Powerful philosophy of art of photography

Kgomotso Kgopa's prowess behind the lens has been an inspiring self-taught and organic journey.

The man from Lebanon in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, started taking photos in 2011 after his mother bought a laptop that came with a bonus of a phone which had a good camera.

Kgopa says he shared these shots on Facebook and received encouraging feedback. But his parents wanted him to finish his education, so photography was on the back burner as he focused on his electrical engineering studies at Tshwane University of Technology.

In 2013 he did practicals and with his first pay cheque, he bought himself a Canon Powershot camera ostensibly to record his electrical engineering projects. But, off he went to photograph flowers and insects.

"I thought nature was simpler and accessible, not intimidating at all. It's an easy subject to practice with," he recalls.

"I consider myself a street photographer. I'm not bound by rules. Everything around me is art. For the fact that I didn't go to school, I'm able to see all the elements and am not restricted by rules they teach in class."

Kgopa also writes poetry.

He's had to sharpen his focus and attention to detail. And this is evident in his work. Timing is everything as well as the composition and the element of surprise. The colours and ambience translate beautifully.

"Photography has taught me the skill of patience, that I have taken into my personal life.

"You have to wait a little longer before a magical moment happens. I've also trained my eye to be alert. I kneel down and look closely, almost like I've lost something. That's how I have managed to capture some of my photos."

His work was snapped up by The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (Aware.org), an NPO focused on preventing the negative consequences of alcohol abuse.

Now his black-and-white photos are part of its branding as well as its website.

The photos celebrate youth exuberance and precarious innocence that can be shattered by alcohol abuse in communities.

Most of his repertoire is taken in Lebanon, where he was born and grew up. He describes it as a small township where everybody knows each other and has two schools.

He knows every corner and today draws delight in finding art in places where he played as a child. He captures the beauty of childhood in his shots of children kicking up a storm playing with old tyres in the streets or shooting di-ali (marbles).

Another favourite spot is the nearby Boekenhout village which has a wetland, and it's here where he takes most of his nature shots - centipedes, flies, butterflies and lizards take on a romantic hue under his lens.

"The response has been amazing. People who saw my work when I started with the phone have been surprised by how I've perfected my art as I grow."

Kgopa is now doing his postgraduate. He is a man on a mission. He registered his company, Seed Ink Pictures, in March so he could take his career to greater heights.

"I want to achieve more and project societal issues and be more conscious through my work. I'd like that people can tell the state of our economy and society through my work," he says.

"I also dream of working with brands on their concepts. I want to speak through photography, not just the beauty of the image, but the message.

"I want to have a bigger name and be published. I'm an all-rounder, covering nature, social events and street art. I want to take my craft internationally and come back home and teach the youngsters in the township and at a later stage have an exhibition."

He believes that with so much technology around and the apps that make photography easy, it's the philosophy and approach you subscribe to that will set aspirant photographers apart from the rest.

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