Portrait of a woman with blue hair smiling by Kultured Lens

“Canon was my first!” – Kgabo Karabo Maila for #CreateWithCanon

Kgabo Karabo Maila is a 29 year old creative who lives in Polokwane. She is the content producer for the breakfast show at Capricorn FM, Limpopo’s commercial radio station. She also works as the social media manager and copywriter for the station responsible for radio imaging and in-house adverts.

As a side hustle, she refers to herself as a “self-teaching” photographer, having started out as an art director for her fabric company by the name of ‘Statement Piece’ before connecting with a few photographers helping them as an assistant. After a short time and some encouragement to pursue photography, she then bought her first camera – a Canon 700D.

Her most notable project so far is The Milk x Coffee Series (#MilkxCoffeeSeries). The series encourages a more inclusive society for persons living with albinism. It received coverage from publications such as Blaque Life Quarterly (BLQ), Conte Magazine (Hadith), SABC Channel Africa’s ‘On Albinism’ report, Moonlook as well as a few local platforms in her native Limpopo Province.

We had the privilege of asking her a couple of questions about her work.

How would you define your style of photography?

I mostly capture portraits, and away from passion projects I call myself a “documenter” when it comes to my village and street photographs. Portraiture is my strongest focus as a photographer. I enjoy photography mainly about the subject and I usually concentrate or choose subjects with striking features. Sometimes, I create that striking element in the image. For the most part, I am certainly developing my own aesthetic. As a “documenter”, I love capturing moments and preserving the time and mood, while getting the genuine moment, which I achieve with street photography at times.

When I started out, I didn’t want to just take photos. I wanted to use it for “artivism” and I did so with the #MilkxCoffeeSeries by being an activist for persons with albinism. We were creating conversations about what we “coffees” are doing to make the “milks” a part of our society every day.

A black woman kissing an Albino man on the cheek taken by Karabo MailaWhat made you decide to first get into photography?

Being in control of my art. Creating, conceptualising and championing my own, then bringing them to life gave me satisfaction. It still does. I had already seen the work come to life through other people’s lenses. I decided to get a camera and do it myself.

Black and White portrait of a woman of colour with freckles taken by Kultured Lens

Children playing soccer in a township taken by Karabo MailaTell us about your kit. What camera, lens and other gear do you use?

I use a Canon 700D, 18-55 mm and 75-300mm lens. This is the only gear I use for my photography. Anything else is hired or borrowed, like additional lighting for a photo booth.

The camera is compatible with all Canon lenses, which is one of the reasons why I bought it after advice from a friend. The camera’s creative auto mode saves me some shooting and post editing time. The screen is sensitive to touch and helps me choose my focus when I’m not using the viewfinder, which is something I recently learned. It’s beginner friendly because it tells me everything about all settings. It’s easy to learn. There’s so many modes to choose from, and I prefer the zoom lens for most of my portraits. This is all I need from my camera right now.

A portrait of a woman with slight smile surrounded by balloons taken by Kgabo Karabo Maila

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How do you make money from your photography?

I get booked for a variety of jobs from kid’s birthdays, private events, work-readiness programmes, profile shoots, pregnancy shoots, government events, your corporate events and from time to time, I work with other photographers as an assistant photographer or art director. An upcoming job is a dance-off competition that is also just a first. I’ve created work for brands as well, which is something I enjoy doing. I enjoy content creation.  

What would be the dream assignment for you?

Being a personal photographer to President Cyril Ramaphosa or a local star; being an in-house photographer for a foundation with a cause close to my heart, as their documenter, or working with established brands and commercial magazines such as The Throne as a conceptual art director

What kind of passion projects do you take on, as opposed to commercial jobs?

I created ‘The Milk x Coffee Series’ as a tool to raise awareness on albinism. I have worked on a concept called ‘Rest in Beauty’ which speaks to the lengths women would go to for beauty; sometimes artificial. I’ve also done ‘Bed in the wild’, a series about women and their bodies.

Away from my own work, I’ve worked with local cancer organisation Cancer Zero Thirty, and the Mamphore Arthritis Foundation for individuals born with arthritis. I create work for these organisations pro-bono; covering their activities, etc. I balance it with commercial gigs because being paid for your art is also just as fulfilling as giving your time to a worthy cause.

A woman lying on a couch holding a phone and bottle of wine taken by Kultured Lens

A weathered man walking taken by Karabo Maila

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Portrait of a man standing in front of a shack taken by Kultured Lens

A woman sitting down selling regalia taken by Karabo Maila

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A photo of 3 black woman taken by Kultured Lens

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