Escaping the city and Dark Light


I escaped city living through a temporary house swop, a friend who had built her dream home away 3 hours outside of cape town needed to return to the city for work and medical treatment, I wanted out of city life. It was a wonderfully mutually beneficial arrangement that lasted for two and a half years before we managed to extricate ourselves from each other’s houses. It enabled me to without major financial commitment establish a life away from a city dependence.

I have not looked back and seven years later, I still live a rural life. My reason for leaving the city were many but the driving force was that I was changing careers from a documentary filmmaker back to my first love, art. I studied fine art formally at university but found that other interests and adventures pulled me in directions I had never anticipated. Studying art is both a blessing and a curse. It enables you to situate yourself within an art history context expanding your visual and cultural references and for this I am grateful. But it also stifles spontaneity and for me it severed my trust with my instinctual creativity because, so I was taught, there was a “”right and wrong” way of going about things according to lecturers biases. It took me five years of an chaotic, anarchist, experimental life in Berlin to undo my formal art education. And by that time I was more interested in filmmaking.

Filmmaking led to photography and that was a big reason why I left the city. I began an intense series of transformative self portraits using a photographic technique called “light painting”. The technique enabled me to transcend the solid flesh of my body and capture elemental energy forms. In all the portraits I am completely naked. Clothing felt too restrictive and identifying. I became immersed in discovering ancient, inner, mythological archetypes which were re-interpreted through my 21st century perspective. In order to access these much deeper layers, I needed intense focus, a lot of wild space, and quiet, exploration I found impossible in the pressure, noise and congestion of the city.

The mythological self portrait series I termed ‘Dark Light’ for I felt I was making the unknown visible, through (my own) embodied form in a way that could be captured on camera. It was immensely liberating as I felt I was finally freeing myself from a voyeuristic male gaze I had inadvertently internalised my whole life and was. It turned out to be a full time three year project, discovering and presenting myself through my own eyes.

During this time, I was taking long walks through exquisite fynbos which I was fortunate enough to be living in the midst of. It felt very organic that I transferred the same light painting technique and intense vision into exploring flowers. In fact one Dark Light sub series is the mergence of my female form with various proteas. So began my fascination with flowers, plants, expanding to insects and animals.

Escaping the city and Dark Light

Printing midwife

Artists need a series of midwives to take their creations out into the world, printers, framers, gallerists, publicists and more …

As a digital photographer, one of my most important midwives is the printer. Before being printed my images are gestating in the belly of my computer.

Photographs look marvelous on a backlit screen, especially the high resolution screens of my camera and the computer. The hard part is to translate that brilliance of light, colour, texture and clarity onto dull absorbant paper.

From screen to paper, this is where the magic happens or this is where the deep disappointment begins. These days one doesn’t have to physically go into a place to hand over high res image files, they can speed through the net to their destination and return, via courier, printed.

This is a most nerve wracking time, as at that point, I have never seen a whole, full resolution printed image. I have only seen a test print sliver of it. I imagine it’s like having horse blinkers on, one can only see whats in front and not the sides. For one exhibition I never saw the full images until they were framed and hanging in the gallery. Giving birth, from digital to physical is a nail biting time, one needs a printer midwife one can trust.

The first question I am always asked when people look at my images is, “What is it?”. I know people are not referring to my subject matter, but are referring to the fact that they can’t work out whether the image is a painting, a drawing, or a photograph. I enjoy leaving them in that liminal, ambiguous space and refer the question back to them, what do you think it is? They usually go through a series of out loud deductions, well the colour looks like rich watercolour, but the image looks so sharp yet in places it is blurred…

People seem to need to satisfy the left brain with the technical details first before they can proceed to visually appreciate the image. They often reach their own conclusion that the work is a mix of painting and photography. This is not too far off a mark since the technique I use is I termed light painting but I tell people that they are looking at a photographic print. This usually really surprises them.

I tell them that I have a special printer who creates this magic for me and they are called ArtLab and are based at the Biscuit Mill in Salt River, Cape Town.

Prints of my images from ArtLab are always super sharp, full of rich color, bright with light with the blacks are how I like them, deep and velvety. Getting that balance right is a trapeze act and I can honestly say that I have never been disappointed, no not even by one print.

For the sake of transparency ArtLab have sponsored some of my exhibition printing, but they would get a glowing review, sponsorship or not.

Printing is the most crucial for photography, it brings an image to life or asphyxiates it.

With ArtLab I have found my printing midwife.


Printing midwife