Monday, 14 December 2009

Random moments from a day in the city

Pin It Part of Durban's public relations for the summer season was to take media on an excursion around some of the lesser known spots of interest in the city. In part, this is as a result of the city beaches being under major construction ahead of next year's Soccer World Cup and in part to kindle an interest in township experiences. For those of you who are not South African, townships refer to large, sprawling and generally poor areas that were home to the black workforce in the apartheid era. Today, they are a mixed bag of poverty and upmarket housing as South Africa moves very slowly towards some form of equality. As such, the experience of being in a township can range from vibrant to depressing, from safe to scary and from poor to very suburban, depending in which part of which township you are in- and when.

Our first stop was Umgababa Beach, once the principal (and almost only) holiday beach you could go to for a vacation in this area if you were black, as only white people were allowed on the beaches close to the city. Today, its tired infrastructure is gradually being repaired, but it has a long way to go. It is gradually losing its apartheid stigma and becoming popular again as a place of choice rather than enforcement.

I focused some of my attention on looking at urban landscapes both here and in Umlazi, a major township to the south of the central city. I'm interested in urban landscapes, free of the pristine natural areas as in traditional outdoor photography, and I am interested in the way landscape takes its form, and hence its visual messaging from the people that inhabit it, exploit it, protect it, destroy it, or whatever choices they make spatially.

The billboard on "whiteness" raises a few eyebrows in a traditionally "black" area, and it is an advertising campaign that has created, with good reason, controversy nationally. The visual messaging with the white sky that almost dissects the image in two says something to me - and it may or may not, to you. This, and one or two of the other images, like the low cost housing - shoebox houses, were shot at speed from a moving bus rather than being carefully planned with tripods. This, is of course, a pity, but sometimes, there is no choice but to seize the moment.

Nikon D300

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A short train ride

Pin It This little steam train, one of the last of a few survivors of the grand era of rail in South Africa, runs along some hilly countryside to the west of Durban, from Kloof Staion to Inchanga, in the Valley of a 1000 Hills. It's run by a small band of rail enthusiasts who swap their weekday suits for boiler suits and a coal shovel and keep the whole thing going for the love of rail and all things mechanical. The weather was rainy and quite magical on this late November summer afternoon.

I wanted to show that anyone can tell a documentary story through images. You don't have to be a war photographer or document poverty to tell a story. A simple two hour train ride can be filled with material. And you can do it quite well with a family camera, like the Nikon D5000.

Nikon D5000