Self-discovery through imagery – ‘Plastic Crowns’ exhibition by photographer Phumzile Khanyile - Bubblegum Club

Self-discovery through imagery – ‘Plastic Crowns’ exhibition by photographer Phumzile Khanyile

Young photographer Phumzile Khanyile is showing her first solo exhibition titled Plastic Crowns at the Market Photo Workshop gallery in Johannesburg.

Plastic Crowns is a journey of self-discovery,” Phumzile explained, “As a photographer I think the vision is more important than the equipment. I believe that when making a body of work there is nothing more important than honesty”. This guided her decision to include herself in her images. Using her personal experiences as a backdrop for larger conversations, the self-portraits in her exhibition try to unpack the expectations she carried from her grandmother around what it means to be a woman. This was the entry point for her to address the ways in which women’s bodies are closely monitored with regards to how we choose to present ourselves. “I wanted to figure out for myself what being female is,” Phumzile explained.

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© Phumzile Khanyile, Plastic Crowns, 2016

Choosing sexuality as the focal point, she uses symbols to talk back to these expectations. Balloons scattered on the gallery floor and featured in her photographs represent different sexual partners. Through this she speaks back to ideas around promiscuity, stating that she views having multiple partners as a choice and not a reflection on lack of morals. Given that these expectations and teachings come from how she grew up, her images play with understandings of family photographs by turning the idea of the family photo album on its head through telling the story of what happens after the idealized family photograph has been taken, and producing images that are not often seen in albums because they highlight flaws within the familial structure. During our conversation Phumzile pointed to a photograph of her standing next to a black coat hanging from the handles of a cupboard door. In the image she links arms with the coat, as if she was linking arms with another person. She explains that this particular photograph refers to the absence of her father. “It was really important for me to create this because I have lost all of my family albums at home. I wanted to create the feeling of something that is familiar.”.

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© Phumzile Khanyile, Plastic Crowns, 2016

To create the feeling of old family photographs and worn down photo albums, Phumzile covered her digital camera with a cloth. “I didn’t want them [the images] to have this clean sense or this technically correct thing about it,” Phumzile explained. Certain images come across as blurred, slightly out of focus and grainy, working hand-in-hand with her inversion of the family  photo album.

Having been awarded the Gisele Wulfsohn Mentorship in Photography in 2015, Phumzile was mentored by photographer and filmmaker Ayana V. Jackson. Her exhibition will be up until the 19th of March.

Check out more of her work visit her website or follow her on Instagram

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© Phumzile Khanyile, Plastic Crowns, 2016


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© Phumzile Khanyile, Plastic Crowns, 2016

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