Pieter Coetzee (b. 1987, Johannesburg)
Jozi-based — after selling my soul to the devil and falling in love with the beast.
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
I enjoy showing someone a portrait of themselves and them liking what they see. Especially the timid, insecure, or self-loathing: Society isn’t a very compassionate space for the individual and we’re generally too hard on ourselves.
Everyone has something beautiful about them. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is hurt and lonely and fucked in their own unique way. I just want to capture some of that uniqueness.
Take a moment to pause and acknowledge the other: “You’re beautiful and I see that. I see you.” And at the same time, I feel a connection with someone. I get to escape my own loneliness for a moment — even if it’s only for 1/125th of a second.
That’s how I see it. It’s what the romantic in me would like to believe. He’s infamously delirious.
Describe your photographic style.
Impulsive? Opportunistic? I don’t think if I’ve really developed a definitive style yet.
I rarely plan what I shoot: I carry my camera everywhere and take pictures of the things I see. Things I find beautiful.
Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life
and the way in which you view the world (around you)?
I would like to think it has made me more mindful.
The thing I love about film is how slow the process is. Life is too fast for my liking. Film photography helps me to slow down and appreciate the smaller things in life. Feed me a couple of beers and I’ll start ranting about the ‘underratedness’ of shapes and colours.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a
shot, and your approach to a new body of work?
Carry your camera everywhere you possibly can? Shoot for yourself? Not sure you can call it much of an approach: Either you have your camera on you and catch the moment, or you don’t and you miss it. And you can only shoot what you enjoy, what you find beautiful… you can’t force an eye, so don’t try to be something else in the pursuit of pleasing others’ validation.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
Nope. It’s therapy. Part of what keeps me in balance.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
Pentax Spotmatic SPII is where it started, and I’ve shot most frames on some version of that camera: SP1000, K1000, SP, F, etc.
The film I’ve used most is probably Kodak Gold 200: Cheap, unassuming, and I like the saturation. Go-to everyday shooter. My favourite to date is Ektar 100. For that special day out. The grain and saturation is unbeatable in my opinion. Also, did I mention I love colours?
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and
enthusiastic about your work?
God, there’s so much to learn. I haven’t shot much medium format, so that’s up next. As well as shooting some ideas regarding photo stories/essays. And learning more about different printing techniques.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or
things that generally inspire your image-making process.
I think the local scene is quite inspirational. So many exceptional photographers making the format their own. I’m glad we’re not just copying the big international names. We’re forging our own style/presence. I’m very optimistic about what the future is going to produce.
Guys worth mentioning are Mark Reitz and Michael Ellis. Two friends whose pictures were some of the first work that really made an impact on me and inspired me to shoot more film.
Also, Janus Boshoff and Dennis Da Silva at Alternative Print Workshop, for sharing their knowledge on film photography, printing, using old techniques, etc. They play an active role in keeping the local film scene alive.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
I used to enjoy avo toast, but who can afford that AND film these days.
Just kidding, I have too many hobbies and interests to mention here: I won’t want to put everyone to sleep!
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
Buy a solid cheap camera: there are so many to choose from. Buy the cheapest film you can find. Get off your ass and start shooting.
Learn the Sunny-16 rule. Mechanics > Electronics. Most importantly, do it for yourself.
What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
Be sure to catch the Joburg B&W Group Exhibition at In Toto Gallery (opening Thursday 30 November 2017) which will be showcasing work by local shooters focusing on the love we share for this city.
Also, I’m looking for a fellow artist to share a studio/darkroom/creative space within the Joburg CBD area. Holla at me if you are interested.
All photos by Pieter Coetzee a.k.a. Piet Skiet
DEAD TOWN™ | Film-only Photographic Showcase ©2017.