psyche of the South African city. They have become ubiquitous and invisible.
But these are people. People who leave their difficult and unstable homes and communities each day to guard the homes of those more wealthy than themselves. They should not be faceless and nameless. This project is a very small effort to rectify that situation: for me (as a resident of the city), for those featured in this project (as the subjects) and for the viewers (as the audience and other residents of Johannesburg).