The Picture Poet

Michelle Wastie transforms ordinary settings into extraordinary portrayals

Thirty-one-year-old Michelle Wastie uses her passion for creating visuals to transform ordinary settings into extraordinary portrayals. After establishing herself as a wardrobe stylist in the film, fashion and media industries, photography was not a foreign transition for her...

What sparked your interest in and passion for photography? 

“In my photography, colour is my language. I go through stages where my eye is drawn to certain tones. I love the post-production process! It's a journey that never leads to the same place.”

My love for and fascination with people.

What is your favourite subject matter and why? 

People - without a doubt! I find tremendous gratification in capturing people as I see them, especially when I’m able to share the image with them and experience their response to seeing themselves through my lens. I also really enjoy shooting food - it is a creative expression that has its own life and energy, which makes it a fun challenge to shoot.

In your commercial work, who are some of the most interesting/memorable people you have photographed? 

One of the aspects of my profession that I most enjoy is the opportunity to interact with a wide array of varied individuals. I work with politicians, high-powered business people, sportsmen and women, musicians, artists, actors, deejays, personalities, comedians, etc. I recently shot the Auditor General Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, Former Politician Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, and Mbuyeseni Ndlozi - spokesperson for the EFF, to mention a few. I had the pleasure of shooting a portrait of Michael Campell, for Golfing Digest USA. It's always fun working with comedians! Tumi Moraka is one of my favourite women on the planet. She's phenomenally talented and an inspiration to be around.  I also recently collaborated with Culoe De Song (local music producer and DJ) and was blown away by him.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of the work you do? 

My job constantly presents problems that need split-second solutions. I enjoy having to think on my feet and making a plan on the fly – there’s so much gratification in coming up with a solution that rocks. 

Can you share some of the secret tricks of the trade? 

I'm afraid they are the oldest tricks in the book: Never give up and be yourself - both clichés for good reason!

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

Each piece and project changes who I am as a person and as a photographer. It’s the perfect career for me exactly for that reason. I live in a state of dynamic flow and for the opportunity to change and transform. In my photography, colour is my language; I go through stages where my eye is drawn to certain tones. I love the post-production process! It's a journey that never leads to the same place.

Any words of wisdom for the up-and-comers? 

Decide what lifestyle you want before you decide which genre of photography to delve into. There are many different ways to go about creating a career out of photography, so start with the end goal in mind. 

What have been some of your proudest moments as a photographer? 

During my eight-year journey into the exploration of photography, one of many proud moments was being recognized internationally, and published in a book called NEON by Hong Kong publisher Viction:ary, who specializes in visual art and design, connecting visions and inspirations from the East and the West. As a commercial photographer, I have also worked on landmark international campaigns such as Dulux – Colour Prohibition, and Guinness – Made of Black (featuring Nigerian rap superstar Phyno). Doing stills for the Guinness #MadeOfBlack campaign which scooped a gold at the Cannes earlier this year was one of the proudest moments in my career. Participating in such high-calibre productions and being inspired by talents from abroad has contributed to my growth as a creative entrepreneur.

Where has your photography career taken you in terms of experience? 

I have worked on huge international commercial sets with unbelievably talented cast and crew. I have contributed to sizeable campaigns for noteworthy publications, and I work with local celebrities and personalities across various platforms. With a background in styling, and a firm grasp of the entire process of stills production from start to finish, it has been a natural progression for me to produce campaigns in their entirety, including set-up, photography and post-production.