The Portfolio: Tsakane Maubane

There is a heroism to photographing on film in the age of the fourth industrial revolution. It harks back to when being a photographer took a little more than charging one’s batteries and backing up memory cards.

The mind would take the photograph countless times before the actual deed, every single frame given great consideration before an exposure. A great number of variables were at play before one even produced a physical photograph. Then there was the development, which came with the possibility of overexposed film, or maybe a film technician having a bad day.

This photograph of takkies on Second Beach in Port St Johns is from the turn of the century, a formative phase in my photographic career. Two point eight the f stop, it will have been, from what the bokeh — the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus blur in the image — suggests. It remains a favoured aperture setting.

Those were the days when we would traverse “Johazardousburg” on foot to open-mic platforms held at places such as Jungle Connection in Doornfontein, Time Square in Yeoville and Monday Blues in Brixton. There, we’d catch artists such as Roots 2000, Cashless Society and others still honing their performance skills.

As they practised to be personalities in showbiz, I practised my craft using them as my guinea pigs. On the evidence of my photographs at that time, Simphiwe Dana would, by far, be considered my muse.

One of the side effects of my photography is that I am an ardent walker. The craft gave me an intimate knowledge of the city and locations I could later bring my star-sprinkled friends to for photoshoots.

Having thus identified a location, I’d insert my subject into an environment that piqued my interests. My graceful models, assailed by all manner of odiousness, bore a lot of suffering during these inner-city excursions.

This photograph is an example of some of the traits inherent in my picture-making. There would have been deliberation on what photograph to expose, having gone that far to the Wild Coast with limited film stock. I had an old faithful, a Canon EOS 3 camera, which was very straightforward to use. I can only wonder now what my subjectivity demanded to leave out of the frame when I decided to insert the takkies. As one who resides in the city and uses its spaces as a studio, what I love most about the image is the absence of the human figure, the absence of the world of humans, which one usually finds in my work.

The bokeh tells me that the pleasures of shooting on film will always be greatest, no matter what.

I read once in an old photography tome that, having framed up and exposed a photograph, one should do a 180-degree turn and look at the converse of the image. To look at the reverse always is my life’s lesson from photography. — Tsakane Maubane on his photo TJ 10

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