One to watch, Sipho Mpongo is a photography-infatuated matric student from Langa. He first fell in love with the medium while taking photos with his mom’s cell phone when he was still in primary school. Six years on he has had his work shown as part of a group exhibition at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town and has another one scheduled for later this month.
Sipho filled in the blanks for us between then and now:
At the end of Grade 8 I photographed a school dance and realized there was a deep connection between the camera and me. I was so busy taking photographs I didn’t care if I danced.
After that I went to high school at LEAP. Since LEAP is private there are visitors who come carrying big cameras and taking photographs, which intrigued me a lot. I pushed my school to let me be one of the school ambassadors walking visitors around – but to be honest I took that role to be closer to the cameras.
I felt something so amazing when I actually began to take the pictures myself, especially with the big DSLRs. As I pressed the shutter button, my heart moved. My heart seemed to move simultaneously with the shutter process. It felt like a miracle to me and I’ve been photographing ever since.
Now, Sipho is a member of Iliso Labantu(The Eye of the People), a group of black photographers from disadvantaged communities, and photographs his surroundings in Langa. He is working with established photographers Charlie Shoemaker, Karen Kirsch Page, David Southwood, Alister Berg, Sydelle Willow Smith and Rowen Pybus and counts them and Micheal Subotzky, Sipho hotsticks Mabuse, Jodi Bieber and Alex Webb as inspirations. He says, “photography is the way of making sense of the world around me.”
Sipho’s plans for next year include hopefully studying film or photography at UCT or CPUT.
See his work at siphompongo.blogspot.com or his series “Along the Streets of Langa Township” on show during the Cape Town Month of Photography at the Beautifull Life Building in Bree St on the 15th of September.