Thu Oct 27 15:01:30 SAST 2016


By Edward Tsumele | Jun 08, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LIKE his photographs , Oscar Gutierrez has been part of the evolution of Melville from a lily-white to a truly multiracial suburb.

LIKE his photographs , Oscar Gutierrez has been part of the evolution of Melville from a lily-white to a truly multiracial suburb.

Gutierrez, formerly from Yeoville, trekked when the legendary suburb's fortunes diminished in the late 1990s. He chose Melville as both his home and a place to party.

It is this lifestyle that has inspired the photographer and propelled him to point his camera in the direction of the society he is essentially part and parcel of.

In a way his photographs, reflective of the changing face and fortunes of Melville in the recent past, give an insight into its class complexity and reflects on its possible future.

Whether it's workers on a horse-drawn cart or Melville's so-called café society, Oskido, as he is known to his friends, has captured them all.

I am yet to meet a person, no matter how remotely connected to Johannesburg's coffee society or the arty class, who does not know the documentary photographer with his long, uncombed hair, short stature and unusual fashion sense.

He looks rather eccentric but at the same time somehow exudes an exotic demeanour.

Melville is captured by Gutierrez in its completeness as a multicultural microcosm of urban South African living.

Once Johannesburg's trendy cosmopolitan hub, the suburb's fortunes have fluctuated post-1994 and it is this capacity for re-invention that the photographer documents in an exhibition titled In Melville: The South African Microcosm.

The exhibition opens tomorrow in - you guessed it - Melville.

Gutierrez describes himself as a "Latino from Guatemala who grew up in the US and came to Africa for a holiday and decided to stay".

Since arriving in South Africa in 1994 to document a country in transition - a concept with which he was familiar, hailing from the troubled Central American country - he has worked on various photographic assignments for clients ranging from local NGOs and corporates to international groups as well as the South African government.

Living in Melville, Gutierrez is constantly struck by this edgy hub where artists, musicians and other creative types congregate, where second-hand book stores, café society and pavement culture reigns, where Bohemians mix with students and where interesting architectural specimens hide around every corner.

As the Bassline's official photographer when the iconic venue was situated in Melville, Gutierrez developed an intimate sense of what made this suburb and its revellers tick.

"It's a fascinating neighbourhood. The area has a character of its own. It is like no other place in South Africa or Africa that I have visited," Gutierrez says.

"People in this community are more willing to integrate with others," he says.

Gutierrez uses his camera to document the social impact of change.

His portraits of Melville life over the past 16 years promise to offer fascinating insights into the evolution of Joburg's very own Soho.

So head over to the Melville Centre, on the corner of 1st Avenue and 7th Street, to check out Gutierrez's beautiful photographs of a suburb in transition.

You are likely to bump into some of the leading lights frequenting Melville, frozen by Oskido's camera.


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