Giving our female photographers a fair shot behind the lens
The Lampost Luminaries initiative aims to help talented young creatives who could be breakout stars break in to the male-dominated photography industry
It's no secret that photography is a male-dominated industry and that women scarcely get the recognition they deserve. For Lampost, a leading local photography and creative management agency, this is cause for change.
So, after a nationwide scouting process, a women-led team from Lampost selected four young female photographers to mentor and upskill in a 10-month programme titled Lampost Luminaries.
The four are:
- Thalente Khomo, whose work focuses on objectification of women's bodies in SA;
- Lebo Tlhako, who zooms in on youth in townships;
- Lili Ming, who introduces her feminine gaze into the male-dominated industry; and
- Basetsana Maluleka, who shines a light on marginalised voices.
These Luminaries hope that this initiative will be a stepping stone to dismantling the gender binaries limiting them — and many women — from opportunities that exclude them on the basis of gender.
It's time to make sure we recognise talent for what it is and give credit where it's dueBasetsana Maluleka, who took part in the Lampost Luminaries initiative
“I want people to see photographers as just photographers without saying we're females,” says Maluleka.
“It's time to make sure we recognise talent for what it is and give credit where it's due — instead of not hiring us as photographers who are women and because people think that we cannot do it.”
For Ming, it became important to spread a message of being confident in one's art. “Take opportunities, even if it's from a man, even though there's a hierarchy, keep pushing.”
The panel responsible for choosing the Luminaries consisted of creative director Kass Naidoo; Nandi Dlepu, founder of Johannesburg-based creative agency Mamashaka; and Jodie Ennik, founder of Lampost.
“I'm proud of how they have each grown in craft, skill and their discipline,” says Ennik. “This has been a busy 10 months despite Covid lockdown and they have risen to the occasion.”
The four were each given a monthly stipend while taking part in the mentorship, which was divided into three sections that helped hone their craft before they did a big shoot for Sunday Times LifeStyle (see below).
“It's been an inspiring 10 months with our first four Lampost Luminaries. Our mentors and sponsors have been incredibly important to this successful journey, and we are grateful to them,” said Ennik, who worked with Nikon, Glow Studios, SunshineCo. Jozi and Capture One.
Luminary Tlhako says young up-and-coming female photographers should “take all the opportunities available to you and kick ass”.
In a similar sentiment, Khomo advises women to take risks, just like she and her fellow Luminaries did.
“Put yourself out there and don't be afraid to demand your presence in a space. Always be willing to grow and learn to improve your skills in the work that you are doing.”
LUMINARIES SHOW OFF THEIR SKILLS
To allow Khomo, Tlhako, Ming and Maluleka to showcase their incredible photography skills, they were invited to collaborate on a shoot with Sunday Times LifeStyle.
The concept behind this shoot was to celebrate modern families through the lens of fashion photography. As such, the models selected included two sets of siblings, a father and daughter duo, and a group of friends bonded by fellowship rather than blood.
We asked each of the models to tell us what “family” means to them.
THE BROTHERS FROM DIFFERENT MOTHERS
Luminary behind the lens: Tlhako
In front of the camera (from top to bottom): artist Dudu Dube, illustrator and sculptor Sharp-Lee Mthimkulu, and designers Khotso Mahlokoane and Sakhile Cebekhulu. They are all friends and colleagues.
What family means to these friends:
“Family goes beyond the bloodlines, last names or obligations. To me, the word family includes all the people in our lives who commit to love and support us unconditionally. It is not a passive birthright but a choice; a discipline of kindness that helps us thrive as individuals and as a society.” — Dube.
“To me, family is a community that looks after one another. It is ubuntu; the coming together and the union of different visions. Family represents the different possibilities — it's a space of understanding and guidance.”
“Family is love. Family is building; it is not always blood-related, and it is wealth.”
“I don't have a deep philosophical meaning for it because it's just simple — family means everything.” — Cebekulu
Luminary behind the lens: Ming
In front of the camera: Twin brothers and models, Criza and William Teslin.
What family means to these brothers:
“Family means love regardless of blood relation. Whoever shows me love and acceptance, I will consider him or her as family and show the same appreciation.” — Criza.
“Family has a lot of definitions, but for me family is a place I can call home. A place I'm accepted and appreciated, not for what I have but for who I am as a person.” — William Teslin.
Luminary behind the lens: Khomo
In front of the camera: Siblings Didintle and Boipelo Khunou, who are an actor and filmmaker respectively.
What family means to these siblings:
“Family is about loyalty, respect, humility, kindness, appreciation and acceptance of one another. Holding space for each other no matter what their life experiences are, their past mistakes, how capable they are, how healthy they are, and who they love.” — Didintle
“Whether it is blood or a chosen connection, family is that group of people who you choose to open up your life to. They will love, trust and support you. They will also be honest without trying to control you, but rather guide you to be your best self.” — Boipelo
THE FATHER AND DAUGHTER DUO
Luminary behind the lens: Maluleka
In front of the camera: Luminary Ming and her father, Leo, a Tai Chi and Kobujutsu martial arts trainer.
What family means to this pair:
“It means culture, especially for me because I'm Asian. Culture is a rich heritage of learning traditions. It's also being physical, like when you are able to play with your family. In my culture there is food involved, which is a symbol for gathering and friends. Without family, you cannot connect to all of these things.” — Leo
“Family is hard. There is some form of obligation because it is blood so you feel like you need to be there no matter what. It can be hard when there's a lot of conflict, but because you're family you have to find a way to communicate and get through things together. At the end of the day, they are your support system when all else fails.” — Ming
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• Additional photo shoot credits: Production - Sharon Armstrong; production assistants - Sahil Harilal and Nombuso Kumalo; make-up - Lesley Whitby/Lampost; hair - Saadique Ryklief/Lampost using Balmain Hair Couture; Lighting - Glow.