Jazz festival’s photographers show off their best shots

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 19 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Photographers feed off ‘capturing the moment’: the satisfaction when lighting conditions, composition and action play along to form an image worth celebrating.

Sometimes this comes hours after hunting for a split second when all these elements come together.

Wildlife photographer Rashid Latiff knows all about this, having started his hunt for pictures with his father in Kenya.

Latiff is curator of this year’s Duotone exhibition, the visual component of the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

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VISUALISING JAZZ: Curator Rashid Latiff has been tasked with pulling together the Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s photographic exhibition running at Artscape Theatre. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Back in Kenya, during his childhood, Latiff would set out on weekends with his father and their cameras.

“I’ve been taking photos for 40 years. My father was a wildlife photographer. He used to get me up at 3am and take me to a game reserve,” says Latiff.

“We would find a pride of lions, track them and an hour after sunrise we would watch their kill. Then the vultures and hyenas would come to steal the carcasses.

“We were following pride of 60 to 70 lions. They were huge. We went on car and foot.”

Years later, Latiff moved to South Africa, where his mother lived in District Six before meeting her husband from Mauritius and settling in Kenya.

Latiff became acquainted with Cape Town photographer Shadley Lombard, son of the jazz festival founder Rashid Lombard.

When he first photographed the jazz festival – which he has done for the last nine years – Latiff was ready to “give up photography” though.

“Music photography is some of the hardest to do,” says Latiff.

“You are working with lighting scenarios that are constantly changing. You are shooting in very low light. And the artist isn’t moving slowly.

“You have to be on top of your game to shoot. That photographer has to think about all these variables and deliver an image.”

AlJarreau_Kippies29March2015_1__GregoryFranz

MOMENT: Photographers spend hours honing the craft of capturing the moment, as seen effectively in this portrait of legendary singer Al Jarreau. Picture Gregory Franz

Latiff says he adapted from thinking like a wildlife photographer and began to understand the challenges that Duotone’s exhibiting shooters know too well.

He was asked to curate the work of three jazz festival photographers; Cindy Waxa, Johan Samuels and Gregory Franz.

Latiff says the exhibition’s theme is No Distractions and it is intended to showcase the intimate moments that musicians have on stage, as well as platform photographic talent.

“You’ve got jazz festival photographers running around five stages for two days shooting themselves dead,” says Latiff.

“They have personal work that they never showcase. This is an exhibition for them to show images that speaks to them.”

Ronnie Jordan

ABOUT THE LIGHT: Photographing jazz musicians requires patience, working with constantly changing lighting conditions, as demonstrated in this picture guitarist Ronnie Jordan. Picture Johan Samuels

Latiff says the photographs also aim to entice new audiences to attend the festival.

“You as an attendee to a jazz festival will see an artist from a distance but you will never get so close to be able to see every pimple. These images are going to show you that,” he says.

“It will allow you to get up close and personal. You will be able to feel the emotion they feel on stage. That’s what everybody wants to experience when they come to see artists. Photography does that.

“Once people see the images of these artists, maybe they would want to see a bit more of that artist and the festival.”

Latiff’s challenge as curator was to “marry three different photographic styles”.

“Selecting images that flow through the three different styles, that was the challenge,” he says.

“There has to be rhythm between the pictures so you can move freely from one to the next and not get stuck and ask why is this photograph here.”

Apart from the exhibition, the festival will also run music photography lectures for students who will document the free concert on Green Market Square in central Cape Town in the week before the festival starts.

This is the first year that the Duotone exhibition runs outside the jazz festival venue, to ensure that it reaches a wider audience. It was previously only accessible to persons who had tickets for the festival.

Duotone runs at Artscape Theatre in central Cape Town from March 29 to April 2.

The annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival runs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on April 1 and 2.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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