SA photographer Trevor Stuurman's Afrocentric style delivers 'sexy, Africa'

26 August 2018 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER
Trevor Stuurman, is making a name for himself across the globe for his trendy Afrocentric style.
Trevor Stuurman, is making a name for himself across the globe for his trendy Afrocentric style.
Image: Alaister Russel

Former US president Barack Obama complimented his suit, supermodel Naomi Campbell asked him to photograph her in Lagos, and US R&B singer Ciara did the gwara gwara for him on a Soweto street.

It's all in a day's work for South African photographer and creative director Trevor Stuurman, who is making a name for himself across the globe for his trendy Afrocentric style.

This month Stuurman collaborated on the video for Ciara's latest single, Freak Me, in which the singer, flanked by six local dancers, took to the streets of Orlando West.

Guessing that Ciara discovered him on Instagram, Stuurman, who co-styled the music video with his mentor, designer Rich Mnisi, said the brief was simply "sexy, Africa".

"I had a day or two for preproduction and then we met up and shot. It was an interesting project because of the time constraints, which were so tight. It happened so quickly, it all came out quite beautifully. It wasn't too planned," he said.

How did Stuurman interpret his rather vague brief of "sexy, Africa"?

In the two short video clips Ciara shared on her Instagram page, which have raked in close to 2-million views each, Ciara is seen wearing a zebra-print dress, black leather shorts by Mnisi, an indzila (Ndebele choker) and shades.

Stuurman with US singer Ciara
Stuurman with US singer Ciara
Image: Trevor Stuurman/Twitter

The back-up dancers are wearing xibelani (Tsonga traditional skirts) and African print dresses.

The video was officially released last week.

Stuurman is unfazed by this addition to his portfolio. That could be because this year he was commissioned by the Auma Obama Foundation to document the former US president's Kenya tour.

Before that, Campbell invited him to Lagos to document her at Arise Fashion Week in Nigeria.

Stuurman described the experience of photographing Obama as "life-changing", given how close he was able to get to the former president.

"It was one of those dreams I never knew I had until it happened. It just changes everything, your perspective, the way you see life, the way you see power and its proximity," Stuurman said.

He said he had been able to interact with Obama and described the job as "quite intimate" because of the nature of photography and how close he was able to get to Obama and his family. He recalls one stand-out conversation with Obama.

Trevor Stuurman, with former US president Barack Obama
Trevor Stuurman, with former US president Barack Obama
Image: @Trevor Stuurman/Twitter

"He complimented my suit. That was a great lesson in understanding my point of difference," said Stuurman, who prides himself on being unique and felt the compliment was an affirmation for him to continue being unapologetically different and to celebrate his difference.

Stuurman said Obama was "very warm and friendly", which is also how he felt about Campbell when he worked with her in April.

At the time he hailed the invitation to work with her as "easily the best gift I've ever received".

Stuurman, who hails from Kimberley, is the son of two entrepreneurs, which he says could be why he is so driven.

He said he owes much of his success to being named Elle Style Reporter in 2012 for his work as a blogger capturing Johannesburg street style.

"I was 19, the opportunity was so big. I got to travel the world and go to various fashion weeks and get an opportunity to showcase my talent on an international level," said Stuurman.

Stuurman with supermodel Naomi Campbell
Stuurman with supermodel Naomi Campbell
Image: Trevor Stuurman/Twitter

"I learnt how to become a professional creative and how to own my narrative, to use whatever platform I have to elevate my brand and my career."

Fast-forward six years and Stuurman has had his photographic work published in British Vogue, he's been featured on CNN and has spoken at the University of Oxford's Oxford Africa Conference about "reframing the African narrative".

He said: "Failing has never been an option for me. I realised that from a very early age. You just have to keep it moving. I think that's what life is about and ultimately what creativity is about.

"I haven't even started, I'm still learning and finding my feet and finding my voice. This is not it."