21 March 2017

Film photographs telling stories of marginalised beauty

See Jabu Nadia Newman’s beautiful narrative photography.

[T]he Foxy Five is a South African web series that follows a group of young women smashing the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy and serving up lessons in intersectional feminism. It is written and directed by Jabu Nadia Newman. When she isn’t consumed by the process of creating a new episode, Jabu takes photographs as an exercise in creating worlds and narratives that she could later develop into film projects. She says, “It’s much easier for me to execute a photo shoot on my own than it is to create a film. It also teaches me a lot about art direction and style which I know will only benefit my film projects.”

Jabu’s photography is a mix of images re-created from a visual she’ll see first in her mind and documentary-style shots to keep her eye sharp. Whether her images are moving or still, Jabu likes to work with what she has to push herself into new territory, creating something original and what she describes as ‘a little bit crazy’.

What are some of the themes you explore in your photography?

I love working with new ideas of femininity and masculinity and playing around with what we consider to be gendered roles or gendered clothing.

Why are these important for you to portray?

It’s important to be pushing boundaries and constantly challenging ideas in my art. Photography is a fun way for me to express what I see as beautiful in the world that others have ignored or marginalised. I hope that through my lens people could reconsider what they’ve decided to be ugly or unattractive. I also want to find beauty in things that I have never considered beautiful or appreciated.

Could you speak a bit about your choices of models, styling, locations and what informs these decisions?

The models I choose are always people I know who interest and intrigue me. They’re usually not models by profession but rather have a captivating beauty. I’ve always enjoyed photographing my friends and like to create friendships through shooting others. I like working with people of colour because usually the narratives or concepts I want to create and the stories I want to tell are about people of colour. The locations I choose are often close to home. They’re places I’ve been many times or even places I remember from my childhood; places that are such distant memories that they seem like a dream and remind me of my favourite paintings. I mainly shoot outside because I don’t have a studio but I love it because nothing beats natural light and it forces me to work creatively with my surroundings.

I always come up with my own concepts and art direction and therefore know exactly what styling is required. It’s interesting to work with others because you have to really trust individuals to understand your vision. However I do hope to work with others who inspire me and who have their own ideas which I then have to work to execute.

Do you think there is something that defines South African creativity?

South African creativity is makeshift. It’s resourceful and it’s pure in its intentions. Money isn’t a motivation to be a creative. We are creatives because we are born that way.

What does the creative scene in Cape Town feel like at present?

The creative scene in Cape Town to me seems like it’s in its teenage years. It’s full of new ideas and trying many different things and soon will come into its own. I mean the rest of world is already focusing on South Africa right now and being influenced by our work. I wish that Cape Town creatives understood that more, trusted themselves more and believed in their work more. And protected it at all costs!

Alix-Rose Cowie is a freelance writer, editor and photographer based in South Africa. See more of her work here. And follow her on Instagram here