We’ve all at some or other point in our lives probably heard the saying “A picture paints a thousand words”. In this article you’ll definitely understand why. It’s not every day that a photographer is passionate enough to immerse himself within the confines of a culture that is very far away from what he’s used to.
I recently had the privilege to catch up with local Cape Town photographer Luke Daniel and find out what he’s been up to in the last few months. He bares all in this interview, from his time spent in the Langa township (in Cape Town, South Africa) to being published in One small Seed magazine. And even some of his personal trade secrets!
So we’ve been seeing you and your work pop up a lot in our news feeds of late, plus we also heard something about a brand new studio in Cape Town? Tell us a bit about what’s been happening with your photography career?
Yeah, it’s been a busy year. Earlier this year I completed a photographic project, which is centered around day-to-day life in one of South Africa’s oldest Townships, Langa. I was also offered an amazing opportunity to open and run a photographic studio in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, with my great friend and co-owner Josh Watson. So between running South Line Studio and working on various photographic projects – it’s a crazy ride.
Congrats on the coverage in the latest One Small Seed magazine!, how did that come about?
The project that was featured in Issue 25 of One Small Seed, was LANGA. It’s a social documentary project that took about 3 months to complete. The photographic essay is a subtle investigation into the socio-economic issues which plague the community of Langa. It was never my intention to set out documenting ‘poverty’ – I never went in search of strife or adversity. In a place like Langa, documenting the struggle to survive isn’t a hard thing to do – it’s there, and you’d have to try hard to hide that. I just wanted to photograph the people, the community and daily life. The story developed over time, into one of a community unified through a shared adversity. A glimpse into the resilience of the human spirit in times of hardship. I’ve always admired the print quality of One Small Seed, and it was always my intention to have the project primarily print related. I’m not too fond of just uploading the images onto the web, and there they sit. There’s still something very special about print. It’s tangible and I feel it adds a type of value to the photographs. Hence plans for an exhibition and independent print publication of the work.
You definitely have your own unique style of photography. It’s always good when in amongst the masses of photographers, someone can easily recognize what you do. Would you care to share some of your workflow, gear preferences and maybe even one or two trade secrets?
Thank you! I guess genuine style develops over time, subconsciously. I’ve always looked up to the work of great social documentary photographers – Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Frank and Robert Doisneau. That’s also why I enjoy photographing in black and white – it forces the eye to concentrate on lines, angles, textures and tones – without the confusion of colour. In terms of workflow – I treat every shoot differently, which probably isn’t the most time effective way of doing things, but it keeps things fresh and exciting. Also, I almost never ‘shoot-for-post’ – I try capture the image I have in my mind, in camera. Photoshop doesn’t enter my mind, when I’m holding the camera. I keep my gear pretty simple – a few fast lenses for low-light shooting. I prefer shooting on wide-angle lenses, too – just because I like having to move into the shot/action. I do use wireless transmitters when working with off-camera Speedlites – which allows for some great mobile location lighting. A trade secret? Photograph, a lot – and often. Also, with reportage/documentary work – photograph situations that are out of your comfort zone. If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, you should be photographing. That’s where the magic is – there’s a whole world out there.
What sort of clients do you prefer to work with?
Documentary work wise, I always love working with publications that are open to unusual ideas and don’t shudder in fear under advertisers and corporate pressure. For more commercial work, it’s great when clients have complete faith in your creative process.
Where can people get hold of you online?
My website (which should be updated more regularly) is over here: http://www.lukedanielphotography.com/ My Facebook page (which is updated slightly more often) http://www.facebook.com/lukedanielphotography
Then check out the studio’s website over here: http://www.southlinestudio.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/southlinestudio
You can always give me a shout at [email protected]
Thanks for the interview, any last words or shout-outs?
Luke Daniel: Firstly, thank you to 1 AFRICA for the interview! Big love to Josh Watson and The Royal Vendetta Family. The Langa crew, Rock’em Fam and General Luthando Totose. Max Barashenkov, for taking me to Hopetown. Everybody else who has supported me and my photographic adventures thus far, thank you all.