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10AND5 CREATIVES: THE LOUW DOWN ON PHOTOGRAPHY

10AND5 CREATIVES is a spotlight series that seeks to highlight and elevate the best of what local talent has to offer. From the creation of local graphic novels to celebrating creatives who live fearlessly and authentically. 10AND5 CREATIVES features people in fashion, music, art, clubs, film, photography and every other creative field highlighted within our communities.

Our first creative is Nicole Louw, an openly transgender female photographer with an eye like no other! We caught up with her to get the “Louw” down on all things photography and inspiration. Read the interview below:

Who is Nicole?

I am a 33-year-old openly transgender female photographer based in JHB, South Africa. I have been working within the industry for nearly a decade with some of the industry’s top photographers. My work has led me to develop a raw perspective on portraiture and photography. I love keeping things simple and truly getting to know my subject to capture a part of them that will help portray their story.

Where does your story begin?

I bought my first camera at about the same time as when I started my transgender transition. During this time, I faced a lot of adversity in my personal life; I was kicked out of my house, lost most of my friends and some family due to coming out. My little camera gave me a way to escape. It gave me a way to focus on the beauty of the world around me while my world was falling apart.

From there, my biological dad – Larry Hirshowits, a portrait photographer in California – suggested I get in touch with a friend of his who was one of South Africa’s most influential advertising photographers Michael Lewis. He and his wife were two of South Africa’s top advertising photographers, his lifestyle advertising and her; food. My year with them taught me more about photography and the industry one could only dream of entering. From there on, I bounced around to a few other photographers and then settled on working with Merwelene van der Merwe for several years. Working with these amazing photographers, I developed a love for lighting and capturing beautiful moments without the bells and whistles but still forming a deeper bond and connection with my subject.

How has your life inspired your art?

Being transgender has sadly forced me to try and work harder to be accepted than should have been needed. I get that hiring me for campaigns comes at a risk as perhaps people are scared to misgender me or something of the sort, and this could cause harm to the brand. However, I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth as I want to align myself with brands that celebrate diversity and thrive on inclusivity.

My art has a spirit and a story. I try and capture mood and essence with every image I take as I believe there is so much more to it than just the way it looks. (If that makes any sense)

Why photography?
Photography is just one medium I use to express myself, but honestly, I love the connection I get to make with people while shooting. I love being able to immortalize a moment in time, and to wield the power to evoke an emotion with nothing more than an image.

What’s your inspiration?
Honestly, I’m inspired by people and various emotions. I love drawing on anger and sadness and laughter. anyone who has ever shot with me knows that I make people pull funny faces before we even start shooting, this helps people relax but also creates some of my favourite photos ever.

Who are some of your role models & why?
Hmmm so as cliche as it sounds, my dad Larry Hirshowitz. As someone who only gets a few seconds to shoot his subjects, he captures such emotion and truly loves people and loves his art of photography. Nadav Kander, a portrait photographer in the UK is a master of light, and his portraits truly capture so much more than just what is in front of the lens. And again so cliche but, my daughter. I love watching her grow up and find absolutely everything completely fascinating. It reminds me of when I started shooting. It reminds me of how I used to shoot for myself; not trying to impress anyone but rather just shooting for the love of it.

If you could tell anyone anything right now, what would it be?
Sometimes taking a step back is the best thing you can do for yourself. A step back gives you clarity of what matters.

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Catch up with Nicole on her social channels:

INSTAGRAM: @rainbow_ink_sa | @nicole_louw_photography

SWELLCAST: https://www.swellcast.com/nicole_louw_

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