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Featured: Carla Erasmus

Carla Erasmus


Carla Erasmus is an artist based in Cape Town whose medium of choice is photography. She studied Fine Arts at the University of Pretoria where she focused on documentary photography during her final year. Although she shoots digital as well, Carla frequently makes use of a collection of old cameras and expired film to create her works, which yields unusual and beautiful results.


To start, please tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m originally from Durban. I moved to Pretoria to study, lived in Amsterdam for a year and decided to move to Cape Town 5 years ago. I’m an avid dog lover and artist.


Was it always clear to you that you’d find yourself working in a creative field?

Yes definitely! I come from a creative home and my mother and sister both being artists inspired me to study a creative field.


You studied Fine Arts at the University of Pretoria. When you began, did you already know that photography would become your area of focus?

No, not necessarily. Studying Fine Arts meant that I had the opportunity to learn many skills, including sculpture, printmaking, painting and drawing. Photography and painting were mediums that I could express myself in most naturally, and in the end photography was what I enjoyed most.


How would you describe your photographs to someone who’d never seen them?

It depends on the series. Landscape, is a more painterly storytelling body of work. Pieta, is a realistic and raw documentary piece. The photographs need to be seen, rather than explained.


What are some of the things that influence and inspire you?

Stories. Hardships. People.


Tell us about the themes that seem to occur/reoccur in your work…

It depends on the series, but in general it’s about people and their environments. Where we are heading, where we come from…


Why do you prefer to shoot mostly in film, and when did you make the transition from digital?

I shoot both digitally and on film. In the end I know what the picture needs to look like, depending on the image, I just choose what would work best to capture it with. With film there’s the creative gamble of high contrast and over saturation, and this occurs quite often when using expired rolls. With digital it’s the immediacy that is needed for some projects. I’m not a purist in regards to film or digital. I usually have a couple of cameras with me and shoot depending on what I want the image to feel like. I was given an extensive collection of film cameras by a stranger as a gift a couple of years ago, I’m a lucky one.


When it comes to photographing people, particularly strangers, what’s your approach?

Friendliness and honesty. It’s not taking a sneaky picture of a stranger, for the sake of getting the image. Homage, per example, was a year-long project of knocking on peoples doors and hours of conversation to get the images I needed. For me it was a bit about compassion and a bit about curiosity. I travelled all throughout South Africa to document the series. There are some snaps of people going about their daily lives, but I smile, wave a camera and get a thumbs up.


What’s the most challenging thing about what you do?

It’s not challenging. It’s inspiring.


Along those lines, what’s the most rewarding aspect?

Meeting strangers. Driving around and taking wrong turns. Stopping for the right image and meeting many dogs. I don’t plan too much, you can’t. That’s rewarding! Getting the images takes time and effort.


Any photographers or artists in SA that you’ve got your eye on?

There are many, but I mostly find inspiration in painting.  Locally Marlene Dumas and Michael Taylor are influential. On a photography level, I regularly research young photographers abroad.


What are you currently working on?

The Dogs is an ongoing project and there’s another series including found images that I’m currently planning.  I have taken part in numerous group exhibitions locally and abroad the last two years and I’m planning on more exhibitions for 2014.  I’m daydreaming of attending an artist residency in the near future.


View more of Carla’s work on her website:


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