07 Jan Fresh Meat: Tatenda Chidora
Tatenda Chidora has just completed his National Diploma in photography at Tshwane University of Technology. This course has a strong technical focus, where students learn about how light works and can be manipulated by shooting on film and developing their own images in the darkroom. For Tatenda, this black and white world created a new lens through which to view the world around him. His portrait project captures intimate moments of people whom he met on the street and convinced to sit for him, shot on medium format film with a Hasselblad. Tatenda chatted with us about this series, and his plans for the future.
How and why did you become interested in photography?
Growing up I always wanted to be a chef. I am a person who does well using his hands. I am not the best academic person ever. The day I bought a camera, I decided that I have culinary skills let me learn something new. The weird thing is that I always collected magazines and still do today and have a huge collection. I was continually fascinated with light growing up and had the question when I looked at the images in these magazines, “how do they do that?”.
What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about it?
I enjoy shooting on film, especially medium format. Processing film is just one of the most beautiful things one can ever do. When I am in the darkroom, I find silence and ultimate connection with myself. I have learnt patience and preciseness. I appreciate portraiture, landscapes and architecture. I would say I have my heart set on photographing them.
How would you describe your style of photography, and what influences it?
I wish everything was black and white and there was no colour. The simplicity and minimalism that comes with monochrome in images is what intrigues me. I am inspired by the spaces around me. When I look at people I am always trying to picture how light can shape their features. The everyday life and what is happening around me counts as inspiration. I walk a lot in areas where people find it to be unsafe and full of slumps. I experience the raw nature of beauty in its imperfection. There is an inevitable story to beauty that can never be explained that is what I try to capture.
Was studying photography what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since your first year? – And if so how?
The last three years have been the most challenging years. The photo school kept me on my feet. I have grown in character and the perception of the field has definitely changed. It was what I expected and discipline was enforced. I am technically rich. Most questions I had, have been answered.
When taking a portrait of someone, what are you trying to capture?
The weirdest thing is that I cast on the street. If I see someone who has qualities I would like to photograph, I swallow all confidence and try and approach them then and there. Sometimes I win and at times it’s really hard to get them to say yes. What I try to capture in a portrait is soul. How I would have translated the subject is what I would like to bring out in each person. Beauty is simple translation of connection between the photographer, viewer and the subject. A portrait should simply connect to another soul. I would say the viewer should connect and share the sentiment I felt in that moment too.
Are you more interested in a commercial or artistic career in photography? Please explain…
My university TUT is a commercial-based Photo School. I was trained heavily to do commercial work and I think this forms a good basis for most technical skills, so your art side just has to be defined based on your interpretation. With that entire information overload, they give you a platform to be who you want to be through personal projects. I really would say I’m an artistic photographer – let me define creation how I see it.
Do you plan your shoots beforehand or improvise in the moment? What’s your creative process?
Yes, I plan because I do not want to waste people’s time. If you are organised, you focus well and your result will not demand a lot of post production. Especially when I shoot film, 120 roll film is expensive, so at times I shot 3-5 people on one roll. It demands that you be organised. I try to think beforehand what I will do and arrange a light plan according to the person I’ll be shooting. I also always sketch up what I want the image to look like for the final shot and all ideas blast out from all visual literature I looked at. The sketch is not perfect though.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
Research, research, research, there is something new out there, my mentors insist! Keep yourself up to date with Photoshop and any thing that affects your photographic skills. And Shoot!
Which of your creative projects are you most proud of?
We got briefs at school and as I mentioned they were mostly commercial and technically based. The personal project that I did which is black and white portraits on film shot on a Hasselblad… My heart beats behind them. The time I spent developing, scanning and editing, I think it was one of the most humbling projects I have ever done. Sitting my subjects down and explaining the idea I had and waiting for them to ease in, into that moment where I pressed the shutter was just simply magic. I am grateful.
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?
I am done with my National Diploma now and I would love to do my Bachelors in Technology (B-Tech). Instead of wasting time I will do it part time and I will be assisting and trying to get myself into the working world. I hope that one day I will take talent back home to Zimbabwe.
Where can we stay updated with your work?