#Fotografi And Why Taking Charge Of My Shit’s Important

I’d get frustrated by the turn-around times of photographers during my time as a regular live show reviewer. I decided to invest in my own camera equipment and started making my own images which would accompany the stories. This I also did after realising that little to no imagery of the contemporary. mostly black artists I wrote about featured on-line, and that whatever little there was, wasn’t owned by black people.

This continues today.

Conglomerates spearheaded by people who’ve no in-depth knowledge and understanding of culture — and have yet to demonstrate a concerted effort to learn — are by and large taking charge of telling stories, often portrayed inaccurately, of underground subcultures in which young people of colour dominate.

(Red Bull wadup doe?! I smell ya b, on dat bullshit!)

A few months into making my own images and getting them published on-line — through Mahala at the time — I noticed an uptake. The images begun to appear elsewhere, often uncredited. This was always the plan. My thinking went along the lines of: No one’s willing to put me on, so Imma go full-on graf mode and stay up on every http on Internet avenue. It’s around the same time that I reached out to my homegirl Pumla, who designed the Nemesis Republik logo.

A year or so into that huslte, I noticed that logos on pictures didn’t dissuade people from stealing work and repurposing it without credit.

Cropping is a thing; they did that.

#Fotografi’s what followed.

I begun the shift towards making Ntsoana a platform where I could post photo-related work I did that got published in newspapers and magazines, and on-line. Under #fotografi , I could credit myself and archive these instances. Indeed, it’s no one’s moral obligation to acknowledge me; it doesn’t mean I should just nje chill, fall back and be okay widdit.

Yo, word to the wise: The world will make you feel like your contribution is worthless and that your words and images ain’t shit. It doesn’t mean you ought to adopt the same line of thinking.

I’m now able to keep an archive of what gets used and where, and to seek credit where absolutely necessary, like this recent Mail & Guardian article which used my image of superhero Phumlani Pikoli and credited it to the wrong person*. (The picture editor did this despite me labelling the image such that it’s easy to tell who it’s from, and going the extra mile to include all of that information as part of the metadata.)

The disrespect levelled at we who don’t have our seats at the table guaranteed continues to try me in new and faktap ways. The undercurrent, the bellow of the voice of reason, implies the same message. Always.

You don’t belong, it tells you.

And I don’t have to fight to belong, but I sure as fuck can take charge of that which I worked hard on. And as someone said to me on Twitter recently: It’s not that we ain’t accustomed to these people; we’re just tired of being accustomed to these people.

* This has since been rectified

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