Lampost Luminaries Month One: Catching The Big Fish

Lampost Luminaries

Month One: Catching The Big Fish


The Lampost Luminaries programme kicked off this month with the four young womxn photographers diving into the curriculum to learn the fundamentals of lighting and camera operation from industry experts and Lampost creatives. They also received mentoring sessions with the programme directors and worked through their first creative brief.


What is photography but the manipulation of light? Learning about lighting is not only an essential part of being a photographer but plays an important part in establishing a photographer’s style and visual language. Alexis Fotiadis of Glow Hire mentored the Luminaries this month, guiding them through the fundamentals of lighting by handling equipment and experimenting with setups. “I believe strongly that the best way to learn is through experience, which is also how I have learnt from my mentors,” he explains. “Lighting can be very intimidating to those who are just beginning the journey of learning the skills required to be confident in being able to light a good photograph,” Alexis says.


For some of the LLuminaries this was their first experience working in studio and with lighting. Lebogang Tlhako said that despite not having had any previous experience, she is “slowly getting the hang of things”. Thalente Khomo said that her takeout from the workshop was learning that there is no set formula when it comes to lighting and that the “lighting techniques used for portraits can also be applied to product shots”.

Lebogang Tlhako

The concept for this photo series is-you know how kids have imaginary friends? I want to create an ‘imaginary dad’, far away, in a colourful world ‘over the rainbow’ while daydreaming in my kitchen. Get clothes and props I visualize him wearing and photograph that in different settings.

Thalente Khomo
Happy Alone

During his workshop Alexis also emphasised the creativity of lighting and its role in the creative process. “The idea is to teach the LLuminaries fundamentals of lighting and not generic lighting set ups,” he explains, “so that they will be able to adapt to any brief in the future and will be empowered to develop their own lighting style and skills as they grow.”


This approach fitted perfectly alongside the LLuminaries’ first creative brief set by Ross Garrett, who was the first photographer to join Lampost’s books. Referencing film director David Lynch’s seminal talk Catching The Big Fish, the brief invited the young photographers to begin thinking about the language of ideas, their process and following their creative intuition.


For Ross, who captures the in-between emotions and raw personalities of people so distinctly in his images, developing a visual language is key. “I think it’s incredibly important early on to explore that which appears familiar to you as a photographer; that which touches you,” he explains. “What was important to me from the outset was that the LLuminaries would look into their individual processes and distil this in whatever manner made the most sense to them. It was important that they were able to recognise the nuances in their own creative processes and outline this so that they could revisit and cross-reference that initial idea after completing the project and see how close they had come to their initial intention.”


For LLuminary Lili Ming, who is a self-taught photographer who works very organically, having to plan out a treatment was the first challenge. “I have never really laid out a clear-cut formula in terms of pre-production,” she says, “so this was something that I definitely had to work on and Ross helped us through that pre-production phase in terms of setting up a treatment and really clarifying and clear-cutting the vision for oneself and for future clients.” Lili’s series Undiscovered Self explores the subconscious through surrealist tropes using post-production manipulation and a sepia colour grade that gives the images an other-worldly quality.

Lili Ming
“Undiscovered Self”

Instagram: @flyinglotuseater

Assisitant- Clement Mathe
Model- Dominic Schorr

LLuminary Basetsana Maluleka also chose to look inwards and develop a personal series with the concept Enclosed. “I often feel like I’m stuck in a bubble and my biggest fear is it being popped and having to deal with reality,” she explains. Drawing inspiration from the fantastical worlds of Tim Walker’s imagery, Basetsana developed a moody treatment using motion blur to convey feelings of anxiety, confusion and internal struggle.

Basetsana Maluleka

Stylist- Lindiwe Mayisela
Make-up Artist- Erem Malo
Assistant- Erem Malo
Model- Palesa Williams

About mentoring the LLuminaries this month, Ross says that it “actually made me reconnect with some old ideas in terms of creative thinking that helped me immensely early on in my career. I think that they really delved into the concept of trying to distil their ideas in a form that made sense to them. This was really cool. I’m also excited about how much they decided to challenge themselves technically. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s too early to tell what has come from their process, but the interactions leading up to this illustrate a real sense and understanding of themselves within their work, and that’s great!”


Kassie Naidoo, one of the three directors of the LLuminaries fellowship, gave a session on digging deep to uncover your personal female gaze from concept to execution which was then applied in the photographic brief from Ross. She concludes “The Lampost Luminaries, or ‘LUMES’ as they’re affectionately being referred to by us, have shown their passion for their craft. They are eager to learn, grow and absorb as much as they can in the short space of time since the programme started.”