It’s a Sunday afternoon, April 24 2016, when I meet FAKA, the Johannesburg-based duo founded by Desire and Fela Gucci.
We have only ever been in contact via email. I had emailed them one day, after seeing their work online, and wanted to know if I could photograph them. In the exchanges, which by then had been going on for at least a month, I had gushed over their work and they mine. But, I await them anxiously.
They finally arrive and the ice is broken as we talk about a few ideas I have in mind, which is to do editorial/portraits in a setting that is predominantly a “male space”.
With FAKA challenging society’s ideas about gender and homosexuality, I wanted a setting that was contradictory, but also scenic.
“I envision shooting the portraits in the men’s hostel,” I explain to them.
They take to the idea immediately and we set a date for the shoot.
On May 6, we meet in Gandhi Square. The weather is warm and sunny. We take taxis to Maponya Mall and head straight to Nancefield Hostel, which is the first location for the day.
Passing by in a taxi to visit my grandmother’s place eZola, I have often seen people outside playing music and braaing meat. I’ve always wondered what it must be like inside.
On our way to the shoot, we wonder if everything is going to go well, especially since hostel residents are always portrayed as violent and unwelcoming to outsiders. But, to our surprise, the people are chilled and welcoming. An elderly man gives us the go-ahead to shoot.
What’s really interesting to me in this photo, is the old Mazda van in the background, the bootlegged pants, the chain, polo neck, the fur coat, Desire’s nails and hands. The colour of the nail polish is burgundy, if I recall. I chose this image because it is multilayered; it feels like everything is stacked up on top of one another.
The next morning I take my films to the processing lab in Morningside. Walking to Noord taxi rank, I carry the films from the shoot as if they are important lab samples to be used for scientific research. That’s the feeling I get after a shoot, the idea that, when I’m holding film, those are the actual images.
It’s still quite a surreal feeling to me.