No Man’s Lands (2016-present) is an on-going art photography project that uses a collaborative approach to convey the stories of male-identified persons (cis and non-cis males) in limbo situations due to political, social, mental or economic factors. In this project I have attempted to diminish the control I hold as a photographer over the photographic process and outcomes, relinquishing it, to great extent, to subjects. It is an attempt to give the subjects greater control over the ways their stories are told.
Preceding each photoshoot are long conversations with participants about their motivation for taking part in this project, the story they would like to tell and how they would like to tell it. In all the No Man’s Lands series, the participants, through these conversations, choose the photoshoot locations, the outfits, and the ways in which they would like to be photographed. My role in these conversations is as an advisor – helping to fine-tune choices, suggest various possibilities that the participants might not be aware of and evaluate together whether the imagined outcomes will tell the stories the participants want to tell. After the photoshoots, the process is repeated but in reverse – I present the results and the participants express their opinion and ideas of how the photos represent them and their stories in the best ways.
This process has resulted in a multiplicity of photographic and aesthetic approaches that to a large extent are determined by the subjects. The photographer’s “signature look” is replaced in this project by the imagination and intentions of the photographed subjects.
The project also looks at the inherent nature of the photographic act, arguing that in essence - the creation of space in which time and place are suspended - it is indeed a space of limbo or of the no man’s land.
Yet photography, like these in-between spaces and situations, engenders instability and transformation. This project attempts to use this instability - the momentary negotiation between the photographer, the camera and the subject to break down these ‘fixed’ positions.
With the support of Art Council England, part of the project was exhibited for the first time in a solo exhibition at Greatmore Studios, Cape Town, South African in February 2020. The Gallery above is compiled from the exhibition's catalogue screenshots and photos from the exhibition's opening.
Below is the start of a new stage of the No Man's Lands project - a series of moving images that include short interviews with the participants