Studio Studio is the recently opened space of photographers Chris Saunders and Justin McGee. The two teamed up to make real their shared long-time dream: owning their own mixed purpose inner city studio space. Since before its official launch, Studio Studio has been gaining a reputation as the new place in town. Chris and Justin tell us more…
Where is your space?
It’s the 4th Floor of TFE House at 308 Fox Street. Just up the road from Main Street Life.
What about the location appeals to you?
When we first walked into it, it was a wreck. Nothing worked but it had an amazing view. It’s industrial, unscathed by the general aesthetic of the mass renovations occurring in the area. It’s also huge and has a massive outdoor rooftop terrace.
Is there a story behind the space?
Yes, Justin and I had been looking around the area for places to make into a studio. We wanted a combined studio and a living space. I’d spend a lot of time on the road and felt like I was wasting money on rent. I wanted my business to pay the rent. When we where shown ‘Situation East’ as it’s referred to by Propertuity (the development company behind Maboneng), it was perfect. It was big, had a view, loads of light and limitless potential. So over the next 3 months Justin and I renovated the space, putting up massive curtains, building rooms, fixing the electricity and plumbing etc… During the process we had a massive flood where the whole building was drenched, this was super disheartening, but ‘touch wood’, our first and last disaster.
What’s the back story to your partnership in this space?
Justin and I have always liked each other’s work and partied together a few times. We also worked on a small series together a few years ago which was shown in Cape Town. We are now officially business partners. Haha, hectic. We named the business Studio Studio.
What about the city inspired each of you in your respective work?
I think both of us have always been inspired in our work by the urban environment in Johannesburg. For me it was about learning about the space we live in, having a normal life where we walk from place to place and seeing and hearing things around us. In Johannesburg you end up getting stuck in the burbs. The only feeling you ever had that you live in a city is when you get stuck in the traffic between Sandton and Rosebank. Johannesburg is huge and Jeppestown is the historical centre in a way, so it should be utilised and cherished.
What’s in the name, ‘Studio Studio’?
‘Studio Studio Studio Line, Studio Line from L’Oreal.’ It’s based around this 80s ad from L’Oreal that we all grew up with. I guess the idea was that we wanted an 80s inspired New York studio, where you could stay. We where both born in the 80s.
What exactly is the space, and how can people find out more?
It’s primarily a photographic studio, office space and film location. Email us or visit our Facebook page for more info.
Who shares the space with you and what do they do?
We-Are-Awesome has their Johannesburg office in the space, and Nicholas Christowitz, designer and co-owner of Father Coffee, shares the space with us too. We-Are-Awesome run a lifestyle / nightlife website, film production and events company.
How does the stream of different people passing through the space influence each of your respective creative practices?
I think we benefit from each other symbiotically because we work together more. We come up with new ideas and get to bounce things off each other as well benefit from requests that each of us get that we cannot accommodate and can then pass on. Photography has always been such an individualistic business, but with the way things work today it’s much better to be surrounded with like-minded people who have the idea to help each other progress and at the same time change the way the old system worked.
What are some of the more outlandish shoots (or things) the studio has already seen?
We put up a blow-up swimming pool on the roof for Jesse Clegg’s cover shoot. Justin has shot the new album artwork for Shadowclub where they brought in all sorts of outlandish props and hammered things into the walls. At the moment we also have Egg Films building a beach on our roof for a production.
What do you hope/anticipate the space will become known for?
I hope it will be known as a lifestyle space and not jus a studio. I was so tired of shooting in studios where you felt pressured to finish in business hours and guilty to have a drink afterwards. Photography is an art form and creativity needs inspiration. Studios should be conducive to amplifying the idea and that’s what we wanted to create. As well as a cool space to just hang out in.
Who is welcome at StudioStudio?
Everyone. Come and visit us.
What music is playing?
Gateway Drugs, who also played live at our official launch that took place recently.
What will the space never see?
A building blocking our view.
What new exciting things should we look forward to coming out of the space?
Events, live cooking shows, Big Film productions, dance classes and artistic collaborations with people all over the world. (Some are in production already).
Like the Studio Studio Facebook page here.