5 Questions with Photographer Tśele Nthane

Chasing the embedded intricacies of Cape Town streets, Tśele Nthane captures ordinary moments that sell feelings of reminiscence. The Lesotho born photographer is obsessed with creating a world in a way he would want to see it – through a film camera and warm autumn hues.

Seeing very little-to-no diversity in candid photography realms, Tsele saw a gap, he wanted to see more people who look like him in mostly unpigmented – white spaces. He now unveils work that captures black and brown women in their most innocent setting: just having pure fun and going about life through the motions. 

“I have a lot of sisters and I was just annoyed that I didn’t see anyone who looked liked like them just having fun and living life in this snapshot aesthetic. So I made it a point to shoot black and brown women and that’s reflected in my IG handle. I’m just always so amazed by the breadth and depth of women’s creative expression, and I mean in the ordinary.”

We chat with him about his journey :

1. When did your journey with photography begin?

Two years ago. I was planning a trip to Chile and Peru for university work and decided to get myself a camera. I bought this Fujifilm XT20 digital cam and came back with pictures I really liked, some of which I’ve since printed for my flat. I think learning something new can be really disappointing if things don’t go well from the start, so I was really lucky that my first real photography missions were filled with so much adventure. The indigenous Peruvian women in rich coloured cloth pulling horses across mountains, a Chilean cowboy riding his black stallion along the ocean. The scenery was equally beautiful and I came back thinking I’m gonna stick to landscapes until I discovered Instagram portrait photographers.

2. Tell us about your design aesthetic and the motive behind the specific aesthetic? 

I think I’m obsessed with creating a world the way I want to see it. I love candid snapshot type of photography, but felt constantly jaded there was so little diversity; no people who looked like me. Where photographers actually used Black and Brown models it was always in editorial type work, really sharp, very conceptual and I think I felt quite disconnected. I picked up a film camera and it changed everything. I knew I was chasing something specific but never knew exactly what it was or what to call it. I’d take digital pictures and spend a lot of time in Lightroom trying to replicate the tones of some of my favorite Instagram photographers: particularly blues, orange, reds, yellows, those Autumn tones. I think I was just always chasing film, and it’s been my obsession since. Less technically, film is maybe the OG snapshot medium for historical reasons, but I think what it really does for me is illuminate tones in a way that can literally make me shed a tear.

3. What inspires you on a daily basis to do what you do and where does the inspiration for your photography brew from? 

I think one of the most incredible feelings is looking through my camera’s viewfinder, and without the benefit of immediate feedback like you have on digital cameras, my mind throws up all these possibilities of how this frame will actually look once the roll is developed.

Music is probably my biggest inspiration- some songwriting takes me to places I could only dream about and I try to channel the same energy into how I make pictures. Almost all my captions are from lyrics that take me. 

4. You were featured in the Austria/Berlin-based Women’s Magazine, C-Heads Magazine. Tell us about this and what it means to you? 

C-Heads is such a beautiful magazine and I’ve been a fan of them for a long time. I love their focus on slow, intimate portrayals of people in their own homes or just hanging out, and the way they make the relationship between the photographer and the model part of the overall story. I had submitted some work to them before and was rejected a couple of times. On one of my shoots, I spent a day with Jordan who I had been meaning to shoot with for months. I felt like it had all the elements of the type of photography I loved from C-Heads. This was my first series they accepted and it felt really really good- I loved that they focus on the magic of the ordinary. Since then they’ve accepted two other series of mine. I think it can be really affirming that there’s a space for my specific type of photography and love for the people I shoot with.

5. Are there any passion projects you’re working on?

Yeah, I’m so excited to tell you about this. A couple of us are working on launching a film-only print magazine later this year. Instagram is a great platform but so much work goes into making a picture and it easily gets lost in the endless scrolling on social media. We want to make a home that celebrates and retains the rich creativity of youth, with a serious focus on diversity. There’s so much that’s happening in our creative space from art, music, photography, film, writing, and I really want to put something together that documents and celebrates that.

Images supplied.

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