A Photographic Journey

We talk to Emielke

What are some of the challenges and triumphs of your job as a photographer?

As a commercial freelance photographer in South Africa, I'm on a constant roller coaster where one week I may have six shoots and the next week I may have none. Fortunately for me, I’m not one for routine and I love being able to squeeze in a road trip when things are quiet. I guess I have triumphed in that I’ve managed to make a career from what many people only practice as a hobby.

How has becoming a registered tour guide helped in your chosen career path?

I studied to become a registered tour guide more for my own interest. I’m not currently an active guide although I keep my registration valid, as I never know what the future may hold. Perhaps I’ll host photographic workshops or guide people on photographic safaris. For now my commercial work keeps me busy.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt through travel?

Emielke’s style is understated and simple. She is one of Cape Town's most committed and enthusiastic photographers. Her portfolio is vast, but her true passion lies in travel.

Patience, improvisation, and to always wear a friendly smile – especially at border control!
If you want to shoot a scene in the best light, then you need to choose your travel companions carefully or go it alone.

Which of your travel photographs tell the best stories?

We can never relive time passed, so it’s wonderful when you can capture a series of successive, fleeting moments as they pass by. When documenting a trip, I like to take a series of images that summarise the journey and capture the essence, heart and mood as I experienced it. To me it’s important to capture the wider picture, as well as the details - shoot only one or the other, and only half the story is told. Details with no sense of place just float in a void, and a singular wide image leaves you begging to dig deeper.

The very best local and international place you’ve travelled to?

We are so spoilt living in South Africa with our very diverse landscapes. I love our country from the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, from the Kruger National Park to the Garden Route, from the highest peaks in the Drakensberg to the floral kingdom of the Cape, from the Natal Midlands to the Great Karoo. I hope to always have the freedom to move between it all. I greatly favour places of solitude.

Internationally: Russia for its sheer size and other worldliness, Norway for its magnificent fjords and first world efficiency, Botswana for its wildlife, Italy for the skiing, art museums and Venice. And the there’s also Madagascar, Portugal, France…!

When it comes to travel, what still remains on your personal bucket list?

I aim to see the number of countries equivalent to my age. I check in on my list every five years. I haven’t travelled to the East or South America at all and I’d like to see as many World Heritage Sites as possible.

Your thoughts on the influence of social media and Instagram on the evolution of photography?

It’s great that everyone has the opportunity to document their lives and share their points of view visually with others. Personally, I’ve reached saturation point on the ‘happy snaps’ and ‘selfies’ though. How many more people’s cellphone Instagram pics (with a filter overlay) of food or random objects do you need or want to see?

How do you think you have evolved as a photographer through your own body of work?

When it comes to travel photography, you’re at the mercy of nature and where the adventure chooses to take you. I’ve always been a modernist at heart with its clean lines and simplicity. I love negative space and loathe post-modernism. From when I started out shooting, until the day I can no longer hold a camera, I value the basic principles of design and composition. I hope to always reflect this in my work. There’s always room for improvement though and I’m happy to keep learning.

What is your advice to aspiring travel photographers?

Shoot as much as you can. If in the beginning you can’t afford to travel, pretend to be a tourist or traveller passing through your hometown. Spend hours sitting patiently and quietly watching a single subject and get used to getting up well before sunrise. Learn to travel light because your photography gear is going to take up most of your space and weight allowance.