Born and raised in Cape Town, Jody Brand studied History and Media at UCT with the intention of becoming a journalist. It was out of an unrelenting desire to make things that she started styling her friends and doing shoots for fun. “Somehow,” she says, “I then began assisting the legendary Richard de Jager and it occurred to me that I wanted more ownership of my images as an art director.” This is how Jody’s focus shifted to finding her expression in her current medium of photography.
Predominantly photographing her friends, Jody’s pictures offer a raw and unflinching look into South Africa’s youth culture. With this in mind we knew she’d make a brilliant addition to our Young South Africa series this year and so, we got in touch with Jody to find out more:
How did you get into photography?
My parents grew tired of me stealing my Dad’s phone so I could take selfies for my Myspace account so they got me a digital camera. I’ve always taken an interest in documentary photography as I wanted to be a journalist, but this thing really started when I got my first film camera.
Has the act of taking photographs changed the way you look at and think about things?
I guess the process of documenting and recording has reignited my passion for history and made me think more about memory and our legacy. I am passionate about positively impacting African visual culture in a way that pays homage to our heritage and also ushers in a new way of being.
What influence does the environment you find yourself in have on you and your work?
Africa is in its nature beautiful and chaotic. This is what I live for, stand for and what I want to show to the world.
What themes reoccur in your work?
Youth culture, South African culture, street culture.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Naïve, raw, instinctive.
It seems that more often than not, you work collaboratively. Why is this important to you?
My parents like to tell this story about how I held my friend’s hand throughout the first race I ran at school and lost. It’s kinda my vibe.
Why do you feel compelled to document the people and things you encounter?
I believe strongly in my vision and the talent around me. I’m not prepared to wait for someone else to tell me I’m worthy. This is one of the lessons I’ve taken from our history.
Photography as a medium is widespread and easily accessible. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s horrible. Wish the world could just take a deep breath and perhaps fall back. It’s not just photography, people want to be about everything, although photography is the easiest thing to get into. It has really contributed to a rise in thirst.
Are there any photographs from your own childhood that have left a lasting impression on you?
Jurgen Schadeberg’s ‘We Won’t Move’ taken in Sophiatown in 1955.
Publishing your images on tumblr gives them instant global reach. Have you ever been surprised by the people who resonate and respond to your work?
Yeah it’s really great when the people you admire have seen your work and like it.
Who are some of the artists and photographers whose work you personally identity with?
Athi-Patra Ruga forever. When I was in high school I had a picture of one of his works on my wall. Working for him is a dream come true and a testament to the power of my manifestations.
Could you tell us more about your experience as the production manager for Athi-Patra Ruga?
Working with Athi is the most exhilarating job you could possibly imagine. I’ve been with the studio since 2012 and have truly learnt the power of possibility.
What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘Young South Africa’?
Fresh to death. Being young in South Africa is scary and amazing and that makes me feel alive.
And finally, what are you working on at the moment?
A few of Jody’s photographs are currently on display and for sale in Smith & Abrahams at 103 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town.