On a recent photographic trip to the great Karoo, I was shooting in the mountains near Prince Albert Hamlet, one of the oldest towns in South Africa. One morning my family and I decided to visit the town itself and explore some of the art galleries, I was surprised at just how many galleries there were in such a small town and pleased to see how much photography was on display. However, as the day went on, I found myself becoming disappointed at the quality of many of the photographic prints on exhibition. It was only when we came to the last gallery in town that I felt my spirits lift. Finally! Some consistent prints, interesting subject choice, technically well captured and beautifully presented. Out of curiosity, I looked at the signature of the artist and soon realised that I knew this person. Just then, I heard this voice say, “Martin is it you?” I turned around and there was Louis Botha, a student whom I had taught some twenty years back. I remember him being very serious about his photography, but did not realise that he had left a successful corporate life to journey into the world of fine art photography, having moved to Prince Albert to open a gallery of his own. Soon we started to reminisce about the past and catch up on lost years.
I have always believed that the Abandoned collection, which I have been working on for the past 11 years - are photographs that have been placed along my path rather that those that I have needed to go looking for. On this day, the visit to Louis Botha’s gallery was yet another good example of this.
During our discussion, he said that he had seen the work I was busy with and had a little surprise for me. He reached for a pen and paper, and sketched a map explaining which roads I needed to take and where I needed to go in order to find a few beautiful old vintage cars, which he thought would do the Abandoned collection proud. He also made it clear that he had photographed their already, he then showed me the print and asked if I would be able to do something different from what he had shot. I happily agreed.
Generally photographers don’t share information about subjects and locations, so this unusual instruction was exactly what I feed off, almost like a clue to a puzzle, pointing out the right direction. The very next day we set out to go and find these gems. Following his map step-by-step, a decent 250 km drive from where we were based at the time, we finally arrived at the destination in the late afternoon.
The light was excellent and I quickly set up to take the picture, I decided to shoot only one of the cars directly into the sun to create some mood. I picked this specific car because it was placed on top of a hill, overlooking a small town, this allowed the background with its’ surrounding hills to add interest to the composition. Thankfully there had been a lot of wind that day which left dust particles in the air, this helped to soften the light and contrast. Fortunately there was some cloud cover on the western horizon which also aided in further softening the light and adding detail to the sky. One composition, one shot, just as promised, and I was done for the day.
Driving back that afternoon we were once again reminded of just how special this collection of prints have become. I also know that had I approached this project differently and actively went to seek out subjects, I would have run the risk of the collection becoming predictable and contrived. By being patient (something I am not very good at) and rather stumbling upon them through my journey in life has made them unusual, exciting and very special to me. This has certainly kept the project alive and interesting.
With only four pictures now left to capture until we launch the first coffee table book in celebration of the Abandoned collection, things are starting to get very exciting!
I hope you enjoy "Abandoned No.36", as we welcome her to fold. (Watch Video about the Abandoned Collection)