25 April 2018

You’ve never seen South Africa like this before

Who knew Johannesburg was a neon-lit dystopia?

[W]ho knew Johannesburg was a combination of Blade Runner, Suspiria and other neon-lit, dystopian obsessions? Elsa Bleda is a photographer who likes hanging out at night and capturing her city (some shots are in Durban too) in a way that really makes you question how well you knew the urban landscape of South Africa. We caught up with her to see what she’s about.

Find her on Instagram at @ElsaBleda and smash follow.

Hey Elsa, what do you like taking photographs of?

Often quiet corners and places, lights that evoke my imagination, small details. Anything that moves me.

Can you tell us about any films or artworks that you’ve seen that appeal to your aesthetic?

Eiko Ishioka, who has been my personal hero for many years, created some amazing works and also helped creating astonishing surreal imagery with other artists which had huge impact on me in terms of visual story telling. And I’ve always had a deep love and passion for East Asian cinema, for directors such as Wong Kar-wai, Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk. From my favourite movie Blade Runner to Dario Argento’s gothic cinema and David Lynch’s elusive vision, there are so many works out there that appeal to my aesthetic.


Which photographers have helped shape your own personal style of shooting?

I can’t really say that a certain photographer shaped my personal style, also I get my influences from different fields, mostly from motion pictures. But I always enjoyed the works of photographers/artists such as Brassai, Diane Arbus, Todd Hido, Gregory Crewdson, Edward Hopper, Wing Shya.

Tell us about one image you’ve seen that had a strong impact on you?

It was one of Fred Lyon’s black and white night images, shot in San Francisco in 1953. The name of the image is “Foggy Night at Land’s End” and it is one of the strongest images I’ve seen. It’s with a couple in distant walking together, and the man has a torch in his hand, all the shadows and light playing in the fog, slowly reaching out to the viewer. That was one of those images for me.

What else are you working on right now?

I’m preparing for my new exhibition with Red Bull and also working on multiple projects, including 2 new photographic series of mine and a music video.