A few years’ ago, in a dimly-lit bar, a friend told me that if I was not achieving my dreams within two years he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. This unassuming human that possesses the most remarkable determination changed my life that evening. What he said wasn’t a deadline, it was his way of saying he believed in me. He might not even remember saying it, but those words gave me the fuel to keep my head held high when the light was turned low. There are not many people like that in this world. However, Sean Metelerkamp certainly is one of them.
During 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 he spent time documenting the Monte Rosa old-age home and Noupoort rehabilitation centre; whilst also taking some of the most poignant images for musicians such as Spoek Mathambo, Haezer and Die Antwoord. Metelerkamp’s music video for Die Antwoord’s ‘Zef Side‘ won an award for Youtube Play Top 25 Videos of 2010 and was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum’s in New York, Berlin, Bilboa and Venice; it also won the Yellow Pencil for Best Music Video at the 2011 D&AD Awards in London. In 2013 he teamed up with Diesel + EDUN to shoot Pantsula vs Puppets for VICE in Soweto, Johanesburg. The same year saw him continuing with Skeef Reënboog – ‘a forever incomplete photographic project featuring South Africa on borrowed and disposable point-and-shoot film cameras.’ 2014 sees Knysna-born Sean Metelerkamp and two other photographers embark on an adventure across South Africa, a project they’ve titled Twenty Journey. Yes, Sean’s a busy dude.
Like his own life, there’s a lot going on in South Africa right now. A new aesthetic is being talked about…explored. Voices are being raised, votes are in, luck’s still being counted, and dues are still being paid. For most, it’s business as usual. For some, there’s an adventure ahead. With the red carpet rolled away, we give insight into a mind that’s as beautiful as it is bizarre, and offer this reminder: you don’t have be a dick to blow people away.
F Scott Fitzgerald believed that it was “impossible to write without hope and the young possessed hope in abundance.” In an age where gratification is instant and climbing trees has been replaced by playing on iPads, do you believe the youth of today still possesses hope?
Where do you find hope?
On an iPad in my treehouse.
As your career has developed and your name has become one recognized throughout the globe, what values/principles do you continue to keep prevalent in all you do?
Be a good oke.
When do you feel most alive?
Walking the streets of South Africa and photographing. I love it and hate it. That dichotomy of comfort and disturbia is what makes me feel most alive.
Do you pay attention to the current cultural allusions/definitions/trends? Do these even exist in this era of amalgamation of everything?
I would like to say that I do not, but as someone who uses the internet I most certainly do have my attention diverted and thus affected through this deep web that houses all of that information.
You eat it all up and then push the amalgamation out of your rusty sheriff’s badge. And so the vicious cycle continues.
How does one become fearless in his/her creativity?
Is there a particular African Narrative/Aesthetic being explored at the moment in the arts?
Always. I am going to be lazy and say that I do not know what is being explored at the moment. Great question.
I am trying to learn a new word every day. This is one of my favourites…Comity: State of mutual harmony, friendship and respect. Who do you share this with?
Dogs. Dogs are good okes and they will provide all three if you treat them with the same comity. I like that word, thank you.
The visual references you had growing up as a child. What were some of these that stand out still to this day and have they played a role in your photography and directing?
When I was younger; mostly images that beguiled me to escape this kak place. Whereas now I am focused on staying in this lekker place by taking the images instead of viewing them. Coming full circle with change, boet. I think. Depends how big this circle is. What happens if I am only at 9 o’clock?
If you look to your left right now, what do you see?
A cellphone. What are you doing on my left cellphone? Why can’t you be on my right?
Some people crave ‘Freedom’; others’ ‘Truth’; many, ‘Love’, while others’ ‘Success’ or ‘Financial Security’… What do you hunger for?
Every day, without fail, I hunger for tea and Ouma buttermilk rusks. I be dunking those juggernauts and slipping into solitary bliss for a few seconds. I love the rounded top, flat back and bottom, and the remaining three sides that are incongruent.
Definitely naming my first kid (if that happens) Rusk.
The mood of 2014 for you is…?
Idiosyncrasies of South Africa.
The use of space, or absence of space, is a tool used both in film and photography. From composition in a still image to the highly symbolic set arrangements in, for example, The Shining. What spaces speak to you when first thinking of a concept…? Is your creative process an organic one or have you developed a structure/formulae.
Correct. The structure changes according to each new project and within that process I do try to let it be as organic as possible. If all goes to plan you should see two separate projects be released this year. Photographic – Noupoort. And video – Street Melodies Eternal. I have been working on them since 2010 and the process for both has been entirely different and challenging.
Can you tell me a bit about Twenty Journey? How did this idea come about and what is the vision?
Three South African photographers from different backgrounds and generations exploring South Africa in a motorhome for six months. The journey and experiences will be presented through an online visual journal consisting of audio, video and photography. The journal includes all details related to our journey from our discussions to our insights on rural South Africa. These moments and stories will be open for all to see, share and follow through the website and social media platforms.
Wikus and I went on a road trip up North, boet. We were driving out of Orania and the epiphany klapped me in the beak. South Africa is the original wild west and I want to get a fat poesklap from it with camera in hand – see what images come out on the other side. But, being so far off the reservation, I didn’t want to take any undue chances. So if that meant being stocked up on ration and fuel or having a proper motorhome insurance cover, then so be it!
Follow us and we will comfort or disturb you.
Do you ever feel afraid?
I recently shaved my hair off and discovered what seems to be a well-healed scar along the right side of my scalp. As a youngster I had a recurring dream that aliens (Hollywood aliens) opened my head up, climbed inside and had a party. I realize looking back that I was afraid and I still am afraid therefore I must be human.
What is the most beautiful moment you have witnessed this year?
I pulled the longest snollie out of my nostril in January. I have epic sinus situations.
I think that the ideals of youth are fine, clear and unencumbered, and that the real art of living consists in keeping alive the conscience and sense of values that we once had when we were young.(Rockwell Kent)
Image Credits (as seen from top to bottom):
Featured Image: Spoek Mathambo
Image 1: The Castle, Cape Town, 2011; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 2: Inge Beckmann, 2010; “Concepts”
Image 3: Durbanville, Cape Town, 2013; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 4: National Women’s Memorial, Bloemfontein, 2013; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 5: Roeland Street, Cape Town, 2011; Skeef Reënboog
Image’s 6 – 8: Future Face, “Monte Rosa”, (series shot between 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012)
Image 9: Haezer, 2012; “Conceptual Collaborations”
Image 10: Bloemfontein, 2013; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 11: Sea Point, Cape Town, 2013; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 12: Taxi Rank, Cape Town, 2013; “Skeef Reënboog”
Image 13: Spoek Mathambo, 2011; “Conceptual Collaborations”
Image 14: Twenty Journey, 2014
Image 15: Twenty Journey, 2014
Image 16: Yolandi and Ninja, 2009, “Die Antwoord”
Image 17: Mitchell’s Plain, 2009, “Die Antwoord”