[T]he iridescent blue skin of two figures shimmers in the harsh sunlight as they make their way to a distant lake. Heavily-accessorised men subtly disturbing traditional gender constructs stand on rocks at the entrance to a coastal cave. In collages, models are relocated from city streets to a cliff’s edge thousands of kilometres away.
The diverse natural landscapes of South Africa play an unmissable part in the imagery that stylist and art director Gabrielle Kannemeyer visualises, but the sense of place in her images goes deeper than geography.
Working often with young South African fashion designers to establish their brands’ visual identities, while developing her own unmistakeable style, her images also provide answers to the question of what it means to be making creative work in South Africa today. One way that new visual languages are being developed here is through a commitment to collaboration. An idea that goes against the notion of sole credit given to the photographer. When Gabrielle speaks about her work she answers as ‘we’, “I am lucky to have close relationships with many of the people I work with – we’re all very sensitive to our shared and individual visions and so when something is conceptualised, the end product is very much a meeting point for all of our ideas.”
Another answer is the power being found in making work independent of the need for approval from a Western gaze. This makes way for fierce originality and infinite inspiration, something that Gabrielle has tapped into. As she says, “We have a responsibility to narrate our stories.”