Is there really a big difference between “classic” and “kitsch”? Let me explain, many years ago while preparing for a photo shoot I was browsing for props in an old pawn shop situated on the main street of Primrose just outside Johannesburg. When I walked into the shop I said to owner that her store reminded me of my mother-in-law’s home, describing it as a home of great memories in a really kitsch environment. The shop owner, who mirrored the look of the embellished second hand stock she sold, said to me. “Sonny, the only difference between kitsch and classic is time!”, “Sooner or later” she continued, “everything comes back into vogue”. Now later in life, I realise that her statement was certainly not far from the truth.


You see, four years ago I had an exhibition in London. To help calm my nerves I decided to walk the streets early mornings and late afternoons to shoot some new work. I found the shop frontages, some of which date back hundreds of years quite attractive. The juxtaposition between the older architecture and the chic modern brands on display was very interesting.


One morning I was walking down a side street near Piccadilly Circus when I noticed a few beautiful old shop fronts which stocked similar goods to that which I had seen in the second hand shop in Primrose. I decided to photograph the window display purely as a memory, but when viewing the LCD screen on my camera, I got quite excited. The surrounding reflections from the street, which I would have ordinarily removed using a polarizing filter, really added something special to the picture and, just like that a new body of work entitled “Window shopping” was born.

On my return from London I decided to include this series in my portfolio, but I had not photographed more pictures in this collection since then. A few weeks ago I was out with my students on a practical assignment and stumbled on a number of beautiful shop windows which brought back memories of my time in London. Old and stylish displays, ordained with props and memories of the past really struck a chord. It was like the shopkeeper in Primrose was standing next to me saying “See”, “I told you! Classic not Kitsch”. I took out my camera and started to shoot a few shots. The morning was just perfect, some mist had moved in from the ocean creating beautiful soft light which minimized the reflections and I just loved the soft nostalgic “60’s” look to the photograph. After a while I got completely carried away and shot far too many options. Later however, when editing, it all came back to this one shot.


Isn’t it funny? Years ago when shooting commercial photography, I would not have understood what all the fuss was about. Now today, photography for me is an art form and these sort of pictures drive back a distant memory of the past making them precious and timeless.




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