I ask myself that question everyday.
I grew up in Edenvale, Johannesburg (mid to deep east) – so you could say I’m middle Eastern. After I came out of an egg, my dear mom and dad couldn’t decide on a name and thankfully my father – Geoffrey – talked my mom out of naming me Zeek – true story. They went with something that would read, if the title of ‘Dr’ was put before it. Dr Ross Maxwell it was! Unfortunately I disappointed Desne’ and didn’t go on to become a doctor of anything, although if I EFT you cash from my bank account, it reads the latter (truth).
I was blessed with type 1 diabetes at the tender age of 3, and this in turn has enabled me to see life in almost all situations, as not so bad. I do like to eat chocolate and it makes me happy.
After matriculating from Edenvale ‘for the brave’ High School, I went on to study at UJ (Audio Visual Communication Management) – long story short – I got 100% for Anthropology but hated the rest. I dropped out after 2 years and went on to study at the Academy of Sound Engineering at the SABC. This was a good move, as there was lots of practical work and, luckily for me, my dear father Geoffrey taught me to solder when I was small so I killed electronics class. It was only there, one fateful day during a mandatory video editing class that I discovered what my purpose was. Images that moved (I finished this course though, promise).
The next couple of years were spent working in the industry (Audio/Photographic – studios) and at Digital Film (now The Magic Lightbox Company) in Bryanston, where I was introduced to ‘the digital revolution’ so to speak. I was allowed to borrow gear for shoots on weekends, and I obviously took full advantage of this. My passion was always music so most of my friends were DJs, this in turn gave me a brain wave – why not shoot them when they were playing in clubs, and create content for fun? This taught me many things about exposure (YOU’RE IN A DARK CLUB – DO THE MATHS), shutter speeds (LIGHTS FLICKER WHEN YOU AREN’T AT A MULTIPLE OF 1/25TH) and people management.
Around this time i met Andre Badenhorst, who was attending a video editing course that I was also at. I said ‘nice photo man!’, he said, ‘we should work together’. That was 8 years ago. Andre taught me how to light, he is a master and if anyone says any different, they are clearly blind. We have been in a working relationship for such a long time and we feed off of each other’s energy and generally have the exact same thoughts about mood, feelings and politics.
With that said, we were lucky enough to be given access to a pre production Fujifilm X-H1, which we used to shoot a music video with. Our good friend Darryl (SILVABLACK), provided the talent and Andre and I set to work! We chose to be as literal as we could, and as the song’s title is ‘Let the circus begin’, we saw no other option other than shooting in and around an actual circus. We made use of real life animals (none were hurt) and people who looked like fine weathered leather goods. It was a really good time!
I chose to mount the 2 X-H1 bodies we had on top of one another in a bum to bum configuration (one was upside down) with the ever so classy, 16mm f1.4 on the bottom and the 17-55 2.8 on top for crash zooms! As the focal planes we basically on top of one another, we could seamlessly cut between A and B angles without being out of sync (MUCH AWESOME!)
Ok back to me now…
When i’m feeling very creative, I will shoot 35mm film (that old stuff) on a Hasselblad X-Pan (actually a Fuji TX-1 😉 ), I own about 15 cameras – film and digital of all formats – and generally like to find a subject that I love, and document it till I make people angry. This way I know that i’m doing it right. I have been lucky enough to shoot with the likes of Ricky Rick, Frank Casino, Major Lazer and Die Antwoord, and i really hope that it never ends, because this isn’t a job, and never will be to me.
Dr Ross Maxwell
Instagram – @rossmaxwelllives