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Featured: From London to Durban through Alistair Redding’s Photography



Alistair Redding is a South African living and photographing in London, where he has been based for seven years. On his various return trips home he has captured beautiful street portraits of and in Durban. On his most recent visit he shot a fashion editorial highlighting the work of local fashion designers which he sent through to us to publish. When we had a look through his portfolio, however, there was so much more that we wanted to show you! These are some of our favourites of his along with a conversation with Alistair where we find out how he came to be a photographer, what he enjoys about exploring various styles and genres within the medium, and what’s next.


What is it about photography that made you want to pursue it as a career?


I loved the process of photography and I liked the challenge of getting everything right in an instant. The challenge of focussing your attention to a five hundredth of a second and producing something people would find meaningful and engaging.


How did you go about learning the craft?


I came from a moving image background so I knew some of the basic principles. Ironically enough I never grew up with cameras, I never owned one growing up and I have never been that trigger happy with my phone etc. I became infatuated with photography when I started taking pictures with a very old medium format camera from the 50s with a focus mechanism in feet, and a viewfinder, so you had to work out how far away the subject was before you took the picture. These limitations helped me to take some of my favourite photographs and the other benefit was that it made you really think hard before taking a picture. I had always enjoyed photographs but when I started to make my own in this deliberate way I felt it was a good direction for me. I then created my own little photographic projects and one thing led to another.


Would you say you’ve developed a personal style? And if so, how would you describe it?


I don’t know that I have my own style yet, I don’t think it’s up to me to say whether I have a style or not – that’s for other people to decide. I just have ideas which I try to execute and there are certain things I like. At the moment I am revelling in colour and I think my exploration of colour will continue. I think I am just wired in a way that makes it difficult to settle down to one way of working, so it may be a bit difficult to pin down my style for some time to come.


You’ve photographed fashion and documentary – please tell us about what you enjoy about each and what your process is for each?


I like reportage because it’s just me on the street speaking to people and getting them in front of the camera. There is a thrill in the unknown, photographing people who have no idea who you are or what you’re trying to do but at the same time engaging with them and getting a little window into their lives. I do tend to direct my subjects when I am on the street; that way I feel that I am able to get them into a more neutral space and to bring out what I find interesting about them. So I wouldn’t call this work strictly documentary in nature. In my more recent work I take my portraits in a uniform way so that the subject becomes the central point and they are all presented equally so that there is this idea of the democracy of the subject when the images are presented together.


Regarding my fashion photography I feel as though I am still at the cusp of it and it is an exciting place to be, at the moment I enjoy working with other people i.e. stylists, magazines and designers and creating eye-catching work. I am sure this side of my work is going to continue to blossom in the coming years.


Real FriendsAlistair Redding London People


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt in your career so far?


The most valuable thing for me is to trust my ideas and instincts and to work hard to realise them.


How long have you lived in London, and how has the change of country impacted the way you see or capture things?


I have been living in London for 7 years. London has a rich cultural life, you are able to see great art easily and there is a great deal of importance placed on the cultural life of the city. People from all over go to London, you feel very connected to the world. Because of this you are able to absorb a lot of different ideas and experiences, it can feel like an overload sometimes but I really enjoy all the stimulation.  It’s also an easy place to photograph on the street, easier than South Africa, but perhaps because of this I find it can also be a little less exciting. Living in London has given me a great perspective on South Africa and how unique it is, this means that when I come here I am able to see it again afresh.


South Africa has a proud photography tradition especially during the apartheid era where images were an important weapon against injustice and inequality. And I think this has continued today with so many South African photographers producing exceptional and thought provoking work and I think there is a thirst for this in London.


Please tell us about some of your most recent projects:


I am busy with my street photography project in Durban capturing street portraits of pedestrians, traders and street ‘sangomas’. I have also been shooting with local fashion designers in Durban showcasing their great work. One of my recently completed shoots combined the work of local designers and the Woza Moya NGO which helps those affected by HIV Aids, they have a wonderful store where they sell local arts and crafts and the beautiful beadwork I used in the shoot.


Alistair Redding Woza Moya Alistair Redding Woza Moya Alistair Redding Woza Moya


Stylist: Marial Kaplan, Make up: Emma Launder, Model Akhona from Ice models.

Top image – Dress: Londy Lembede, Earrings, necklaces and bag: Woza Moya shop, Shoes: MRP

Bottom two images – Sleaveless top: Thembeka ‘Yadah’ Vilakazi, Beadwork: Woza Moya shop, Massai Tartan: Davine’s African Shoppe, Necklace Mariel Kaplan


Please tell us about the making of The History of Apple Pie’s music video? What was different about the making of a film?


Shooting the video was a lot of fun and a great deal of work. I will be shooting more video projects in the near future and it is something I really enjoy. The process is not dissimilar to shooting stills, except you don’t have the freedom to move around so much so you have to get all your shots worked out carefully beforehand.  And at the same time you have to be prepared to improvise if there is a great new idea or something unexpected happens. I think this is very true for photography too, great accidents are like visual diamonds. As Robert Altman said, “Think about five of your favourite moments in any of my films and I can guarantee that they were accidents”. There is a portrait of a woman carrying her child in my 6×6 London series where she is looking directly at the camera. This was a total accident, I liked the way she was holding her daughter and walking but as I walked up to her and took the picture she turned around and gave me this great look! I was very lucky.



What are you currently working on? And what’s next?


I am continuing with my street portraits as well as working on some short video works and a fashion film with local fashion designers. And I have some exciting projects lined up for the new year plus another analogue shoot for Pylot Magazine in London.


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