IN 2001, Clint Strydom – whose art, up until that point, had consisted primarily of charcoal drawings and a short, unsatisfying foray into graphic design (it was “too restrictive”) – photographed a set of cutlery for the menu of the restaurant that he and his wife owned and operated on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast at the time.
He was so pleased with the resulting macro shots that he set aside two of the images, printed them across a width of two metres and hung them on the walls of the restaurant.
Within one week, Strydom had sold both the photographs for R3 000 each. Six months later, the couple sold the eatery so that he could focus on photography full time.
“Certainly, my work has evolved since then, especially the black and white images,” he says. “But I still love the simplicity of those very first images. In fact, I often go back to them to remind myself about that style of work, about the value of not over thinking things and that there is art in the simple things around us.”
In his most recent collection, The Real Heroes – which is part of the 2010 Fine Art Collection – Strydom’s large black and white images demonstrate a keen eye for detail that is offset by dramatically strong lines and earthy tones.
Some of the photographs were taken in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal close to where the artist lives. Others were shot further south on the beaches of the Wild Coast, where Strydom’s work brings to light the contrast between the stark and simple beach-cum-soccer field in the background and the energy and enthusiasm of the players upfront. Working with his camera set-up in monochrome and to overexpose is, he says, how he achieves the striking contrasts prevalent in his photography.
Technique aside, much of Strydom’s work focuses on the daily lives of rural people. “So, taking photographs involving soccer was a natural extension of what I do. For The Real Heroes series, I simply tried to capture the love and passion people who live in remote areas have for the game,” he explains.
Many of the images in the series show youngsters in action. However, a category within the collection – which Strydom calls “the ball series” – features a number of disintegrating soccer balls as fine art images.
“Thanda is one of the charities that I have become involved with through my work in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The ball series was inspired by the kids in the organisation who play so long and so hard with each ball that it almost disintegrates before they give it up. I took a carload of new soccer balls to swop for their used ones and then photographed the well-used soccer balls to print as fine art images, which provides a great juxtaposition.”
Strydom’s hope for The Real Heroes series – which is named as such because the photographer believes that the children featured are the real heroes of their own games – is that it “will give rural African soccer a face in the 2010 FIFA World Cup”. It is, he says, the work that he is most proud of to date: “The series was incredible to shoot and I love the feeling of Africa in it. The attention the photographs have received so far, during exhibitions at Graham’s Fine Art in Johannesburg, Bell Roberts in Cape Town and Kizo Art in Durban, has been enough to make any artist very stoked.”
The photographer, who was born in Johannesburg in 1973 and raised on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, is currently working on a series of photographs for Growthpoint Properties Limited. The collection is earmarked for the company’s new offices at Lincoln On The Lake in Umhlanga.
“The images capture abstract angles and contrasts of texture and light during the construction process of the building, which is designed by THA Architecture & Design,” says Strydom. “I also recently shot a series to be used in a book for Revel Saint, whose Kembali Estate is one of the largest private cane farms in KwaZulu-Natal. These photographs will capture the landscape and people involved in the estate’s sugar cane farms, which are situated on hundreds of incredibly scenic rolling hills at the back of Hibberdene.”
The photographer does not, like many of his South African contemporaries, bemoan the poor lot of local fine art photographers.
“I have not found that South African art lovers undervalue photography,” he comments. “Even the more commercial projects I take on, such as the Growthpoint Properties Limited and Kembali Estate projects, are photographed and produced to be viewed and appreciated as art.”
Strydom’s work is increasingly featured in many collections both in South Africa and abroad. He is among three international artists whose work was selected by chief executive officer of Aston Martin, Dr Ulrich Bez to be permanently exhibited at the Aston Martin Design Studio, which opened in Gaydon in the United Kingdom in 2007.
(This article was published in the Sunday Life section of The Sunday Independent in January 2010. The photograph is entitled ‘Not Just A Game’ and is from Strydom’s Real Heroes Series.)