WORDS Yolanda Wessels and Athane ScholtzPHOTOGRAPHS supplied
In a digital age, fine art photography has limitless potential. From subtle changes in light and white balance to significant manipulation and compilation, Garden Route fine artists explore the possibilities with beautiful results.
“Fine art photography has really come into its own in the digital age,” says Knysna-based fine art photographer Alix Carmichele, whose atmospheric work is sold via online agencies to clients around the world.
“Photography as fine art was not recognised widely in South Africa until the last decade, when the advent of digital photography, social media and accessible photo manipulation software opened it up to creators and consumers of all talents, interests and backgrounds,” she adds.
Alix studied photography in London and has made a living through commercial and art photography since the 1980s. While she still works with film on occasion, she enjoys exploring new technology, such as an entire collection of atmospheric photographs shot on an iPhone.
“Other than adjustment to light, sometimes colour, and white balance, I don’t really manipulate my photographs much. I use my knowledge and experience with the principles of film photography and apply them to digital photography to create the effect in the original image, rather than manipulating an image digitally.”
Her ideas and themed exhibitions are inspired by everyday life as much as external influences and other art forms. “I will see someone walking on the beach, in winter with an umbrella, and want to photograph it, and explore the theme further. I enjoy, for instance, the atmosphere that desaturation of images creates.”
In addition to online agencies such as Orms and Room the Agency, Alix exhibits her work at Magpie’s Nest, a shop of beautiful homemade things she owns along with jeweller Emily Pointer.
ormsphotoart.co.za/shop/Alix-Carmichele/ Magpie’s Nest, The Tin House, 3 Gray Street
While Janelia Mould studied bookkeeping at the University of South Africa, she has always been a creator at heart. The Harkerville-based artist changed focus in 2015 when she stumbled across the work of American fine art photographer Brooke Shaden online. She was immediately captivated and could identify with her work. Janelia took out her digital camera, downloaded photo manipulation software and studied YouTube tutorials. “I taught myself to use my camera to its full potential and how to manipulate images to reach the end result I had in mind.”
Janelia does not hide the fact that 99% of her work has been manipulated. Her conceptual scenes are mostly surrealistic, something unexpected. “Through conceptual photography I tell a story or relate a message. In almost all the images I use myself as the object, because I find it easier to use myself as character. I don’t look critically at my self-image, but focus on the story I create.
“For both commissioned portraits and conceptual work, I enjoy using timeless costumes and try to create images with the feel of an old portrait, like those by old masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. I enjoy creating once-off Old World images that can be appreciated for many years to come.”
A life-changing conversation and an old dream are behind the inspiring work of Nature’s Valley fine art photographer Natascha van Niekerk.
After completing her photography degree at the Tshwane University of Technology, Natascha freelanced in commercial photography and lectured for nine years. “I always wanted to pursue fine art photography and had been mulling over most of the products I now have in my range since my student years.
“In 2013 my husband, Thinus, and I had a serious ‘what would you do with your life if money wasn’t a factor’ conversation and my entire product range jumped into my mind’s eye.”
The couple decided to take the plunge, sold their house in Pretoria and moved to the Garden Route. “It is a decision I have not regretted for even a second. The most incredible forests, mountains, lakes and sea surround us and from here I can dream up and produce my decor prints, fabric range and jewellery. My work is deeply inspired by the area we live in.
“Creativity takes courage; a constant spirit of risk-taking that drives you to keep on putting yourself out there, regardless of the fear of rejection and inadequacy. It is also a pioneering spirit, always seeking the new path, the better way, the more accurate manifestation of your vision.
“It is often a force that does not let you rest until what you have produced is your absolute best and has taken everything out of you, and even then lets you dream about tomorrow when you can, just perhaps, make it even better. Creativity is a way of life that permeates all until you know, in your deepest core, that you are a maker.”
nataschavniekerk.com PHONE072 347 3175 Facebook: Natascha van Niekerk Photography
Natascha will be exhibiting at Decorex Cape Town in April and 100% Design in August
RaQuel de Castro Maia
Professional graphic designer, photographer and illustrator Raquel de Castro Maia has a fine arts degree, specialising in digital media. She combines fine art and computer graphic skills to produce commercial and artistic work.
“My work explores natural themes and focuses on fine details and delicate aspects that are often overlooked. I have always had a very keen interest and love of nature and wild spaces. I feel man’s well-being resides in the preservation of these spaces.” Raquel believes artists have a huge responsibility. “We have the power to express visually and we can bring down bridges that separate cultures, religion and entrenched social barriers and beliefs. By visually expressing ourselves and communicating a personal perspective, we can change lives and ultimately circumstances that are far reaching.” She hopes to inspire others to recognise the fragility of the wilderness and the urgency that exists in preserving it.
In 2010 Raquel published Ephemeral, a limited edition book of macro photography of wild orchids found in fynbos environments in the Western Cape. “The photographs and composite artworks express my deep concern for the receding fynbos areas and loss of species we are experiencing as a result. Local wild orchids are a less prolific species and will suffer the effects of over-development and loss of habitat acutely, and so it was the main subject for this body of work.”