Friday

Subtle gestures in the suburbs

Jessica Hunkin

Hanro Havenga set out to capture everyday life on the West Rand with his BestRand project.

Hanro Havenga's BestRand project tries to capture everyday life on the West Rand.

“I love people watching, I always have,” says photographer and sometime filmmaker Hanro Havenga.

Born in Johannesburg to a quantity surveyor father and a mother who was a travel agent, Havenga grew up in Florida, Alberton and Weltevreden Park in Gauteng. He was initially interested in design more than photography and used his camera to create the images he saw in his mind’s eye but couldn’t draw.

His photographic journey took a pivotal turn towards the end of his matric year when he began to document the youthful pursuits of his friends. Soon this led to shooting bands and eventually touring with groups such as Dead Alphabet and Desmond and the Tutus.

After a few years of misadventure and confusion, Havenga began his photographic studies at Vega and he has been working as a professional photographer ever since he graduated from the course. “For the most part I like to see myself as a street photographer. I shoot the way I shoot, just like someone draws, dances or writes,” he says of his style and approach.

In 2011 Havenga began 500 Days of Photography, a self-appointed project in which he took and published a new photograph every day for 500 consecutive days. This allowed him to hone his skills and to develop a clear visual aesthetic that now characterises his professional work.

Following on from 500 Days is Havenga’s current project, BestRand, which started in September last year after he acquired a compact Fujifilm camera. He began to document his daily sights, starting in the West Rand but soon extended this to include other places. BestRand has become an ever-growing photographic archive, catalogued on his Tumblr account of the same name.

The project comprises a mixture of portraits, places and objects that examine the characters and characteristics of the Gauteng suburbs. Seemingly mundane at first glance, the images reveal a more complex narrative through subtle gestures and observations. In terms of process, Havenga describes BestRand as “quick on the draw shooting” in which very little, if any, post-processing is done.

His approach to his commissioned work, however, is more formal and often involves complex pre-planning and post production. “I see it in two ways,” he says. “Work that’s on my blog Hello Clarice is one style and BestRand is its alter ego. Both have the same fundamental idea or thought behind them, but they have different personalities.”

BestRand allows Havenga the freedom to create at his own pace, unbound by any constraints. Although he isn’t able to pinpoint how and when it might slow down, speed up or ultimately end, he intends to allow the project to grow with him, and him with it. “Truthfully,” he says, “it’s neither here nor there – not California, Krugersdorp, Weltevreden Park, Johannesburg’s CBD or New York City. It’s like my own personal theme park.”

For more information, visit bestrand.tumblr.com. This article is adapted from an interview with the artist that appeared on the creative showcase site 10and5.com

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