Interview: Andrew Brauteseth on A Portrait of a Nation


Abdul Osman - 3rd generation trader and businessman.

Andrew Brauteseth is an advertising and portrait photographer living and working in Cape Town. A Portrait of a Nation is a personal venture of his to take portraits of the largest possible range of individuals both living in and connected to South Africa. Between 10and5 caught up with him to find out about his ongoing project. Click through for the interview.

Between 10and5: Why did you start A Portrait of a Nation and how did it come about?

Andrew Brauteseth: I love shooting portraits and I’m very proudly South African. I thought it would be a great way to explore, document and expose a modern South Africa through portraits of it’s people. I’m trying to let it grow organically.

Between 10and5: How do you choose your subjects?

Andrew Brauteseth: I’m still in the early stages of the project and I’ve started with shooting the people around me. Friends, interesting people I follow on twitter and people I meet while traveling. As the project evolves, I’ve started contacting people that I’ve heard about or are well known. I’m also going to start doing specific trips to corners of South Africa which might have been overlooked. It’s supposed to be a democratic process. Some people are interesting to shoot because they are well known, have interesting stories or great faces for portraits. But many people are included in the project simply because what makes them interesting is that they form part of an amazing and complex country.

Between 10and5: Any favourites to shoot so far?

Andrew Brauteseth: When I started the project, I strung up a huge piece of black denim as a backdrop in my basement and I invited around some friends. We had a few beers, a softlight-reflector and a really good laugh. That was a great way to start. I had great fun shooting Alex Van Tonder (@capetown_girl). I had a few ideas, one which showed her blowing out candles in an angry way, a reference to her cupcake and lingerie twitter bio. But it actually turned out looking really porn so we didn’t use it in the end. There’s a fine line between very edgy and very lame and it’s a good idea to keep that in mind. It’s also great for me when people actually use the portrait I shoot of them.

Between 10and5: Tell us about your experience shooting Helen Zille’s portrait.

Andrew Brauteseth: An amazing woman and really important leader, of course. Shooting Helen Zille came as a wild card through a twitter contact and I was surprised how open she was to being a part of A Portrait of a Nation. Amazing how twitter works. Her media team gave us 15 minutes to carry up all the gear into the Premier’s office, set up everything, light test and be ready to shoot. Normally I like to have an hour to set up and test so I was stressing. As she came in she turned to me and scolded me ever so slightly, “Andrew! I went out and did my hair just for you!”  We chatted briefly, I took about 5 or 6 photos, and that was it. I had to make sure it was perfect.

Between 10and5: Who’s portraits can we look forward to seeing as the project goes on?

Andrew Brauteseth: I’d love to get the guy who owns (or lost) Panjo the Tiger and also spend a week shooting in small interesting towns like Orania in the Northen Cape. You’ll hopefully see a lot more well known South African personalities, and also people who might not be well known but should be.

Between 10and5: If you could spend the day with any photographer alive or dead, who would it be?

Andrew Brauteseth: There’s a french photographer and director called Bruno Aveillan that I’m loving at the moment, I’d love to hang out with him. I’ve featured a lot of work of his on my blog.

Between 10and5: Did you study photography or are you self taught?

Andrew Brauteseth: I’m self taught. I studied Journalism, so I guess that’s why in some ways my work focuses on finding good stories to tell through images.

Between 10and5: Tell us what an average day is like for you between 10 and 5.

Andrew Brauteseth: An average day? What’s that? Seriously though, that’s what’s great about being a photographer. Some things stay the same everyday, like Tweetdeck, editing and lots of coffee. Shooting takes only about 10% of my time. I wish I could be behind the camera all day every day but there’s a lot of background work that goes on. The great thing about having a studio now though is that I can try to shoot simple ideas or portraits much quicker.

Between 10and5: Imagine for a second, you are the world’s luckiest photographer with unlimited budget and resources. What do you shoot?

Andrew Brauteseth: I’d actually love to finish building the sets and hiring the models for my first exhibition. I’m hemorrhaging money into these pieces which are really just huge experiments. I’ve started building the first work piece by piece in my studio as I get money in from commercial projects. Like probably all things worth doing properly, it takes quite a bit of time and money. The first exhibition will be just one photograph, the first piece in the series.

Between 10and5: What do you hope for A Portrait of a Nation?

Andrew Brauteseth: I’m hoping to publish the first edition of the book after two or three years. I would like to have a few thousand portraits to select from before I start even putting it together. So I’m thinking long term.


We’d also love to see A Portrait of a Nation published but for now you can visit Thanks for your time Andrew!

For more go to Andrew’s blog,, his website, or follow him on twitter.

Between 10 and 5