ES: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
S: Initially, I became a photographer thinking that I would have a job that pays me to travel the world. That is obviously still my dream (apart from working for National Geographic one day), but as you grow as a photographer you learn that being a photographer gives you a voice that is quite unlike a voice that anyone else has. Photographers create images from instances in time that actually existed, even though the images are a result of the imagination/mind, they carry with them a sense of authenticity. It is this sense of authenticity that gives photography its power. And it is this power that photography carries with it that I wish to harness, so that I may be able to express myself the way I want to. This has become my new goal as a photographer, which is more important than travelling and making money.
ES: Who are your artistic influences and what have you learnt from past artists in your field?
S: Visual artists who inspire me? I have a few people who I could say were part of the reason why I decided to become a photographer, James Nachtwey being one of them. I have a few personal photographer friends who inspire me. The one that stands out most in my mind is a man named Garth Stead. Garth was the best photographer I ever met in person. He was also undoubtedly the best picture editor in Cape Town, possibly South Africa. Sadly he can’t carry on teaching us photographers the way he used to, he passed away last year. The other inspiration I have is a youngish photographer who works at foto24 in Cape Town, his name is Michael Hammond. He is a photographer with a particular knack for portraiture, and is already developing a style of his own, and his reputation amongst the photographer fraternity is growing.
ES: What is the hardest shoot/job you've been on so far?
S: If you were to ask me what the most difficult shoot is I’ve ever done, I’d probably tell you about a job I was sent on one late afternoon about 20 kilometres outside of Cape Town on the N7. It was a motor vehicle accident involving three trucks. When I arrived on the scene, the road was covered with the contents of the trucks, which included beer, and milk cartons. The thing that made it such a difficult job were the five corpses lying on the road, on the axel of one of the trucks, next to the road, and one hanging out of the driver’s side… All the bodies were covered in slightly blood-stained white sheets. Post-traumatic stress works strangely, while I was there I was totally ok, but for days afterwards I couldn’t help but see that accident whenever I closed my eyes.
ES: If there's one boundary or misconception you could knock down about photography, what would it be?
S: If there is one misconception I’d like to do away with, it’d be that digital photography is in some way better, superior, etc, than the traditional film technology used before. I could go on for ages about the advantages and disadvantages of both technologies. I count myself fortunate because of the fact that I have used both technologies, as new and up and coming photographers today never learned photography with film. Each technology has its advantages, and I think that both need to be learned and understood so that you will be better equipped to tackle any photographic assignment.
- You can visit Stephen's blog to see his work.