23 November 2012

Namibia: Students' Works a Stepping Stone

Windhoek — The first impression of this exhibition at the Blue Frog Restaurant is that it is obviously work produced by rank amateurs. It could not be anything else, and if it was, it would have managed to get gallery space. It is not pretentious in the least. The images were produced by the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC)'s photography students. One therefore, expects to experience the outcomes, warts and all. But, keeping in mind the context, the various portfolios are not bad.

Of course, it is a body of work that many would tag as snapshots, and that is not a derogatory term at all, considering the fact that everyone with a camera in hand, does exactly the same. What is not immediately clear is whether all the works are digital images, or whether some were produced as analogue photographs. The black and white images could very well have been produced in the FNCC's own darkrooms, in which case, it casts a whole different light on the exhibition.

Analogue has always been regarded as the progenitor of the photographic image as we know it, and if exhibitors like Johanna T. Shapaka's portraits were indeed produced by the analogue method, then she ought to be congratulated! But, in the absence of any documentation, it cannot be confirmed.

However, her works is typical of the genre. The great Canadian photographer Karsh, comes to mind when one views her work. Winston Churchill was one of the famous people that Karsh photographed in his lifetime. Shapaka's photographs while not of that quality, does evoke memories of the great man.

But, as one moves from one exhibitor to another a few times, there are other little happy pictures that are worth a mention. Simone Steidler's images of children, are of the biographical kind, and will have more meaning a few years from now. The power of the snapshot should not be underestimated. Without them personal histories would be almost non-existent.

Merle Jaftha shows two portfolios. One deals with Men At Work, which is the title, and the other consists of just two images from a rural setting. Her work has all the feel of the analogue process.

The images are not as sharp as they could have been, and that might be due to poor camera settings, together with commercial colour processing. Again, no information is available at the venue.

Panduleni Hailundu has two photographs on show, and they are Girl on Canvas and Two Girls. Both have been posed for the camera, and the tutoring has not taken that into account. There are a number of images that show preconceived poses, which take away the spontaneity that Photography should provide. It is an observation that is common to the exhibition, which relies heavily on the human figure.

The stand-out image in this showing has to be Cambridge-London, by J.A. Engelbrecht. It is a picture of a street light, which has been well composed and cropped, and consists of about three different elements carefully balanced to create a simple, but successful image.

For what it was supposed to achieve, this showing of student work provides a stepping stone to better picture-taking in future. All efforts should be encouraged.

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