A few weeks ago I met film photographer Andile Buka. These meetings would go on for a few more weeks because I borrowed his copy of the 45th issue of GUP— an international photography magazine that caught my attention all the way from his bookshelf. What was interesting about our encounters was that they became more than just about a shared love for photography, but also an eye-opener on some of the challenges that we both face as photographers as well as the growing concerns about the South African Photography industry and Art Space. South Africa is fountain of endless talent and skill. Our history, diversity and landscapes offer a variety of subjects and concepts which photographers explore. However, photographers in South Africa still have challenges when it comes to the acceptance of photography as an art form – which becomes a problem when looking for access to gallery spaces. Also we have a lack of a well-established photography communities and photography dedicated publications such as GUP.
The Importance of GUP Magazine
GUP is a dope spot to visit if you ever find yourself trolling the internet for some inspiration or looking to start an art photography book collection. The importance of such a publication cannot be overstated in a world where everyone with an iPhone and DSLR views themselves as a professional or conceptual photographer. What the GUP team do really well is move away from all that camera and gadget porn talk that every other photography magazine gets a hard on off of. To these guys, the aesthetic and concepts explored in the work is more important than which lens or what focal length the work shot on. Each photographer has a particular story or message to add to the arts continuum from documentary style photographer Joan Fontcuberta seen on page 100 to 111 or Danila Tkachenko’s search for deserted areas across Europe seen on Page 150 to 159.
GUP magazine seems to select only the creme des la creme of photography. The style of writing is versatile, with both long and sometimes short features that explore photography and its community’s i.e. global events, and exhibitions as well as meaty biographies and interviews. Above and beyond that, their content is also published in a quarterly magazine that you can purchase off their site at a yearly subscription of € 34.00 or € 10.00 per issue.
Bringing this back to the conversation with Andile, what we both noticed about the publication was the amount of significance it has in the international photography scenes. The plethora of skill and varied approaches to photography is clearly evident in their features and interviews. The number of events, photo fares and awards they share demonstrates that they are the bona fide “go to publication” on international photography and its happenings. However, the magazine has featured few if nothing about Africa or its photographers, even though we had been looking towards it for inspiration. This is understandable though, the magazine is headed up in Netherlands. Europe has long been the center of photography since its invention in the 1930s. Some of the world greatest photographers such as Eugene Agtet have graced us with images of the streets, landscapes, and European life. Paris Photo— the largest photo festival, is also headed up in France. Photography and Art are more part European culture than in Africa. In Europe, Art is everyday life.
A Need for African Content
What GUP does is really nothing extraordinary with sites such as photography-now.com doing the same. However, GUPs publication sets it apart from other contemporary sites. These are platforms where artists and their communities can meet and discover each other. The content is syndicated across varied photography exhibitions, awards, and the photographers are a particular caliber of talent, found on what has become the home of conceptual photography.
I do not believe this can be difficult to achieve in Africa. We have a plethora of talent waiting to be discovered and published. The world is shifting its attention- as ever so often- to Africa for inspiration, content and contexts. With the current African renaissance taking shape, we need a GUP-styled African Publication, A dedicated home to discover and learn about what African conceptual photographers are contributing towards the global arts continuum. Understanding how far we can and are pushing the global aesthetic of photography.
Again, the importance of such publications and platforms cannot be overstated. It’s often unfortunate when tourists come into our various countries and communities to try articulate our stories when they are far detached from them. Then what do we do? We Cry foul. Now is the time that we develop our own stories and control the kind of messages that are said about and for us. Zanele Muholi is one great example of a photographer who took up a stand on the kind of images that are put out about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community which she has a close affinity to. Her story, and that of the community she represents, has catapulted her into a global phenomenon, with shows in New York and around the world.
Technology has put the camera in our pockets as the camera has become a part of our daily life. It is upon us to articulate and add a strong voice about whom and what we are. These messages, through the right channels such as GUP, can and will resonate through the years to come. Shaping the next generations understanding of who they are and what they can become, releasing their true potential. Who knows, maybe the next Da Vinci is one of us?