Our next Fresh Meat star is Masixole Ncevu, a young photographer to watch out for. Having just completed an advanced course in photography at Vega in Cape Town, his images of people and scenes from everyday life are deeply evocative and resound with multiple nuanced readings. Over the years, photography has played a fundamental role in shifting and reforming the way in which Masixole sees the world around him. His penchant for shooting street scenes and people has led to many unexpected encounters and experiences with strangers, which has allowed him to recognise his own prejudices and move beyond these. For Masixole, photography is a way of life. We can’t wait to see more from this young photographer.
How and why did you become interested in photography?
When I think back to the initial spark that ignited my passion for photography and all things, it takes me to my first photographs I ever made on the train using a Sony Ericsson 5MB phone. Despite the grain, overexposures and camera shakes my passion remained ignited. At that time I was working and my colleagues would often joke about my table at work, where there would always be a random assortment of library photography books and magazines.
Has taking photographs influenced or changed the way in which you see and experience the world?
As a photographer I always wanted to be objective but I knew myself that this was impossible. I wanted to insist on reality but I knew too many aspects of it. I wanted to rise above my prejudices but they were deeply rooted in me. I tried a cool approach to my subjects but it never worked. I knew that my character, knowledge and experiences determined what and how I saw something and the way I would photograph it. The massage of the pictures is often decided before I’d released the shutter.
Your portraits have a beautifully intimate quality to them. How important is it for you to establish a relationship and sense of trust with the people you are photographing? How do you go about doing this?
For me gaining trust and establishing relationships is very crucial because once you have permission to shoot freely you can easily create honest portraits. In my experience, most people are polite and agree to shoot after an honest explanation. Some ask why and my answer ranges from my general passion and philosophy for documenting life with my camera to explaining a specific project or assignment I’m on working on. I am always ready with an elevator pitch that is respectful and sincere. Often times my conversation with strangers sparks new visual ideas and my initial attraction to them as a subject deepens into something stronger and more meaningful as we talk.
Do you have a favourite subject matter that you like to photograph? What is this and why does it appeal to you?
At first it used to be old vulnerable people until I learnt that any honest portrait of someone can tell a short history of the world. It has the power to reach back and remind us who we are and how we behave in the face of loneliness as we relate to it in our everyday lives. My subject matter represent a reflection of people in solitude trying to connect with the environment but now it has evolved into photographing all sorts of spectrum of people, from innocent children to people going about their everyday lives.
Do you have any themes or ideas that you’ve been exploring in your student work?
During my student life I have been exploring stories or themes that inspire me to commit and that drive me to work hard, moves me past frustration and drives me to work through obstacles, pushes me towards a photographic place of competence and excitement [for example Life behind the taxi rank & Taffelberg Hof].
Have you consciously developed your photographic “eye” or is this something that comes naturally to you?
My fine art background had a big influence in developing my photographic “eye”. I use mediums like charcoal, pencil and ink so my artistic eye had a foundation which naturally developed into photography from fine art.
Do you consider yourself a visual storyteller? Please tell us about this.
Oh yes! I do consider myself a visual storyteller because I’m passionate about making photographs that represent a form of art that enables the viewer to read a story through my framing.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
You need to be in tune with the subject and really love what you do. If you think about how much money you will make from the pictures you create from the images you’re making, it might be good but it would never be your heart guiding your head.
Describe your dream job.
I want to travel a lot. I wouldn’t like my life to be disrupted by routines. I don’t have to work now because photography is not a job, it’s something I love and if you do something you love, you do not have to work, ever.
Anything else you would like to add?
Well, this just a beginning…photograph is my life.
See more of Masixole’s work on his website.