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Martin Osner on the dynamics of photography

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Martin Osner is one of the few photographers from around the world who hold the distinguished title of ‘Canon Brand Ambassador’.

“Canon Europe invites professional photographers who shoot on Canon equipment and who feel they will contribute to their brand, to be a Canon Explorer,” shares Osner.

The renowned South African photographer who has taken pictures for more than 25 years states that photography connects us with reality like no other form and he also observes that photography is a dynamic medium that is both an art and a science.

“The camera allows us to alter reality using the dynamics of the lens, together with contrast, colour and depth.” As is the case with all art forms photography has had to change its aesthetic and adapt to new artistic cultures over the years.

There has been a transition from using ‘Film, Polaroid, and now digital; camera and software. “These have allowed for both camera as well as post-production experimentation. Photography is becoming more and more interesting, and now with 3D (photography and printing) things are about to get even more exciting,” shares Osner.

Lately the art form seems engrossed in the latest technologies to the point where critics wonder about the sustainability of photography as an independent art. Osner is adamant that the art will remain true to its form. He observes that people generally use the camera when they want to capture reality as closely as possible; in the case of capturing history and to a ‘lesser degree’ advertising photography.

Despite this he reveals that, “Many artists myself included, take advantage of the camera’s inability to record the scene accurately, and in my opinion it is this that allows for self expression and the creation of art.”

He shares examples of the growth and versatility of photography. “Look at the popularity that photography has drummed up in the high street galleries of major cities. It has become the new kid on the block and has attracted a young contemporary audience.”

Another platform keeping photography relevant is the digital or online medium which has given the art a boost and elevated its popularity in ‘a very short space of time’. The increased competition that came with the rise in technology has not threatened Osner. “With new photographers coming into the fold the cream still rises to the top, so the best will just get better, and this is exciting,” he adds with confidence.

Osner practices fine art but also enjoys most aspects of photography and likes to explore abstract photography. “I also enjoy hand-controlled art techniques like image transfers, hand painting of photographs and pinhole photography.” This he explains is the reason why as a subject photography needs to be understood and appreciated.

“Learn the technical craft, know your camera, learn how to use light, the artistic side of composition and design. Engulf yourself in art and the history of art. Visit exhibitions and follow the work of interesting photographers. Practice, practice, practice! Develop a style that is unique to you, and then you will be ready to stand up and be counted. It is one thing to pick up a camera and take a picture, but it is completely another to use the camera to successfully create interesting photography.”

Osner’s passion for his art led him to open his own professional and commercial photography studio more than 20 ago in Pretoria (SA) which he called the National College of Photography, this he says was a period when he was very experimental due to preparing for his lectures and when he started to create his artistic signature look; he was also heavily involved in the advertising industry and getting challenging assignments like creating and re-enacting major oil spills via the camera lens.  

Over the years he has accumulated numerous sentimental images however there are photographs that have stood the test of time and dramatically changed his career line. “One photograph in particular is from my ‘Abandoned Collection’, which I have been working on for about ten years. It was the very first photograph in the collection, of an old car sitting on top of a pole, out in the rural areas of the Free State (SA). This photograph dramatically changed my approach to photography.”

Until this point he had been studio based using controlled lighting and effects. After taking this particular picture he closed down his commercial photography business to force himself out of the studio and to go and shoot in natural light. This commitment and dedication to his craft has paid off in the literal sense.

Thus far the most expensive picture he has sold has been R60 000. “I have done a number of private commissions that have paid well, and in fairness to my clients I would prefer not to divulge pricing. Generally the prints in my gallery are fairly priced, and average around R10 000. The most expensive print sold to date at the gallery is R60 000.”

A cry a lot of artists can relate to is the lack of a dependable consumer market for art or fine art including photography. Even Osner has observed this trend on home ground through the sales of his images. “I have a stronger European and American audience than South African. I think this is because photography is so well received internationally.”  

