For our Young South Africa series this Youth Month we caught up with Max Mogale, a Cape Town-based photographer getting some mad recognition nationally by being featured in campaigns like Play Heroes and The Markham League. Max was named the winner of our Fashion Movie Project last year with his 8bit Video Game-inspired short film for 2BOP. Also in 2012 Max presented the Exhibit B outdoor exhibition at Side Street Studios where he invited fellow young artists to create photo installations inspired by ‘Boredom’.
Most recently he teamed up with Dylan Culhane for an exhibition of collaborative double-exposure images. For this feature we asked Max about his own work as well as the state of creative Young South Africa according to him. He sent his answers all the way from China, where he’s currently visiting. Here it is:
You say on your website that besides taking photos, everything else is merely a distraction. What is it about photography that has captivated you?
Whoa, okay thats a real good question. Back in high school my favourite subject was Mathematics. The reason I liked Maths so much was that it fascinated me that there was always numerous ways to solve an equation. You could solve it in two lines or in ten. But the answer was always the same. I kind of equated photography with that as soon as I started really playing around with basic camera functions. With one subject, there are a plethora of ways you can capture it simply by playing with your shutter speed, apeture or even white balance. Let alone your lighting set up or retouching. I guess to me it meant the options were limitless which means I could never get bored.
When did you make the decision that this is something you were going to pursue professionally?
It happened organically. I had no idea that this was going to be something I could make a career out of. I started taking pictures off a cellphone my mother bought me years ago whilst I worked in a call centre and was completely encapsulated by it. As time went on I was encouraged by friends and peers to pursue it as an option. I used to be an office type who did photography on the side. Eventually it got to a stage where someone offered me R400 to take photos for them for half an hour. I was like “SAY WHAT?!?!”. More and more job offers came in and I decided to quit everything else and jump. I havent looked back since.
How would you describe your photography style?
I’m not sure I can describe it in a word or phrase. I’ve been called many things but I still struggle to place it in one box. I have, through my evolution, gravitated more to portrait photography as my ideal favourite. And I am still discovering things as I go along. I am a big fan of movement and energy and I try to capture it as my minds eye sees it as often as possible in my photos. Alas, its not a race. And I am in no hurry neither.
You’ve explored double exposure in your most recent images. How important is experimenting with style and technique to you? What have you always wanted to try?
Experimentation is massively important to me. I get bored very easily and I am my own biggest critic. So I try to do things I am uncomfortable with as much as I can. I have always wanted to explore distortion of images, but in my own way. I think the conventional idea of a portrait can get a little stale for me at times and I would like to play around with that a bit more. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Dylan Culhane on my recent exhibition and it was an amazing experience. We have always discussed doing something together and this time something finally clicked and it happened. I learnt a lot from him and hope to continue doing so in the future.
You’ve said that you love travelling (and are overseas right now!). Does travel have an effect on your photography? If so, how?
Absolutely. I am currently in Hong Kong and it is an absolute mindfuck! Proper. More than anything else, travelling allows the brain to relax and take a seat in the back. I cant pinpoint how it precisely affects my work but I know that it does allow me think bigger. In this age of massive access to information, we sometimes tend to think that we know everything cause we’ve “seen it” on the internet. Once you go out there you realize how you dont. Culture shocks excite me massively and I hope they keep happening to me for a long time.
How would you describe the creative scene back home in SA?
Like an onion. You think you know it then you peel away a layer then theres more. Then more. And then some. Its so exciting to see how far we have come. In fact just the fact that we can be creative and be ourselves and that that can sustain our lifestyles is amazing in itself. But there’s a long way to go and I dont think we doing that bad.
Campaigns like Play Heroes have recently put a spotlight on you. What has the reaction been like?
It has been amazing. A tad overwhelming at times. Being recognised for your work on a national platform like Play Heroes has been humbling. More than that, knowing that I could be an inspiration to youngsters out there is incredible to me.
In the 2nd phase of the Play Heroes campaign you’ll get to mentor an aspiring photographer. Who would you say are local, young photographers to keep an eye on?
Wow, there are so many to mention! I have been pleasantly surprised by how many talented photographers there are out there. And what I like the most about the campaign it has allowed those from all types of backgrounds, especially disadvantaged, to show what they got. It’s no secret that photography is a very small knit community and not the cheapest profession either. And if we are really honest, its even smaller for the black community of the country. If I can do anything to change that, I’ll do it with pleasure.
How would you define Young South Africa?
Unique. So different but so the same. Having traveled I have noticed that it seems like youth from other countries always tend to try and be the same and fit in each others boxes. I cant say that about us at home. Nobody wants to be in a box. And that is what is the most intriguing part about us. Which in turn allows for a massive amount of opportunities. I wouldnt want to be anywhere else right now.
Find more of our Young South Africa series at 10and5.com/youngSA.