Saaiqa (b. 1991)
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
I enjoy photographing a range of different things and there is so much that influences what/how/why I photograph the things I do. Not sure if I can get into all of that right now though.
But something that is definitely present in my work, is that I look to create images that have an emotional quality and that speaks of/resonates with some kind of truth or reality.
I oscillate between extremes in my work — visually and thematically. I can be controlled and traditional in some instances, while in others I am experimental and obscure.
Photography is also reactionary for me, it can be an attempt to make sense of/reflect on an environment, a space, time, person, society etc. that I am experiencing and witnessing.
My work usually reflects an engagement with a psychological landscape, the natural world, idiosyncrasies and complexities pertaining to the human condition, inter-sectionally and the duality of life.
Describe your photographic style.
Ephemeral. Transcendent. Gritty. Honest. Intimate. Poetic. Melancholic. Confrontational. Introspective. Visceral. Cinematic.
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 think that is so important… to understand that the process and the journey is probably the most important and rewarding part of all of this.
At the core of photography, it is a reflection on time and memory. All photographs become memento mori in some way. And I think because of this confrontation with our mortality that it intensifies everything.
I think I have always had this kind of hypersensitivity and hyperawareness. And photographing is in some way an attempt to harness how I see and experience things.
This ‘active’ way of looking means everything to me, it is so precious to constantly look at everything with a sense of wonder and genuine interest. It really enriches my life.
I don’t view myself as a romantic person in general but when it comes to how I see, how I look and observe life; to bear witness to the most commonplace sight can be this super romantic and transcendent experience for me.
Even if things are hard to look at or explore; especially if it’s things in my personal life. Life is so beautiful but also incredibly dark and painful at times and I pride myself in confronting all of it. I think it’s quite healthy to do so.
It is also important to sometimes remember to put the camera down and be present in a moment that means a lot to you. Not everything needs to be photographed.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a
shot and your approach to a body of work?
I usually carry a camera wherever I go. When I shoot, it comes from a very visceral, experiential and instinctive place.
For me personally, reading, writing, and critical engagement with what I am experiencing and what is happening in the world is an important part of my process.
Knowing what you are talking about is crucial when it comes to conveying/executing a concept, but also just by expanding your understanding and awareness — all knowledge and experience is consciously/subconsciously processed and internalised and will inform how you see and ultimately shoot.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
Yes it is. I view myself as an artist/visual storyteller.
I’m pursuing avenues as a photographer, visual artist, writer and cinematographer. It is all about harnessing meaning through visual representation.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
I shoot with a Nikon F401s (which I’m super attached to because it was my father’s camera and literally my entire childhood was shot with that camera), a Nikon FM2 and a cheap Pentax (point and shoot) I came across in a second hand shop. I also want to get a medium format as soon as I can afford one.
As for film stock, for black and white I enjoy the Kodak Tri-X400, Ilford HP5, Ilford XP2 Super 400 and sometimes Kodak TMax. With colour I’m not too particular; whatever I can get my hands on really. The fFilm stocks I want to play with in the future are the Ilford Delta 3200 (black and white) and the Fujifilm Natura 1600 (colour).
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and
enthusiastic about your work?
I feel personal and creative growth is essential. My curiosity and desire to observe and reflect is probably what motivates me the most. I’m just genuinely interested… in everything. And how it all relates and intersects.
I consume a lot of literature and I do a fuck ton of research so I think it would be very hard for me to not be motivated or run out of ideas.
Also, it is important to understand when it comes to growth as any artist — that we all possess an instinctive amount of talent. And it is something you cannot be taught for sure. But the thing is, you have to be responsible for that talent; it is your responsibility to put in the work and to better yourself.
In the age where digital photography is prevalent, what draws you to film and what makes it special to you?
Digital photography definitely has its place in the world and I am appreciative for that. It has certainly changed everything though— we are living in an extremely image saturated society where we are not only bombarded with imagery, but everyone is also a photographer and is capable of taking pretty good photographs. That’s the thing though, a ‘good’ photograph is not enough anymore, and there are millions of ‘good’ photographs taken every single day.
Substance and honesty is what resonates, things can’t just be beautiful. People want more. It’s tough; it’s really tough in this industry to set yourself apart from all the visual noise.
The pace at which everything operates and exists is very intense as well, and I think some photographers see value in slowing down that process and being a bit more present.
I think film serves that purpose for many of us. To be present and really consider that what you are doing feels good.
I’m a lot calmer when I shoot film as well; you take your shot and that’s it. Sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t. You learn to let go.
The aesthetic integrity of film is without a doubt a big part of what I love about it as well. The grain, the colour, the depth… there is nothing quite like it.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or
things that generally inspire your image-making process.
I’m influenced by many great things — pretty much everything and anything I come into contact with can catalyse something for me.
I believe you don’t just make a photograph with your camera; all of the experience is brought to the act of photographing, all the books you have ever read, every image and film you have ever seen, every song you have heard. Everything has a conscious and subconscious effect on how you navigate through life and how we ultimately see and experience the world.
Strictly photographic based influence though, I like Viviane Sassen, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Adam Fuss, Sally Mann, Masao Yamamoto, Stanley Greene, Sebastiao Salgado and Peter Lindbergh (just some that are coming to mind).
In terms of other visuals, films are a big influence for me. Some favourites:
In The Mood for Love (2000)
D.O.P.: Christopher Doyle, Mark Lee Ping-bing, Kwan Pun Leung
Sevdaliza’s Human music video (2016)
D.O.P.: Paul Ozgur
Tree of Life (2011), The Revenant (2015)
D.O.P.: Emmanuel Lubezki
D.O.P.: Hoyte van Hoytema
D.O.P.: James Laxton
The Blaze’s Territory music video (2017)
D.O.P.: Benoit Soler
D.O.P.: Andrei Tarkovsky, Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
True Detective (2014)
D.O.P.: Adam Arkapaw
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
In addition to my photographic work, I also work with mixed media and installation based works.
Other than that I enjoy being active and physical — I run and do yoga quite a bit and I used to do boxing for a while (I want to get back into it and some other physical exploits when I have the opportunity to).
I also really fucking love food – I cook and bake a lot.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
I guess this goes for all photographers and artists… Don’t get caught up in the ego. Most importantly don’t create from the ego. Likes on social media don’t mean shit. Just do the fucking work honestly and from a real place of substance.
Social media can really have a negative effect on some creativity. People are too caught up in comparing themselves to others and are not engaging with themselves and their work in a healthy way.
The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Know who you are, why you photograph what you do, be introspective, know what you are talking about and do the work.
And don’t take advantage of people!!
What lies on the horizon? (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels, etc.) And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’m currently working on a new body of work called ‘The Altar of Flesh’. The plan is to make it into a photo book and to maybe present it in an exhibition.
I’m quite excited about what I have been creating for this project. It’s dark, ephemeral and primordial in aesthetic tone.
I’m still exploring, but the work is reflecting themes of transience, death, sex, intimacy, ritual and transcendence. Ultimately, it is a self portrait.
In terms of other things I have going on; I’m working on a short film later this year as the D.O.P. I’m also in a very exciting incubation/apprenticeship-like film program via The KZN Film Commission. So this will also be in play for a while, in addition to other things I will be involved in.
Otherwise, I’m hustling, trying to make things happen and figuring shit out as I go. Enjoying the ride and appreciating how I see and engage with the world(s) around me.
All photos by Saaiqa
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