We’ve created our own photographers’ masterclass with the help of Canon on a selection of South Africa’s young photographers, breaking through the noise and creating unique work with the help of a lens. Our first featured photographer in our Canon Creators series is Cape Town based Gemma Mary Shepherd, whose minimalist sensibilities translate into soft yet striking fashion editorials.
Gemma has worked with the likes of Rharha Nembhard,Tony Gum, Selfi, ODE and Lazuli, with her work being featured in iMUTE Magazine and Roundtable Journal where the covers were also shot by her.
Shortly after discovering her love for film photography, Gemma exhibited in ‘I Want To Show You Something’ and ‘By Way Of Hand’ exhibitions at CTSP in Cape Town. She’s shot numerous fashion weeks for Cosmopolitan and ELLE online as well as A Fashion Friend, but has also become known for her style of shooting and matter-of-fact approach to being a creative in South Africa today. You can visit Gemma’s Instagram account here, or visit her website here.
1. How would you define your style of photography?
I feel like as I’m growing as an artist my style of shooting is always developing and changing but I would say the commonality is always a clean shot that’s quite unconventional in terms of composition and framing.
2. What got you started in the field and did your tertiary studies have a role to play in that?
Photography was the most natural way to merge all of the creative outlets I had growing up; fashion, art and makeup. I grew up in a very creative family and I think that’s definitely where my eye for aesthetics developed but I never knew what to do with that until I picked up a camera. Things just kind of came together after that. I studied Media & Writing at UCT and for a while I thought I’d go into journalism, it’s always been very important to me to give a voice to those who are have been historically denied it. I think photography is just a different way of doing that.
3. What’s your go-to Canon camera and lense for most shooting settings?
My go-to lens is definitely my 50mm. It allows me to create a sense of familiarity and intimacy with my subjects. But if I want a bit more freedom to play around with angles and framing my 24-70mm is always on hand!
4. What makes a great picture?
I think this is very subjective thing, especially in today’s extremely saturated industry where everyone has a camera and a vision. Technically I would say use of lighting is what makes the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. For me I think it also comes down to sincerity. Why I am creating, who am I creating for and how I go about doing that.
5. Please share one of your career highlights thus far, I’m sure there are quite a few, but one that you felt significantly gave you a boost?
It’s really hard to pick a specific career highlight because its about so much more than the final images, it’s the whole creative process. Something that really boosted me is getting the opportunity to work with people who I’ve been inspired by, specifically Rochelle Nembhard. But just working with like-minded, authentic women has been the best part of this journey