We’ve been documenting Twenty Journey since the beginning when photographers Sipho Mpongo, Wikus de Wet and Sean Metelerkamp set off in their campervan last May on what was to become an epic 7-month journey around South Africa photographing the ‘born free’ generation, our relationship with the land, and the idiosyncrasies of our society.
During the 24 000 kilometre journey the three photographers amassed over 10 terabytes of photo and video footage plus whole notebooks of diary entries and stories. Upon completing their journey on January 1st 2015, began the daunting task of processing this mountain of footage. (Read our highlights feature published in February this year). What has followed has been another journey in and of itself resulting in an exhibition of photographs from the trip at Commune.1 in Cape Town in August, and a sleek soft-cover publication of stories, photos and paraphernalia from the journey edited by Sarah-Claire Picton and designed by Hanno Van Zyl.
Both Sarah-Claire and Hanno were proverbially on board with this project from the get-go. Originally hoping to go along on the trip to document the journey herself, Sarah-Claire was the obvious person for the Journeymen to approach to help sift through and edit the vast trove of shared and individual narratives and accounts that they had gathered along the way. Working closely and collaboratively with Sipho, Wikus and Sean for many hours, Sarah-Claire began weaving the varied material of the three photographers into a coherent narrative that would form the basis of this slim volume. “It was very much a collaborative effort in terms of the work flow,” Sarah-Claire explains, “all our ideas were put on the table and discussed and many of them integrated into something accessible and interactive”.
Hanno, having worked on previous projects with Sean, was involved with the project from the beginning designing the mockup Kickstarter reward magazine, which grew into this publication. This preliminary design work informed the basis of the publication, influencing the typeface, layout and style of icons and illustrations. ” After that process,” Hanno explains, “it was a matter of sitting with the Journeymen and sorting through the hundreds of photos and notes that they had collected on their trip, and allowing the content to guide the design.”
Soon the overarching narrative began to take shape, which Sarah-Claire summarises as: “You are not alone. It’s okay to be confused. South Africa is confusing. Let’s talk. Break down ideologies. There is no Absolute Truth. ‘Don’t be a poes, be lekker'”. From Sipho’s notebooks she selected poems and stories that possessed a certain sense of fierce beauty; “being related to the ‘born frees’ the underlying message is of hope, but also doubt and confusion”, Sarah-Claire explains. With Wikus her task was sifting and extracting pull quotes and captions from written and audio recordings for Hanno to use, and with Sean she let his prolific and lyrical writings guide her choices.
To tie this all together coherently, Hanno created a visual style that is relatively neutral and clean, allowing the photographs to take centre stage. Selecting the photographs was the ultimate challenge of this project, and was tackled collaboratively via a process of trial and error. “We started out by printing all the photographs and compiling all the physical notes to see what we had,” Hanno explains, “It covered my entire studio floor. Then it was a matter of grouping images together to see what narratives started forming. We then started with rough layouts and slowly but surely refined these selections until it made something we were all happy with”. To distinguish the publication from the exhibition catalogue, Hanno introduced a playful element to the design and icon set. This also served as a counterweighting to “help make the publication feel a bit more human and approachable as the content (because of the inherent nature of our country’s past) is more often than not, loaded with very severe overtones,” he says.
The Twenty Journey publication is available to order for R250 via email.