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Johnson Maela

Featured: Emotive Portraits by Johnson Tsoku Maela

Johnson Maela


Cape Town based photographer from Limpopo, Johnson Tsoku Maela found his path in life after a perplexing medical emergency 10 months ago. Gathering dust in a corner somewhere was his camera, which was untouched for almost two years. All this changed when Johnson picked up his camera after a week’s stay at the hospital.


Johnson began his photographic journey through capturing surreal, metaphorical self-portraits and using Photoshop to realise his visions, channelling dreams into tangible realities. His work scouts for ways to define human connection through exploring the themes of human strength, willpower, life and death and offering an abstract perspective on everyday habitual life. He says, “I’ve always wanted to find ways to break the barrier between humans. Material barriers. Stripping down the human to a basic being that has similar visceral struggles. No one talks to anyone today, we all struggle in silence. We live in our heads when we are surrounded by ten other people who feel the same way and have information they could share.” Focusing on this human aspect of everyday life, Johnson transforms series of life lessons into moments through his photographs.


Johnson’s photography portfolio flaunts a collection of more than 25 images in his first series ‘A Series of Abstract Peaces’, while his second series ‘Monologues From A Dream Journal’ consists of 6 images. Johnson enjoys capturing portraits when he is not shooting conceptual photography. ‘A Series of Portraits’ was his first work to be showcased at the Month of Photography, and was recently featured on the Philippines based photography site ‘You the Photographer’. His work has also been a part of the first Grid Photography festival held in South Africa this year and the ‘BOOM! Baby’ group exhibition which opened at this year’s May First Thursdays at the YoungBlood/Beautiful life building.


Johnson’s beautiful portraits of people have touched many hearts in the crowd. He recalls a recent encounter with a man at an exhibition who was moved to tears by the artist’s ‘Rage. Regret. Return’ piece. “That is just one of the many wonderful moments I have witnessed with people and the wonderful stories that they have to share. And that, I believe, is the function of art in all its forms – to reconnect people, not only with each other, but with themselves.”


Alongside photography, Johnson has worked as a copywriter, music video director and has recently become a part of the vibrant writing team for the local award-winning TV show Hectic Nine-9.


His advice so far? – Stay inspired. Tell your story.




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