By Zash Chinhara
When I was just starting out in photography at university, I was privileged to be around a lot of young artists. Although it seemed I had an eye for photography, my major was Marketing Research. So as a self taught photographer, I appreciated the proximity to “real artists” as a way to learn more aesthetic ways to shoot. During this time, one of my workmates and I had struck up a friendship. He was a brilliant digital artist, and I was always in awe when he would casually sketch up some mini-masterpiece on his iPad in the space of an hour lunch break. During one of his sketches I asked him why he hadn’t held a gallery show showcasing his art. At this point I’d seen him draw hundreds of images. His answer was simple; “I don’t have anything to say yet”.
That phrase has stuck with me throughout my photography career. See, I thought I was just making pretty things to look at. I thought that’s what artists do. While I still take and put out images that are purely aesthetic, I’ve always been aware of the impact of imagery. So even when I started my company with my friend, we always obsessed over imagery, The use of colour in a movie, the emotions that different angles give to an image, the correct colour temperature to put on a wedding photo. I mean, we get REAL nerdy about it. There are probably hundreds of photos on your phone right now, you can easily devalue the impact of a photo. But all these images are pieces of history. Documentation of how we live in this place, in this time.
That’s informed how I work as a Zimbabwean Photographer, and I say “Zimbabwean photographer” because I really take the title seriously. I have taken wedding photos, corporate photos of building projects, High fashion photos and street photography. But the underlying ethos of all my photos that I take for myself, is my “Zimbabweaness”(not a real word, I know, but indulge me). Sometimes there is a strong focus in the Zimbabwean photography scene to be “just as good” as our international partners, but in this pursuit, we can try to erase Zimbabweanness from our visual pursuits. No shade intended Lord knows I’ve had my phase of “international standard” photos. You know the type. “It doesn’t even look like it’s in Zimbabwe”. But it IS in Zimbabwe. Maybe it’s an embarrassment of ourselves or our current situation? It would probably take a much longer article than this to break that down. But I’m now very clear on the philosophy behind my photos. I am declaring a Zimbabwean narrative. Not THE Zimbabwean narrative, but one of many. I am very proud to showcase every aspect of Zimbabwe. The bad does not define a country, neither does the good. Good, bad, ugly and beautiful Zimbabwe shines through in the photos I’m most proud of. And it seems the world is listening and responding. A few weeks ago, my words and my art were showcased in a BBC article about African Photographers changing the global African narrative. Seems I’ve found my “something to say”.
Images provided by Zash Craft
Ndeipi Magazine, Issue 115 http://ndeipi.co.zw