Marguerite Oelofse Cape Town, South Africa
Marguerite Oelofse was chosen by photographer Ulrich Hartmann
Laatikkomo’s interview with Marguerite Oelofse, May 12th, 2015.
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?
MO: I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. I completed a degree in Visual Communication before moving to Cape Town to pursue a career in photography. In the last three years I have worked in Cape Town and Berlin, Germany.
I love Berlin. My time there has definitely influenced my work. It has encouraged me to explore different elements of photography and further develop a unique style.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
MO: My father owned a camera and as a child I loved studying the photographs. It was fascinating to see how I looked like in a photograph and how family, friends and objects compared
L: What traits from your cultural history do you think are apparent in the photographs you currently make, – or are they?
MO: Tretchikoff and Irma Stern’s paintings continue to inspire me. The Afrikaner heritage and patriotism, affinity, language and pride are also cultural distinctions often visible in my techniques.
L: The settings or backdrops for your figures are subdued settings of light and colour. In an interview you described your work as a combination of both photography and art “I shoot therefore I paint”. What is involved in your “painting” process?
MO: I use lighting and post production painting to incorporate a three-dimensional dynamic in my work and bring my vision to life.
L: Your photographs work with a consistent visual expression. How do you choose your models? And do you always try to work with the same make-up and styling artists?
MO: The directive and story are essential factors when selecting stylists, hair & make up artists and models. The photographer has the final say in choosing models and during the shoot I direct them through the different plot points.
It is important to collaborate with people who share my visual interests and can help me fulfill my visual expression.
L: Your work emits a strange feeling of “otherworldliness” as you put it in your artist statement: something “from both the past and the present”. But there is also a dangerous kind of feeling: something that, to me, is reminiscent of Yo-landi Vi$$er (Die Antwoord). Perhaps it is my own ignorance of current South African culture, but are there similar influences, either way, between this South African music group and your photography?
MO: During Apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa instigated by the National Party (before 1994), many artists, regardless of their race, were exiled or isolated from their communities. This was mostly because their work did not conform to what the government considered ‘acceptable’. Local and international books and films were censored or even banned and due to economic sanctions initiated by the UN, this prohibited South Africa to trade with countries not governed by the UN.
Many people were not aware of the different cultures outside the country and others could not share their experiences of what was thought to be ‘foreign’ art and movements. This spurred people to find creative ways to express themselves without counterbalancing a collective outlook. Today, this need to innovate and unique self-expression are prominent among South African artists.
Cultural background, language, the spirit of the time and a collective unconsciousness, much of what has been influenced by Apartheid, are strong elements in my and Die Antwoord’s work. Die Antwoord made ’counterculture’ popular.
L: And, how much do you consciously choose to let current trends or cultural intrigue, guide your style of photography?
MO: Cultural intrigue and the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) are definitely elements that influence my style of photography.
Nuances of the past and present are however central themes in my work. South Africa’s history is a distinctive part of my heritage, but it is also the present that helps me transform my photographs into ‘otherworldliness’.
L: Your work primarily deals with portraits. What interests you most about the human face? What features do you look for in your models?
MO: Emotion is my enchanting friend. It is important to incorporate a strong emotive value in the story I shoot.
L: Can you give us your personal definition of beauty?
MO: I find beauty in an individual’s life experiences and when emotion can be seen by simply looking at them. I think this makes beauty different because there is depth, feeling and a narrative behind what is displayed on the surface.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words you were thinking about when you made this series (shown in Laatikkomo)?
MO: Baroque, Light, Still-life, Portrait, Caravaggio, Paint , Young Beauty
Thank you so much Marguerite!