Nicholas Nabìl Tebogo Rawháni is a Wits electrical engineering student with a fantastic name, and a compulsion to capture the world around him. When he gives into this inexplicable urge, which is often, we’re treated to sunny images reminding us of longer, lazier days, easily-missed moments amidst the motion of the city, or exotic scenes he brings back from travels abroad. Inspired to communicate emotions that are too complicated to describe in words, Nicholas says his photography is about, “taking what I felt at the time of the photograph and trying to get the viewer to feel that too.”
His biggest muse and teacher is perhaps Johannesburg, the city he was raised in, “Johannesburg DEFINITELY plays a part in the way I craft my images. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in this incredible city and it’s changed the way I look at other places while travelling. In our city, we have so many extremes. Wealth and poverty, culture, fashion, architecture. The beauty in Johannesburg is not at all obvious. The city isn’t here to look pretty, but when you get to know her she’s incredibly beautiful. And I think it’s that ability to see beauty in things that aren’t obviously beautiful (a trait which a lot of Joburgers share) which has helped me to develop my style…” Two such like-minded Joburg photographers are Anthony Bila and Chisanga Mubanga who Nicholas often collaborates with on photography projects.
Like most young photographers, Nicholas’s style is versatile and changes with his mood or as he experiments with genre and technique. “One thing that I can say,” he tells us, “is that I’m a big fan of the Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous quote: Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. I think that motion and blur can play a big part in a story. I don’t think that things need to be patently clear in a photograph.” A constant stream of projects keeps him shooting, although most of his shots are unplanned, caught spontaneously.
This approach is a result of not wanting to be caught camera-less again after a trip to India in 2011. “For me, it was like an awakening – India puts itself in your face and into your senses. There is constantly a smell, some explosion of colour, an amazing event. In the 2 weeks that I was there, this feeling just kept building up inside me, saying, “You’ve GOT to capture this”. I’ve still got those pictures from India in my head, but I didn’t have a camera! So as soon as I got home I splurged on a Canon 1000D. I wouldn’t put it down. It came everywhere with me.”
As for whether photography as a practise for him is more about the making than the sharing of images, Nicholas says, “For me it’s about capturing moments, but I love to see how people react to my photographs. Maybe it’s more of a personal than an artistic endeavor – but when people look at my photographs, I like to see what they see in them to appreciate how we all look at things a bit differently, or maybe we look at things in the same way. It’s a conversation, and I’m so grateful to anyone who does take the time to engage with my art.”