05 Jun Young South Africa: Paul Ward’s ‘I Am’ Series
While Paul Ward’s portfolio spans advertising, street and fashion photography, it was documenting Cape Town’s nightlife on Diary of Ward that first earned him recognition.
His I Am series is, in a way, an extension of this documentation, except instead of providing a cross section of SA’s party scene, it focuses on one character at a time. Paul spends time with his subjects to create ‘day in the life of’-style photo essays of young, creative South Africans. His latest offering, I Am Diepkloof, sees the series go in a new direction; exploring places or scenes through the young people who reside there.
We wanted to find out more for our Young South Africa series running this month.
Why did you first start the I Am series?
Paul Ward: The thought was just to create a series of photo essays to showcase some of the awesome people that I have met over the past few years; a series that wasn’t about fashion but just about the personality of the people involved, from all walks of life. When I started out I branded myself, “I AM PAUL WARD”, so the idea was to continue this idea but showcasing others who inspire me.
Who have you shot so far?
Paul Ward: I have shot a variety of subjects – musicians, producers, sneakerheads, fashionistas, artists and even some models, but they were chosen because of their crazy personalities not because of the their “look”.
How do you choose your subjects?
Paul Ward: I generally know them all very well and they have been intriguing me for a while. I’ll present the idea to them and a discussion will start. Lots of people email me to “apply” to be a part of it, but I haven’t shot anybody like that yet. I’m not saying I wouldn’t if their story was interesting but at the moment I still have a long list of “peers” I need to get done first.
Are the locations, outfits and shots planned before hand or is it more of an organic process?
Paul Ward: Sometimes clothing is planned and styled but always based around accentuating the individual’s personality, not creating a new one. The locations aren’t scouted before hand it’s more like a decision of we will start here because we want that kind of “vibe”. Then we just mission from there. The Das Kapital one for example we just parked in Wynberg, light was dying so we only had 30 minutes, so all the locations are 500m from where we parked.
Who would be your ultimate person to spend the day shooting?
Paul Ward: Probably Micheal Jackson when he was a teenager. I think that would be an interesting story. More realistically there are still many people closer to home, that I’m dying to shoot, it’s just about getting the free time to set them up. My latest series on Diepkloof is the first of a location-based series where we unpack interesting places through interesting locals, so it’s more than just about the individual. There are some interesting plans for this direction in the future.
All of your subjects are young and creative, what do you think defines SA youth culture?
Paul Ward: I don’t know, and I think that’s what excites me the most. People are so diverse, ambitious and talented in all spheres. I feel (and I know others do to) that a lot of stuff has been brewing for a few years now and soon it’s gonna start exploding and these young creatives are gonna start stepping up and taking over.
Do you have future plans for exhibiting, publishing or expanding the series?
Paul Ward: I don’t wanna give to much away here but yes, yes and yes. I’ll hopefully release details about this soooon. I think it’s very important for the series to live online and offline.
Find more of Paul’s I Am series HERE.