The Portfolio: Niamh Walsh-Vorster



This photograph is from a recent series of mine, Faith & Ambiguity. It was made during an incubator programme at the Market Photo Workshop. My initial project idea involved photographing strangers. Instead, I decided to photograph something familiar: my family and their connection to the Methodist Church, in an attempt to “return the gaze”.

One of the places I went to was the church I grew up in, the Manning Road Methodist Church in Durban. I went upstairs and sat in a corner, waiting for moments to photograph.

My images are often quite far away, as discussed in reviews. Even though this series was about being in a familiar space, it could be seen that I would intentionally place myself on the periphery and was once again “looking in”. This is where the ambiguity part stands out, more than in a religious sense.

Many of the people I photographed have watched me grow up, but from the photos you would not know of that intimacy. Some individuals are still present, and other people are vague names and faces. I think that’s an honest way of life. You meet new people, you reconnect with ones from years ago. In the broader series there are people I still see or speak to just as there are people I have no deep or existing relationship with.

Several individuals were comfortable with the presence of my camera, because of our existing relationship. My father Michael, a minister and former bishop; Lauren, another minister who I sometimes babysit for (and who has babysat me); Hazel, the secretary of the Natal Coastal Bishop’s office. There was never a negotiation of how the photos were made.

Had this series been more disconnected, and had I pursued the first project of photographing people I did not know, I would never have realised the importance of interrogating one’s own experiences of spaces. The collaborative aspect is more natural, albeit a challenge to make your own story translate well into a seamless visual narrative.

Select photographs have been exhibited at the Market Photo Workshop and The African Art Centre. A multimedia version is online here

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Niamh Walsh-Vorster
Niamh Walsh-Vorster is an Independent photographer and writer, based in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. She graduated in 2014 with a BJourn from University currently known as Rhodes in Makhanda, South Africa. Majoring in Journalism & Media Studies with Photojournalism as her specialisation. Her second major was Anthropology which was completed in 2013. She is the co-founder of the award winning e-zine, Ja. Magazine, and exhibited photographic work at The KZNSA Gallery, Cape Town Central Methodist Church, The African Art Centre, and in various public spaces. She has worked at Independent Newspapers in Durban and holds a 2016 BASA Arts Journalism Award for her review in Ja. She was part of the third Incubator Programme at The Market Photo Workshop, 2017 – 2018 in Johannesburg. Niamh has published written and photographic work in the Mail & Guardian, The Journalist, PLATFORM, ITCH, Between 10and5, The Different, Chips!, Creative Feel, YOCO, and Ignant. She is interested in deconstructing the white gaze in photography, and exploring contemporary racial dynamics in South Africa.

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