09 Sep Simplicity reigns supreme in the eyes of Size Mbiza
The lens of photographer and art director Size Mbiza prefers simplicity. His images, which range from monolithic concrete structures in the urban jungle to quieter domestic scenes, explore the relationship between the subject and environment. For Size, the two are inseparable. The subject is always familiar with their surroundings, so as not to appear like a cardboard cut-out awkwardly occupying a foreign space. As an artist, photography is the tool through which he changes perceptions and proves that different worlds can coexist.
Tell us about your creative journey. How did you get into art directing and photography?
My creative journey so far has been nothing but enlightening. When I decided that I wanted to create imagery and be involved in fashion I did not know much about the industry and the last 2-3 years would be all dedicated to learning and discovery. I got into photography through my love for fashion. When I started tertiary education in 2014, I decided to do something about my love for good imagery but 2015 was the establishing year for me as a photographer/director and fashion enthusiast.
Whether you’re art directing or capturing images, photography is one of your modes of creative expression. Why do you love about working in this medium?
I think it’s because there are countless possibilities in photography. You can literally put anything in front of the camera and make it the most beautiful piece of art. I also like the way it can change perception. Perception is very important when it comes to photography. For me, it shows that people are different and that we all see things differently. I am always interested to see how people perceive things.
Who or what influences your aesthetic sensibility?
Firstly, I draw aesthetic inspiration from my friends and frequent collaborators MyNameIsLebo and Bambatha Jones. We always strive to achieve a certain mood and feel whenever we shoot. This has also changed my process. I am always inspired by the work of Travys Owen, Gabrielle Kannemeyer and Kristen-Lee Moolman for many reasons. However, outside of photography and fashion, I am mostly inspired by music – most of my captions are from songs that I feel relate to the mood of the image or the subject in the image.
Do you feel like you have a visual signature or something that stylistically occurs throughout all your work?
I don’t feel like I have a signature style figured out as yet, I am still trying to find a style that screams ‘SIZE MBIZA’ from the moment someone looks at it. It’s also hard to find a style at the present moment because of things like filters and presets but this is not a bad thing because I use these things for my own work and it makes work easier to manage. Plus it makes everything consistent. I love VSCO Cam! The most obvious recurring element in my photography is colour and the way I choose to compose my photos. If you look closely it is easy to tell that the images were shot by one person.
You frequently collaborate with Bambatha Jones. How did this come about and in what ways do you think you’ve grown collectively and influenced each other as individual artists?
Bambatha Jones and I met in school and we had an instant love and respect for each other. We have similar interests, however he sees things differently from me and it’s always great! We know our strengths and weaknesses together which is why we work so well together. There is hardly any miscommunication or misunderstanding when we collectively create something. I think both of us have grown technically and we are taking more chances in our work. There is a better understanding of colour, composition and narration. We’ve influenced each other’s style and this is probably because we are exposed to the same things. But there are a lot of similarities in our work.
When you’re doing work in the capacity of art director, what do you personally try to bring to the project?
I mainly try to bring the photographer’s idea and vision to life. I feel like that is my job as the art director, but more than that, I bring cohesiveness and a personal touch through grading, editing and use of light.
Tell us about your creative process. How do you go about conceptualising work?
It always changes. I either start off with a styling idea and location and then find a subject/model that will fit the vibe of the series I am shooting. Sometimes, I find the model first then sort of work ‘backwards’. Within my process, I try to involve as many people as I can because I strongly believe in the power of collaboration. A lot more can happen when you have people who have the same vision and motivation to create something beautiful.
Many of your images focus on solitary figures. What informs this choice?
It’s actually not a conscious decision, but I think it’s because I want that one subject in the images to be the star. I don’t like my images to have a lot going on in them. Simplicity is always the key in my art, and simplicity does not necessarily mean plain and lifeless. I am very open to working with more than one model for a project.
What can you tell us about the relationships between your subjects and their environments?
Most of the time it’s about space exploration – I want the subject to form a bond/relationship with the background and get to know their surroundings. Personally, I am always learning the spaces around me and I think this is important for me to be able to create the best image I can. The reason why space exploration is necessary for my subjects is because I want to create the most organic image I can – there is nothing more awkward than a model being uncomfortable in a setting that they are placed in.
Throughout your work the theme of shifting perceptions is present. As an artist, do you feel a responsibility to create work that provokes change?
Definitely! I believe that is the purpose of art. Art is meant to make people question their surroundings and change the way they perceive situations and life and culture. My work deals with a lot of topics and ideas and as an artist, I always strive to start a conversation.
What’s the most important thing you strive to achieve with each creative collaboration?
Firstly, really dope, long lasting visuals. Another important thing is bringing two worlds together and proving that different ideas can coexist.