I received these pictures and text yesterday from Rick Rohde in South Africa. There is something compelling about Vytjie’s photographs, particularly as she has been taking them over many years and I would love to see more, particularly her self portraits. I’m also really interested in Rick’s project giving cameras to young people because of the work I do (see Mallaig film project and Kids with Cameras). Also watch Mark Cousin’s brilliant film The First Movie if you get chance, which I showed here last year.
“Sofia Klaaste’s photographs are the result of a project started in 1999, part of a long-term study into the socio-economic and environmental history of Paulshoek, a rural South African village of about one hundred households in the communal area of Leliefontein, Namaqualand.
In order to help get an insider’s view of the village (as well as to provide some entertainment to village youth), I gave disposable cameras to about a dozen young adults in Paulshoek who were asked to make a visual diary of their lives or to focus on whatever visual topic they found interesting. Sofia’s photos stood out for their freshness, sensitivity, composition and candid portrayal of village life. Known to most in the community simply as ‘Vytjie’, Sofia Klaaste was then only 16 years old, and trying desperately to find outlets for her feral imagination and vivacious nature.
Sofia is now a young woman. She left home in her late teens for a couple of years and explored the rougher side of life in the townships and squatter settlements of the Cape Flats. She returned to the village in 2003 suffering from ill health and since then has lived with her mother, stepfather and younger sister in a small shack on the edge of the village. During this time Sofia was supplied with numerous disposable cameras, several 35mm ‘instamatics’ and a high-resolution digital camera. Today, her collection of photographs consists of more than 1000 images. They record a decade of village life from the perspective of a young woman growing up in the ‘new’ South Africa and provide a poignant record of Sofia’s own passage into adulthood.
Sofia’s photographs portray a material and emotional world that is common to millions of South Africa’s rural poor. Her photographs are the product of an untutored and instinctual eye for colour, composition and subject matter. They convey insight into the personal resilience and imaginative potential of a young woman confronted by severely limited opportunities associated with rural poverty and personal hardship. Above all, they are a playful and personal record of a young South African’s vision of her world.”
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