By Giyani Baloi
All photographs by Giyani Baloi.
I am Giyani Baloi, one of the graduates and beneficiaries of the Market Photo Workshop’s photography training programme aimed at equipping particularly young photographers of the future
I am a rural boy that for some reasons developed the love of the written word. And I am another living testimony that reading matters and it can change any person’s life
For me, the love of reading did not end only there, as it led me to explore more artistic ways of expressing myself. That hunger for knowledge eventually led me to the doors of the Market Photo Workshop in my 30s. I became a committed photography student at this world renowned photography school from 2011 to 2012.
When I graduated, not only as a confident photographer, but a fully developed person ready to face both challenges and take on opportunities offered by the world, I felt that I knew myself better as a person and what I wanted to do with my life going forward.
Homeless people protecting themselves from the elements by making fire at Zoo Lake (2013)
When I studied at the Market Photo Workshop, I learned the history of photography from its inception, the importance of light in making pictures, the photographic art form and the news part. It really transformed me to see pictures differently, such that when I looked at some of the pictures that I had taken or that had been taken by someone else in the past, I would see a big difference. In fact some of them were not worth being called photographs at all.
The courses were intense and practical, but after completion, it opened a new world of curiosity and that also meant developing the second eye of observing things around me in a different way.
After graduating from The Market Photo Workshop, I had an opportunity to freelance for the Independent Group for more than a year. That experience is something that I will always cherish. While there I had an opportunity to document contemporary life around South Africa, be it telling the stories of crime, such as when I covered the funeral of an alleged gangster in Carltonville, who had been killed in an alleged mob justice incident by an enraged community. It is then that I learned that when gangsters burry their own, there is a ritual they perform. It was as chilling an observation as it was also an eye opener for me to learn about this fringe sub-culture among the criminal elements in society.
Working for newspapers, I also had an opportunity to meet the powerful in society such as when I took pictures of Cyril Ramaphosa on an ANC campaign trail in Sekhukhune in 2013, as well as capturing Julius Malema addressing miners in 2012 in Carltonville when he was still President of the ANC Youth League.
I also had an opportunity of capturing Inkatha Freedom Party founder Mangosotho Buthelezi in an emotional embrace with the late Afro-jazz legend Dorothy Masuka after a concert honouring the IFP leader’s late mother’s compositional legacy at Turbine Hall in Newtown in 2012.
I also cherish an encounter with the late world renowned trumpeter Bra Hugh Masekela at an interview at Constitution Hill in 2015.
But I also learned during that time telling stories is not only about documenting the lives of the rich and the powerful. The lives of those less privileged matter equally, and so I also documented lives of the homeless around Johannesburg inner city, for example.
That decision I took to enroll at the Market Theatre Photo in 2011, In short really helped to open doors for me that I never even imagined they existed in the first place. I will always cherish that experience.
But the creative space being a more passion career than for money, I decided to venture into other business opportunities, which is trucking in construction so that I can sustain my family.
My current job now is moving construction related goods like, soil, concrete, rubble with my truck. But, my photographic curiosity, passion shaped and honed by the Market Photo Workshop is always at hand
I have seen an opportunity to practice my photography in the industry that I am currently in by documenting the lines of construction workers once my business consolidated and affords me the opportunity to be hands free.
Well, in the trucking and construction spaces, I am observing that the labour migration pattern of yesteryear is still in full swing but just got twigged slightly to accommodate the expectations of a democratic South Africa.
The people that are doing the business part of the construction business are still majority white people. Those that are doing the labour part of construction are still foreign nationals from either Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi and etc because they can accommodate harsh working conditions and low pay that boost the profit margins of the construction business owners
It is my hope and expectation that one day I will use the skills that I learned at the Market Photo Workshop as a trained photographer to raise the issue of the lack of transformation in the construction industry 26 years after democracy.
.Giyani Baloi a part time documentary photographer and a Johannesburg businessman is an alumni of the freelance Market Photo Workshop who graduated in 2012. He is a contributing photojournalist at City Life Arts.