Nathi Khumalo graduated from the Advanced Photography Programme at Johannesburg’s renowned photojournalism and documentary photography school, Market Photo Workshop, at the end of 2014. When we first saw his work his exceptional way with light became immediately apparent. Natural light plays a major role in the images Nathi makes and is an ever-present extra subject whether it takes the form of a sliver through a barely-open door, long lazy shadows at the end of a day, an enchanting dappled effect projected onto buildings, or shining through the worn fabric of a patterned umbrella. For our Graduate Series we asked Nathi a few questions about his craft.
How and why did you become interested in photography?
It’s actually a funny story because while growing up my grandmother used to say that she wanted to buy me a pocket camera so that I could make extra money. But it never happened. Then when I was in high school doing Grade 11 that’s when I decided that I would like to pursue this career. It took me two years to convince my folks.
What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about it?
I enjoy that fact thats it’s versatile and it allows room for growth. When one considers the history of the medium that is where we see how it has developed over the years. The only thing I would say I dislike is a lot of people still undermine photographers, especially from our townships. They still do not really understand what photography is, although there is a shift happening which is ideal.
How would you describe your style of photography, and what influences it?
I wouldn’t necessarily categorise it. I’m influenced by everyday situations around me for example the people I meet and the conversations that we have play a role in my work.
Was studying photography what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since your first year? – And if so how?
Yes it was. Even beyond my expectations, if I can say. When I initially thought of being a photographer I had a desire to be a fashion photographer and I would watch a lot of fashion. By studying at Market Photo Workshop (MPW) I soon realised how broad photography is and the role it plays in how we view our society.
Are you more interested in a commercial or artistic career in photography?
I’d say both for me, although artistic is most influential in my work ’cause that is how I approach most of my images. I believe that I need to balance them both in order to have a sustainable career.
You could say that light itself is often the main subject of your photographs. Would you agree? Please tell us about the role of natural light in your photography…
Yes I would. I am inspired by light mostly. That is when I become eager to create photographs – when I see beautiful light. Natural light plays a huge role in my photography, that is what I use I would say 95% of the time. Without it I wouldn’t be a photographer hahaha.
How would you describe your subject matter?
Most of the time it’s spontaneous; I see something then I work around it. Expect for the portraits where I construct the majority of them or if they are for fashion images where I collaborate with some designers for example Squirrel and Button Division. So I’d say that my subject matter is flexible. I try not to put myself in a box.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
To have fun while photographing ’cause the more mistakes you make the more you learn. Not to overthink ’cause most times that ruins the moment. Another thing is to use my sense. Whatever you feel will reflect in your images.
Which of your creative projects are you most proud of?
The body of work that I stared while completing the (APP) Advance Programme in Photography at MPW. I’ve seen a lot of growth in my photography while engaged in the process. It’s an ongoing project which I’m still working on and I think something unexpected will happen in this project.
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?
I recently started a new job as a course assistant of the new APP group at MPW which is exciting for me. I get to share some experience with the students and I also got learn from them as well. I’m continuing with my photography and hopefully I’ll be able to showcase my work sometime. I would also like to introduce more photography where I live and at schools around me which I think will boost our medium.
Where can we stay updated with your work?
I have two blogs, one on tumblr which is www.southvision.tumblr.com and another one on Behance which is www.behance.net/NathiKhumalo. Follow me on twitter @comingupnathi where I share my links. I’d like to thank Between 10and5 for this opportunity and not forget MPW, the trainers and the staff members, my family and all the people that I have collaborated and worked with.