Jamal Nxedlana

Is photography and image-making something that you have always been interested in? 

My introduction to image-making was through clothing and fashion. I have always  been into clothing, but as my knowledge of fashion grew, I started getting interested in styling, then fashion images, and then from there building stories and making images.  

You've described the bright color as a tool, even a weapon. What attracts you  to the bright, saturated colors in your images? 

People ask me about colour all the time and there are many things that attract me  to colour. It means different things at different times to me. For the purpose of this  interview, I’m going to say it was something that was embedded in me from a young age, the idea of “matching” colours. I remember my mom and dad making it a big thing - wearing colours that matched or were complementary, it was a marker of style. So I’ve always practiced and enjoyed matching colours, and as my eye developed and my philosophy on matching colours developed, I realised that all colours have the potential to match, and that the idea of colours matching is subjective.  

The body, specifically the Black body in the context of post-apartheid South  Africa, is a central focus of your work. Has this always been a primary  interest? 

It comes from a desire to narrate my personal experience and as a black man that  lives in post-apartheid South Africa, and of course this topic has come to the fore. My experience though, like my work, is so much more than just about race. I have never had a studio practice, so at the moment I am exploring the idea of my art being a form of labour, and my work being informed by creating a working environment, and then following a similar methodology, making images everyday, over and over again. 

Can you tell us a bit about Bubblegum Club? 

Bubblegum Club is a digital publication and a content production studio I co-founded in 2016. The organisation is based in Johannesburg and is focused on  platforming cultural production in South Africa, the African continent, and work being produced by the African diasporas. It’s about platforming, but also  connecting and sharing dialogues amongst these diverse creators.  

What role does mass production, or products, play in your work?

These are things that I think about and also feature in my work. I’m interested in  objects, especially chairs. The way they relate to bodies, but also for all the other social and political meaning embedded in them.  

What is the process like for researching or preparing for a new shoot? How  much time does it usually take to set the scene of an image?

I work commercially as a photographer, and I also work with photography in my art  practice, so it depends on the context. On the art practice side, there is always quite  a big gap between shoots, and maybe in that time I live and consume things that I’m interested in. As I get closer to a shoot, I start with more focused research, which includes reading theory, for example on sculpture, and putting together folders of image references. The actual shoot itself is a part of the research and development, so I like to work over a couple of days or weeks, shooting and reshooting.

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