South African photographer and self-proclaimed introvert Frank Marshall received worldwide recognition about five years ago with his first solo photographic exhibition. Renegades, a series on Botswana’s heavy metal subculture, actually began as his final year thesis at Tshwane University of Technology, and was picked up by the Sony World Photography Awards a short while later. Marshall was the first South African to reach the finals of the prestigious competition.
Not long after that, Renegades made an international impact. Here was a group of people in Africa assimilating what is mainly known as a Eurocentric music culture, and making it their own. We were fascinated, in awe, and entirely absorbed by the extraordinary uniqueness of Botswana’s metal community. Marshall’s work even inspired an Italian filmmaker to create a documentary about Gaborone’s metal bands and their subculture. March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads was released in 2014 and it captured the pride the Batswana people have for their communities – metal or no.
Marshall explains how he first came to photograph Renegades series:
“I was on tour with a metal band called Rhütz from Pretoria, South Africa, when they played a gig in Gaborone, Botswana. This is when I first noticed the heavy metal scene there. Since then, I have been building a career in fine art printing. The reason why I felt inspired by these metal heads was simply because I had had a longstanding fascination and love of heavy metal and heavy music. The people I photographed and I had a mutual interest in heavy metal and I think this sparked a synergistic relationship between photographer and subject.”
“My intention was to see if a portrait photograph was able to mythologize a metal fan of Botswana: within the lore of heavy metal culture. Photography is mainly concerned with the external world. I am an introvert by nature, so the thinking behind what photography means and why we practice it is quite fascinating to me. I tend to think about the photographer or the artist first when I see a photograph. I think about what motivates them. I like to ponder what subliminal cues they are following and why.”