We love featuring photographers who think deeply about their art. Joburg-based Tshepo Leballo is one such creator. We talk with him about the stories of his work, what inspires it and the social experience of photography.
I don’t know, I believe that some things in life call out to you. I wanted to be a novelist growing up, but writing is such a solitary experience. Photography is different, it can be around or with people. It can be with animals or nature, it’s a social experience even without human beings. It’s a labour of love, with life.
Your photography seems to revolve around people and places. Is there a broader goal to your images?
To me, by its nature photography is documentary. Photography should tell stories of the past and present. The different places intrigue me, the people are a bonus. There are times when I’m interested in aesthetics with my photography.
The broader goal? To evoke an emotional response from a viewer. Like when someone would say, “This reminds me of my grandmother.”
Who inspires you?
I try to create timeless photography, so I lean on the masters for inspiration. Photographers such as Gordon Parks, Santu Mofokeng, David Goldblatt, Alex Webb, etc. There are also tons of local and international photographers on social media platforms who offer inspiration with their creativity.
Is there a specific place/person you would still like to capture?
The Eastern Cape is such a beautiful place, I want to go back this year to experience it. The Drakensberg always. Internationally, it has to be India. Butha Buthe in Lesotho is another place I want to go back to.
When and why did you switch to Fujifilm?
I estimate it to be five years ago. I was using a DSLR then, and my friend Chilli was into mirrorless cameras. One Saturday we went shooting in the JHB CBD and I asked to use his black X100F. That camera was beautiful, I was hooked. Everything felt right. Most people love Fujifilm cameras because they remind them of film cameras. I started shooting film after, so for me, Fujifilm cameras provide a human experience, whatever that means.
What camera and lens do you use most? What do you like about it?
The X100V is the best camera to me, it’s portable, well designed, and slows me down as if I’m shooting film. And then there’s the film simulations.
I also use the X-H1 with various lenses, and the XF35mmF1.4 is my favourite lens.
Is there one aspect of photography you wish to still explore?
I love minimalist photography, also fine art without excessive photo editing.