Cape Town photographer captures love on the streets in powerful new exhibition

Caroline’s partner has an 18 year sentence. She is waiting for him. They have 4 kids living at home with Caroline’s relatives. (Image: Noncedo Mathibela)

Originally published here

Caroline has been living on the streets of Cape Town for 37 years. Her husband is serving an 18-year prison sentence. Caroline is willing to wait for him.

Caroline is one of many subjects of Noncedo Charmaine’s photography project currently being exhibited at Amplify Studio in Cape Town. The project is aptly titled To Love or not to Love: A Street View. It comprises striking images of mostly homeless couples residing in the streets of Cape Town. The idea behind the series of images was that the one thing homeless people and the rest of us have in common is we fall in love. In one way or the other.

“I invited two of them for tonight. I’m hoping to invite more,” says Noncedo when I ask her if her subjects are aware that the images she made of them are being exhibited. The studio is teeming with people, after all it’s opening night. “They are hoping this project brings some kind of positive in their lives. So I need art supplies,” she continues and, after, gives a naught chuckle. Noncedo is the first resident photographer of Amplify Studios.

Jerome and Madelensia have been together on the streets in Cape Town for 4 years. They had just had their baby boy five days ago when this image was made. (Image: Noncedo Mathibela)

I ask her how the response has been so far. “Many said it made them stop and reflect,” she says. “Like this one lady was like, ‘I’m one of those people who just see homeless people and look at their clothes and get irritated and now seeing a picture of how exposed they feel just gave me a different perspective.’

Some of the stories behind the images also provoked me a bit. One of those is that of a couple who had given birth to their baby five days before she made an image of them.

“For me,” says Noncedo, “it just makes you stop and look at your life — your privileges, it makes you think differently if you’re not that shallow of a person.” The love aspect of the project also comes from a place of curiosity. Noncedo has some reservations about monogamy and love as we know it. She is intrigued by it. “There are all these common stories in relationships — cheating, and it leads to all these other things. That’s where it comes from,” she says.

Anthea and Tyrone have been together for 8 years. They have been through many struggles that have seen them go to jail. (Image: Noncedo Mathibela)

Convincing her subjects to get photographed wasn’t that challenging. “I was very open,” she says. “The common question was that of money, and I was very open, that I won’t pay them, but hopefully the project grows and become something else that would enable all of us to benefit financially.”

Noncedo, who was born in Ladysmith in Kwazulu Natal, is not a newbie. She worked for Media 24 after graduation around 2010, but quit to be a full-time artist in 2015. She has partaken in several exhibitions. One of her projects is the ongoing Carbon Copy, in which she and her twin sister cast the lens upon themselves to express how they see themselves as twins.

She enjoys being a conceptual photographer more than the confined field of journalism, because she can take time with her work and is in full control of what she produces.

The project is aptly titled To Love or not to Love: A Street View runs until February 17 at the Amplify Studios, 153 Loop Street, Cape Town. Make your way there for more images.