In addition to being a fashion photographer (who spends his time between Johannesburg and Cape Town), Steve Marais is a founding member and publisher of Gaschette Magazine: the largest independent online fashion magazine in Africa.
Steve’s photographic style ranges from editorial to character portraiture. “Inspired by emotion, attitude and feeling, he takes pride in having hands-on creative direction. By creating bizarre story scenarios subjects have to work through or act out, Steve manages to capture what comes naturally in the moment.”
When did you start taking pictures?
I’ve been involved in the commercial photography business for many years now, but for the longest time I didn’t take pictures of anything at all. I needed time to grow and explore before I really got my hands dirty, and boy are they dirty now! I’d say I seriously started focussing on my own photography in 2008.
We’d like to know more about your journey so far. When did you decide on photography as a career, and how did you go about achieving this?
I didn’t go to art school, my high school didn’t even offer art. I wasn’t surrounded by creatives when growing up. In the Free State, the aunties who called themselves “cree-aytive” did “lapverf” and have since moved on to scrap-booking. Needless to say, the photography thing was a blind leap I decided on in grade 10. After school I set off to the big city where the fossils at Pretoria Tech taught me their ancient photography techniques for 3 years (it is said that a good foundation is rock solid). From there I moved to Johannesburg (and later Cape Town) and went on to assist various different local and international photographers. Nowadays I’m represented by Infidels and divide my time between Johannesburg (where I live) and Cape Town.
Has it always been clear to you that you’d pursue a career in a creative field?
In a way, yes. Since I was a kid I had a fascination with magazines and advertising. And I always knew that I wanted a part in creating something in mass media.
Your focus is on fashion photography. What draws you to this genre?
Nothing more than a keen interest and a good eye. I have an inherent love for beautiful things, so naturally fashion photography is a great outlet. Yes, fashion is frivolous, but also it’s make believe, and that is the fun part.
What are some of the things that make your work recognizable or distinctive? Along those lines, how would you describe your photographic style?
What a tough question! Gosh, let’s see… I like to think my work speaks for itself. My work is clean, yet generally there’s an element of traction derived from strong conceptual roots. You’ll find my compositions are often simple. A significant technical understanding is one of my formidable strengths, but I am not a photo-geek-techie-kinda-guy – my photography feeds off intuition and feeling. I aim to evoke emotion, so I am more concerned with what happens in my frame than silly things like where the sun is at or if the light is “wrong”. And I think it’s shooting in the moment that gets the shot.
Give us some insight regarding your process: before, during, and after a shoot.
If I’m not on set I’m chained to my computer. No jokes – it’s the truth. A lot of planning takes place before a shoot. Endless meetings, loads of research and constant communication. I’m talking storyboards, brainstorming and production headaches here. Once I arrive on set things generally run pretty smoothly. I drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and make inappropriate jokes all day. After the shoot there’ll often be wrap drinks, some more cigarettes and inappropriate jokes. And then I get chained to the MacBook again.
What are some of the things that influence or inspire you?
Popular culture, unpopular culture, travelling, innovation, technology, nostalgia, identity.
What was the initial thinking behind Gaschette Magazine?
Gaschette Magazine was born out of the sheer frustration of not having anywhere to validate your work as a fashion creative in this country. In my (humble but very generalized) opinion, the print magazine industry has become decidedly stale in recent years. Overall, printed content has become “safer” – so as not to alienate their dwindling audience. But, as a creative, the major downside is that print mags don’t offer you the freedom to express your abilities or to develop your voice, and as a result your works starts looking over-produced and lifeless. Gaschette Magazine offers creatives an online platform to submit and showcase their work to a global audience. Print is dying, digital is the future.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
The final product.
What are you working on at the moment, and what do you have planned going forward?
You want me to kiss and tell!?? Well, we have massive plans for 2014, a lot of which involves expanding the Gaschette brand as a whole. Also, there are some really exciting trade partnerships lined up, so be sure to follow the Gaschette Magazine Facebook page for updates, it’s going to be HUGE.