Creating The Black Family Album
There was once, back in the days of tactile photo albums, a kind of cordial custom in many Black homes used to welcome a new or long missed visitor. Along with the reception drink served in a special ornamental glass or cup from the “room divider”, came a thick family photo album for the guest’s sprightly perusal. My sitting in a Zoom-room with members of the Market Photo Workshop (MPW) family was nothing short of this nostalgic experience.
A diverse family from varied backgrounds framed together by a kindred love of story through the lens, Silas, Mosa and Mpho readily journeyed me through the pages of their album all the way to the empty ones where they imagine memories of future MPW talent.
I being one to never page through an album chronologically, I skip towards the very end and ask Silas which, among the plethora of reasons, is the one that he believes to be the spine that holds together the volume that captures, “come study at Market Photo Workshop”. With no bokeh of hesitation he replies, “why would you come here?” he pauses, muses as if adjusting his aperture and putting the perfect picture in focus, looks back at us on his computer screen, then proceeds, “If there is one reason to bring you to the Market Photo Workshop, it has to be that here you learn how to create images, not how to take them.”
Silas Nkosi is the Market Photo Workshop Manager of Curriculum and Training. He has worked as a freelance photographer since the year 1990 for various publications, corporates, and organizations. For almost a decade he has been a lecturer in different disciplines of photography for Tshwane University of Technology, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Pearson Institute of Higher Education, and Independent Institute of Education; he also served in a number of higher education boards, committees, and panels at faculty level and departmental level.
His extensive 30 years experience in the industry as photographer, academic, lecture, and curriculum developer has enabled him in his current position to source industry professionals for training, thus maintaining the MPW network between students and industry professionals; the students therefore do not just learn but also receive industry experience at the same time. Case in point is Zurich, Switzerland based multi-award winning photographer and MPW alumnus Mpho Mokgadi, who graduated in the year 2014.
Mpho picks out his favorite picture from the album; it is one of his relationship with former MPW director John Fleetwood, he reminisces, “During my studies at MPW, John Fleetwood introduced me to a Swiss architect who was doing some work in Joburg, since my line of work was along architecture and urbanism. We worked on a book together, it won awards around the world, it sold out, I toured, I…”
Realizing his mind to be on burst mode, he gleefully chuckles, slightly lifts his index from the excitement and continues.
“Essentially that collaboration established my career. I was then invited for a residency in Switzerland, told myself that I’m going to come back, and years later here I am, it’s been a year and a half and despite the challenges of Covid I’m working here. I would say the Market Photo Workshop opened doors to maneuver around and become who I am today, honestly. It’s about family!” He exclaims, “I mean, I used to see Mosa at the school and now she’s working there. That is family.”
Mosa Kaizer is MPW alumnus, Media Officer, and lens-based artist. Holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhodes University, and having found her studies to have been heavily academic, she went to study the MPW Advanced Photography Course (APC) in pursuit of a more hands-on and practical approach to photography.
“I very much achieved that goal of mine as MPW throws you into a world of photography, you get to network with mentors and people who are actually working in the industry. I came for exactly that reason and got what I came for,” she says.
She pages back to the pictures where MPW opens doors, but points out a different one, where a student is led to a door that they did not imagine themselves walking into.
“In 2019, the year after I graduated, I started interning at MPW, project managing a publication and exhibition from my previous class; that gave me a foot in the door… Project Management and Arts Administration are fields I never expected to go into, but I have found them super interesting in both skillset and path.”
The album is thick, and column space allows for limited depth of field. There is however a picture I requested a copy of, folded, and placed in my back pocket, this was Silas closing the album with, “We are very sensitive to the narrative of what it is that you photograph, what does it mean, and who are you collaborating with? We don’t have subjects, we have people we collaborate with.”
*Applications for the Market Photo Workshop 2021 courses are open. For more information visit: www.marketphotoworkshop.co.za of follow Market Photo Workshop on social media for instant updates.