Stephanie Blomkamp – making a self portrait

Stephanie Blomkamp is a self-taught photographer born in Johannesburg, currently based in Cape Town. She spent the greater part of her childhood in Canada later moving to Europe. She describes her passion for the medium in stating that it is all she’s ever wanted to do, referring to it as “innate”.

Learning to use the darkroom as a teenager in the creaky basement of a London building that rattled every time the tube went by underground was exhilarating. I knew I was happiest around chemicals and watching moments manifest on paper in the red light. Minus the darkroom instruction at my school, I am a self-taught photographer. It’s a wonderful art to learn if you train your eye and actually get out there and start shooting!

-Stephanie Blomkamp, Orms Connect, August 2018

I had a discussion with the Hasselblad aficionado about her current endeavours and influences:

I know that you’ve always wanted to be a photographer. What are you currently doing?

Currently I am doing something I haven’t done before, shooting a self-portrait. Quite a narcissistic endeavour.  My husband sent me a painting of a girl that he swears is my doppelgänger, and it really does look a lot like me. It’s from the 18thcentury and could be my twin, same eyes, lips and facial expression. So, I am doing an updated modern interpretation of this.  A self-portrait with help from a stylist and props and it will make for an interesting comparison to the original painting. There is a lot of mystery surrounding my grandmother’s heritage – who knows maybe we are really related.

Do you believe that living in places like Vancouver and London has had an influence on your practice? Could you please elaborate?

Vancouver has influenced me in the fact that it doesn’t really have a big fine art photography realm, most people there when I tell them what and how I shoot are confused that I am not a wedding photographer or commercial shooter; so, in that way the city helped compel my practice into proving what you can do with a trained eye and purpose.

London, it’s difficult not to feel inspired in a city so saturated with art galleries. The year I moved they had the first London Photo fair which I found really inspiring, so many talented photographers all on display under one roof. What’s wonderful about London is that whatever you are curious about and decide to fall down a rabbit hole into – you will find your people and answers, especially if it’s concerning photography which is my greatest passion.

What draws you to working with a Hasselblad?

There is something satisfying in its mechanics and hearing it click gives me pure joy. A medium format camera captures me because it demands a measured practice, having only 12 shots makes you think more acutely about what you are framing and why. Lately however, for the project I mentioned earlier I am using digital.

Could you please unpack your process of the conceptualisation of a series?

I am most attracted to anything surreal, something off the blurry reality line. I read a lot, watch films, research photography and art so my brain is really a running library of inspiring images and ideas. For example; I created a series called ‘Matisse’s Muse’ when I first moved back to SA, I was inspired to create it because I saw a Matisse exhibition and a Picasso exhibition while travelling in Europe and they were each dedicated to the various woman who inspired the painters – their numerous muses. I decided to do my own version of a muse, and fitted her with a fencing mask so she would act as a stand in, an all-encompassing muse. I met a really incredible actress who was open to the idea and we shot the whole thing in Bakoven, naked and free on a crisp autumn morning. The trick is to actually shoot what you envision in your head instead of over thinking it, just do it.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Since returning to South Africa, I have asked myself what the best way is to create a meaningful photographic dialogue on the continent that goes beyond my own photography work, and I think that I have a great plan on how to answer this. It’s a secret project, but one that when it is out there will help all of us working on creative photography endeavours. I have dreams of building a community around photography, I would like to connect and find a way to showcase and celebrate the immense talent here not just in SA but the whole continent. Feeling pretty excited about it and hope it will have an impact and push the medium of photography in Africa to great heights.

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