We’re starting a new weekly series today. We ask photographers who make portraits of African subjects to introduce us to their work. Basically they pick their five favorite photographs, describe the subject matter, what brought them to the image and what kind of mood they were trying to capture. Our first guest is Zachary Rosen, an American documentary photographer who has worked in The Gambia and Lesotho as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His photos live at zacharyrosen.com and he blogs (occasionally) here.
“Katse Kombi,” his first pick, is the portrait above. Zachary:
In my photographic work I seek to document social transformation. My images depict the intersection of various influences on people and their environments; the traditional; the contemporary; the local; and the foreign. I document how the creative amalgamation of those influences produces new social contexts that are each unique. As active participants in what could be called social remixing, the subjects of my images challenge assumptions of static, shallow, generalized culture. My first choice is “Katse Kombi”. Just after sunrise in Lesotho’s town of Katse, high in the mountains of Thaba Tseka district, a kombi driver waits to load his vehicle with passengers from communities surrounding the mammoth Katse Dam. I took this shot as I was on my way to Lesotho’s capital Maseru after visiting a friend in the area and witnessing the spectacle of the dam. I happened to be under the weather as I rode this vehicle down the snaking road to the Maseru lowlands, but a collection of Brenda Fassie’s greatest hits on the car stereo improved the ride by reminding me that I’m no “weekend special.”
While in Lesotho, I was invited to a party in Mazenod at the home of a work colleague whose sister was graduating from the National University of Lesotho. In the photo, their father, a PhD and lecturer at the same university is moving to give a speech in front of their home. Family, friends and community members have come to partake in the celebrations and the feast.
In the middle of Coronation Park in Mbabane, Swaziland sits the community pool. A caretaker removes debris from the pool in preparation for the afternoon rush of children and families looking for reprieve from the Swazi heat. I laid eyes on the pool early in the morning on my way to catch a vehicle to Maputo and I just had to stop and admire its sparkling cleanliness and the aesthetic appeal of its geometric layout.
A man braais [BBQ’s] chicken and boerewors on the rooftop of the Keleketla Library, a media arts space in central Johannesburg, South Africa. Framing the scene are towering high-rise apartment buildings emitting a synchronized, wavering glow from the many televisions tuned into an evening soap opera. In the courtyard below, a crowd gathers to hear live jazz and DJs in an event sponsored by Chimurenga Magazine to launch their latest masterpiece, “The Chronic.”
A fine art painter dozes off in a shared studio space, strokes of color fresh in his mind. It was at this studio near the ocean in Maputo, Mozambique, where I met a painter named Viler, who had recently returned home after nearly 10 years in New York City. He brought the New York accent with him. After a few hours of exchanging stories about our travels, we agreed to collaborate on two new paintings, one for each of us. The next day we took taxis all over town to get canvases and finally as the sun went down we coated them with a base layer of white paint. Since the white paint needed to dry we passed the time at a karaoke bar in downtown Maputo, where the crowd overflowed into the street. By the time we returned to the studio the sun was re-emerging. With collaborative panache, paints were then brushed, splattered and splashed until the canvases were replete with color.