He might be best known as the man behind the drums for Fokofpolisiekar and aKING, but Jaco S. Venter is also well-versed in the art of photography. Fujifilm South Africa spoke to him about shooting in black & white, his favourite shots, and why it’s so important to have a weather-sealed body… 

What got you into photography?

I first became aware of visual communication (design, video, photography) through skateboarding in high-school, but it’s only some years later when Liam Lynch started touring with and documenting my band Fokofpolisiekar that photography became something that I wanted to learn more about. I was amazed by Liam’s ability to decode his surroundings and create the best compositions through his understanding of light, design and storytelling – creating iconography out of seemingly mundane scenes. 

I had a front row seat to see him work and when I finally picked up my first film camera (Pentax MX) I kept a lot of his advice in mind. The first two years of taking photos I spent getting my hands on as much literature as I could and pestering my photographer friends with questions – photographers like Adriaan Louw, Liam Lynch, Sean Metelerkamp and my brother Wilhelm Venter helped a lot.

Once I was able to consistently get good exposure over a whole roll of film, I moved over to digital photography and that led to video work and a bit of studio photography. 

Favourite camera and why?

I love my Fujifilm X-Pro2. I’ve been using it for four years now and it hasn’t let me down ever. It’s tough design, rangefinder good looks and Fujifilm’s digital magic make for a great shooting experience. I’ve also enjoyed shooting video on the X-H1, X-T3 and shooting studio stuff with the medium format GFX.

Have you ever come close to losing/breaking a camera?

 I’ve dropped and broken some lenses from my previous setup and I’ve spilt booze over my X-Pro2 a couple of times. Lucky for me it’s weather sealed.

You’ve already had one exhibition of your work, are you planning another?

 I’ve had seven exhibitions of three different collections of work! Haha! And yes, I was asked to be part of the opening of a new art gallery called The Hugo Modern, but let’s see what happens after this Rona has blown over. 

The majority of your work is in black and white. Why?

It’s easier! I like the fact that black and white makes it harder to know what era a photo comes from and it also forces you to look at composition by ignoring colour. I’m a big fan of black and white photography but I know I’m part of a niche crowd. On Instagram my colour photos usually get double the amount of likes than that of the black and white ones, so I’m thinking about adding more colour projects to the portfolio.

As far as your photography is concerned, who do you take your inspiration from?

I take inspiration from my photographer friends, which are too many to mention, in case I forget any. Internationally, there are many contemporary guys I look up to, but the Greats to me are still Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson, Bruce Gilden, Robert Frank, Don McCullin, William Eggleston, David Goldblatt and, of course, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Do you spend a lot of time editing?

Before I switched to Fujifilm, I used to spend a lot more time in front of my computer. For my personal work I prefer to edit as little as possible and mostly shoot JPEGs, but if it’s for a client I’ll shoot RAW and do some editing and retouching if it’s required.

Favourite person to photograph and why?

 I don’t have a single favourite person to shoot per se, but my friend Rufio Vegas (Musician/ TV presenter/ Socialite) really loves to be photographed and whenever we collaborate a lot of fun is had.

Favourite photograph ever?

 Favourite photo of mine, off the top of my head, is a photo I took of a Rastafari family in Nature’s Valley in 2011. I initially asked the father if I could take a photo and he declined so I put my camera away and just hung out with him for a while. After about twenty minutes I had to leave and said my goodbyes to which he asked if I still wanted to take a picture? He called his kids over and I snapped one frame, thanked them and left. 

Favourite pic from an international photographer would probably be any photo taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson from the era when he was still taking photos.

As drummer for Fokofpolisiekar and aKING, you are also in front of the lens a lot. Do you feel the drummer is the least photographed member in a band?

 Of course! The back of the stage is rarely lit well and it’s hard for photographers to get close without feeling like they are ‘bombing the stage’.

Final question: Drumming or Photography?

 Eating or breathing?!!

Jaco S. Venter | Instagram

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