Welcome to the third edition of the Safrea Cover Showcase. Readers of the Showcase will know that our conversations are as much about the photographers as about their images.
Virginia Woolf said a long time ago in one of her diaries (and apologies for using a writer in an article about photography but that is my angle, and I think the principle applies to any artist):
Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life,
every quality of his mind is writ large in his works.
Today, we talk to Marinda Louw Coetzee about the unlikely angles I’ve found in her work – not because I’m an expert photographer but because I like the almost wayward slant. Perhaps because the different outlook on life resonates with what I often find forces me to the fringes of my world – where I end up looking in on what’s happening around me instead of being part of the action.
Marinda, I featured one of your infrared shots on the Safrea Cover Showcase earlier in the year, but I didn’t have a chance to play the journalist back then. Can you tell us a bit more about the infrared images of Rustenberg? They were all lovely and it was so hard to choose. Why infrared (IR)?
Rustenberg Wine Estate hosts its annual Open Garden Day in Stellenbosch at the end of October. The manicured shrubs and trees provided the perfect setting for some surreal IR photos. I love the way infrared shrouds foliage, water and other things of nature in mystery and turns them into art.
I’d still like to talk to you about my impression of your work, but the kinds of images you take, make me wonder about your background as a photographer.
I started more than 30 years ago with one of those flat flip-open Kodak numbers and have taken photos of friends, functions, family and foreign things ever since. My repertoire – expanded by my work as a journalist – includes weddings and funerals, people and products, interiors for guesthouses, agriculture, and lots of travel photography.
Many of the photographers I’ve featured on the MediaHub’s social media mention travel, almost as if it’s part of a photographer’s DNA. Can you tell us more about your own experiences?
I lived and worked in Germany and learnt the language while working as a winemaker on the Mosel River. What may seem like a romantic time was spent sticky and cold and hungry and homesick but was interspersed with memorable moments of eating slices of cream-landed cake in overalls next to the river or drinking bottles of sweet wine with rye sandwiches in the vineyards.
I love the anonymity of being a stranger in a foreign country but also the warmth of friendship when locals slowly start thawing as you learn their language and culture. I travelled to Iran for our honeymoon, shovelled snow at -29 0C in Canada, fished with locals in Vietnam and made compost in Scotland. Travel is hard work, expensive, and tiring but leaves the French doors of your mind wide open.
In the collection of photographs you submitted to the showcase, there were three photographs of footgear, one from a shot in the open street, the other from a passport product shoot for the Airports Company of South Africa, and the third from a shoot for the William French Guesthouse in Cape Town. Do shoes have some special meaning in your life – symbolising something, perhaps?
You have a keen eye, Helene! Oh, I do love meself some pretty shoes, but I guess I am drawn to the lesser-seen aspects of people and their things – the things below eye-level as it were. But maybe it has to do with the way we stand in the world. How solidly we are earthed.
Seeking out these ‘lesser-seen bits of life’ makes for unexpected elements in your images. But it’s not only the elements you use. It is also how you look at them. The little gate to the churchyard in Loeriesfontein and the bougainvillaea at the William French Residence might have been pushed to the recycle bin of many other photographers, and yet, you sent them as prime shots.
Yes. I guess many viewers might want the focus to be on the background (church or walking man), but often, the things right in front of us are overlooked (pun intended).
Perhaps this is why my overriding impression of the work you sent me was that of an art exhibition … almost as though there is an artist statement hidden in there somewhere. What would it be?
The ‘art’ aspect is not a conscious decision but may be due to how I see the world. Or, if I want to ingratiate myself, perhaps just my style of photography.
I find artist statements to be pretentious – as if intellectualising your work will give it more esteem or beauty. The work should speak for itself, and it should reflect something about the artist without the use of words. I guess I have never really thought of myself as an artist. As a pragmatist, it has always been ‘work’. So, no. I do not have a statement. But I do have a motto or something I live by.
I am here to create pockets of beauty.
With thanks to my editor, Gudrun Kaiser, for knowing what to do when I didn’t.
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