Osner who thanks his wife, children and God for his gift and supporting him 100 percent is a firm believer in mentorship; both receiving and giving. He mentors The Midweek Sun photographer, Pako Lesejane and has four mentors he looks up to; two photographers and two painters.

“The great Ansel Adams for his majestic black and white photography. He was a technical genius. I base a lot of what I do on his “zone system” for exposure and contrast control. Henri Cartier-Bresson, a brilliant photographer for his interesting approach in portraiture and natural light documentary photography.

Henri Matisse the great painter, for his bold use of colour, and Jackson Pollock the crazy abstract painter.”

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Making outstanding art through waste material

Keletso Thobega

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Following one’s vocational calling can be a tall order in a world that still believes that white-collar work is the only way to make a living. No one knows this better than 28-year-old Khumoyame

Addam Ndove, who is a police officer by profession and an artist by vocation. While he is committed to his work as a law enforcer he dedicates most of his free time to making art. Ndove runs a company called Craft-eyed Designs which specialises in upholstery designing, artistic furniture and décor ornaments, mostly made out of waste materials such as empty oil drums, tyres and pallets, among others. The Francistown born and raised lad tells Vibe that his artistic journey started with a passion he had for art and using recycled material to create distinct new pieces.

One day he got an idea to try out a few art works and he went out to collect raw material and got down to work. “I knew I was talented in hand craft but had never explored my potential. I was impressed with what I managed to do. My work was interesting and outstanding. I also received positive feedback from the public and realised that this was something I could do out of passion and to complement my earnings,” he says.

Ndove explains that Art is a way of expressing himself. “I enjoy art because that is how I communicate and share what is in my mind.” He points out that he is also a businessman so selling his craft was not too difficult as he has the acumen. He however notes that the biggest challenge he faces is that a large number of Batswana do not appreciate art and therefore do not recognise the value of his work. Other challenges he faces include lack of operational space and shortage of capital.

He says that shortage of raw materials limits him from unleashing his full creative potential. Ndove currently runs his company alone and juggles it with his day job. He hopes to one day get an investor to bolster his business so that he can employ other people and grow the enterprise. “I would like to get a spacious workshop and showroom, and also hire relevant employees.” But doing what he loves makes him content. “Bringing an idea to life makes me fulfilled. I always feel great when I see my finished products.”

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BOMU awards go on…

Keletso Thobega

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The 10th annual Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) awards will be held on 26 January 2019 at GICC. Revellers should expect performances from Lister Boleseng, Nono Siile, Perion, Slizer, Matheke Letane and Kwaito Nation among others. Tickets are said to be already on sale through Webtickets.

The awards will also be broadcasts.
Over the past few weeks there has been confusion over whether the awards will go and this week Phemelo ‘Fresh Les’ Lesokwane officially confirmed that it is all systems go. Artists caused a stir this week on social media when they indicated that was confusion and miscommunication around the awards. But Lesokwane insists that there is nothing confusing going on as the interim committee had been planning the awards for a while now, and had even roped in sponsors.

He said that the awards had been organised since last week but they had to change the date due to a few glitches. Lesokwane says that they had opted for the people’s choice approach to awards. “We have given the public the power to decide who they want to vote for under the different categories. What happens is that when you vote you sms the category and name of the artist to 16565. We are then going to tally the votes when voting lines close on 23 January 2019.

We will then cut down the number of entries based on the number of votes. This will make the process easier for our judges, who will listen to the artists’ CDs and give them points.” He further said that having a high number of votes would not automatically mean that an artist makes it. “One might have many votes but with low quality music and we consider that. We are looking at quality
Lesokwane said that when former chairperson Pagson Ntsie was outsed, the awards were still open. “Registration is still on at BOMU office in Kgolagano at Main mall. Those who had registered can check their documentation.”

Last year BOMU was wrecked by infightings following a ruling that Pagson Ntsie is not the legitimate chairperson of the music body. The ruling was passed in August by the Registrar of Societies. The ruling came following investigations regarding adherence to the BOMU Constitution and corruption claims. Accusations of financial mismanagement and poor leadership also cropped up.

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