The Joburg Photowalkers – 17 Dec 2011

Image above – Jerome West – regular photowalker (and Miss J)

Some back I wrote an article for www.photocomment.net on ‘the Joburg Photowalkers’. I wanted to share the article because it provides the background to the next blog. So here it is…. You can also find it here:

I have been going into each space in my head to find some ideas for an article. I have certainly taken my merry time in getting down to finding something to write. For someone who usually has so much to say, I was, for once, at a loss for words. While on a photowalk a past Sunday, it all came together. I thought I should dedicate my next article to ‘The Joburg Photowalkers’, a group that has fast gained popularity amongst the photographic community.

Photowalking by definition as quoted from wikipedia: “Photowalking is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting.” I think what they failed to note is that the general consensus is that the walks have changed perceptions, strong friendships have been formed and memories have been created that only the other members of the group would appreciate.

The Joburg Photowalkers recently celebrated their 2nd birthday and the group gets larger and larger. I think that it is fast becoming a brand in itself and one that many are proud to associate themselves with. People who join on walks range from those who just want to explore Jozi through the view finder of their phone camera to the more experienced, serious photographer who takes to the street with a bag full of gear including filters, lenses, flashes and tripods. Joburg photowalkers is not a club that restricts the photo themes, there is no photo judging and what’s even better; there is no charge for this awesomeness either. You go with the flow, you have fun and then if you want to, you share your images so everyone can see the walk through your lens.

I asked Mark Straw for some input, he is the one that does most of the organising, planning and co-ordination. He was also on the very first walk with Craig Nicholson – another regular that was very much a part of the birth of the group (along with a few others. I only have their twitter names -@Za5, @samanthaperry and @Jenty) and he was kind enough to give me some history. The group started in 2009, Mark joined some people for a “tweet-up” at Jolly Cools in Parkhurst. When everyone started photographing the food, they realised they all had a common interest. They all wanted to explore Jozi, but not willing to risk it alone with expensive equipment. And so ‘The Joburg Photowalkers’ were born and the number of fans on their facebook page is almost hitting the 1800 mark.

In April of this year, the group had their first exhibition, held at the 12 Decades Hotel. It ran for a few months and all the images up were amazing. There was not one that didn’t deserve 5 gold stars. And I think the next one will be just as awesome.

The reputation of ‘The Joburg Photowalkers’ is started to expand beyond our borders, Karen Lim writes her adventures in “The Story of Bing’. A Blogger in Boston (south of the sahara) wrote about the group and used many of the images from the exhibition. My Blog has many episodes of “Through My Looking Glass” with the group.

I went on my first walk at the beginning of this year. I joined the 12 decades walk. I was petrified to travel into town alone and a little nervous about hooking up with people I had never met before. But we met and at first everyone kind of sticks to themselves and looks around and then after a while, you are all chatting like you went to different schools together, sharing ideas and showing off some great shots that make you proud. Since then, it’s been like an addiction. I am not able to make most of them, but when I do, I love every minute. My eyes have been opened. Coming from Durban, it took me 10 years to venture into the city and I fell in love. I have travelled to Soweto by Taxi, walked the streets of Jozi’s city centre, entered the beautiful Park Station concourse; Travelled to Cullinan and the list goes on. I have met some of the nicest people I know, many I consider to be friends and I have been exposed to all the beauty, splendour and random acts of pure kindness this city has to offer.

When I invite people to come along, so many are afraid that they are not good enough and as I said, it’s not a competition, it is, and I quote from an email sent by Robyn Gwilt (from RobynG Photography) – “wonderful to walk with others who share the same passion”.

Mark says; “The Joburg Photowalkers have had a profound effect on many people’s lives. The people that have been part of the group I truly count as best friends.”

Jackie Hulme had this to say; “Purchasing a DSLR a few years back and discovering the Joburg Photowalkers has changed my life dramatically – as photo journalism is my passion and being able to go into places like Hillbrow, Diepsloot and Soweto and to be able to practice this art form / skill and to  try and get better – is just so satisfying.”

I think to end this off, I want to quote something Mark wrote which I think sums it all up quite nicely; “Photowalks affords one an opportunity to walk the city. You catch glimpses of people on the street, at places where they make their daily bread. Johannesburg is evolving at an incredible rate. Communities within the city are shifting. Some buildings fall into a state of disrepair while others are transformed. This constant flux within public spaces makes for an incredibly diverse urban landscape and a rich and diverse photographic subject matter”

So click through the links, have a read and I hope you see you on the next walk.

For more information on the group. You can check out their website (www.joburgphotowalkers.com) or their Facebookand Flickr group pages for upcoming events or see the walks in pictures.

Until then, Happy snapping.

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