Photography and retouching: Lauren Fletcher
Styling: Zakirah Rabaney
Makeup: Jacqueline D’Nielle
Model: Aphelele at D&A Model Management.
Special thanks to Craig Hemphill at Direct Photographic, Cape Town.
I am very excited to be able to share this shoot with you! It has been published in the Fall 2015 issue of Gaschette Magazine, a South African independent online magazine “showcasing all original, all free content” and cutting edge fashion. To have been chosen to be featured is a huge honour and a confidence boost for me as a photographer, and so let me share the story behind it. (It’s a bit of a long read, but I want to explain everything properly.)
The theme for this issue was “Clan”. Initially when I saw the theme, I thought, “This is so me!” It was completely my aesthetic and the type of imagery I enjoy. The reference images for the theme included both European ideas of a “clan” (such as the Scottish clans), as well as African clans and tribes, and were full of patterned fabrics and bright colours. Ever since I was at university doing a Fine Art degree, I’ve always been drawn to images with prints and patterned fabric, particularly Victorian portraiture (and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites); and the West African studio portraiture of the mid-twentieth century, such as the work by photographers Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe. Both of these genres incorporate different patterned fabrics and prints in some way, such as in the backdrops, or the clothing that the subjects wear. While the African imagery was initially influenced by the European portrait conventions, it evolved into its own style that was uniquely African.
I decided to take an African approach to the idea of “clan”, and use a mixture prints in this shoot, because for me it signifies the relationship between Africa and Europe, and the idea of “clans”. Some African prints actually have European roots; for example, shwe shwe was brought to South Africa by the Germans in the nineteenth century, and Xhosa women appropriated it into their own culture, making it uniquely African. West African wax print also has a similar colonial history and was brought to Africa from Java in Indonesia by Dutch settlers – a great case of “East meets West”, which I think this shoot encapsulates. (This concept draws influence from my earlier Vidi, Vici, Veni fine art series.)
I had an idea and concept: now I needed the perfect team to put it together. At this point I only had about three weeks left to do the shoot and submit it to Gaschette. I knew the styling would be the make-or-break aspect of the shoot and so I needed the right person to do it. My friend, stylist Monde Mtsi, put me in contact with a stylist named Zakirah Rabaney. When I told Zakirah about my idea, she was really excited and keen to get involved. We share a very similar visual aesthetic and got on really well right from the start. Her styling was exactly what I had in mind and I was so excited when she showed me what she had planned.
Zakirah was kind enough to offer her and her boyfriend’s flat as the location for us to shoot in. We created our set in their bedroom, with a large piece of hessian for the backdrop. I rented a large rectangular softbox from Craig Hemphill at Direct Photographic to provide the soft light that I wanted, and added in some props, fabric, and furniture from home. Makeup was done by the very talented and lovely Jacqueline D’Neille, and Aphelele from D&A Model Management was our gorgeous model.
After a slight delay from some technical issues, we managed to bring everything together, and we were all thrilled with the results. Overall, I think my conceptual goals for this shoot were met, thanks to everyone on the team working together to make my idea come to life. The print-on-print aesthetic and style of the photos references the mid-20th century African studio portraiture mentioned above, while alluding to classical portrait painting and Victorian portrait photography. The bright colours, flowers and textured background draw influence from Tretchikoff’s work, and the hessian backdrop also gives an earthy, African feel. The mix of European, African and Asian elements in the styling make the editorial more multicultural and dynamic.
When the shoot wrapped, I stayed at Zakirah’s place for a braai. We sat out on her balcony drinking wine and enjoying the view of Cape Town below us. It was a wonderful way to end the day.
The months leading up to hearing whether our submission was successful were quite suspenseful, but once we heard it had been chosen, we were very excited, and upon seeing the final published shoot, even more so. I must thank Colin O’Mara Davis, Jess Lupton, Steve Marais and the rest of the Gaschette team for publishing the shoot, and for the feedback they gave to me regarding the published images. It really is an honour to be featured, and I hope this blog post has given a bit of insight into how I put the shoot together.
To the team, Zakirah, Jacqueline and Aphelele: thank you again for your help on the day and for making this shoot so special! It was a group effort and I thank you for helping to make it come to life. 😀
Special thanks to Craig at Direct Photographic for helping out with the equipment (and coming to my aid when we had some technical difficulties), and to Julia and the team at D&A Model Management.