I’ve placed this series in the Film Noir section of my website. Why film noir? To find out, keep reading.
2005, I decamped from Cape Town back to Joburg for a year. Had some personal projects I wanted to complete. A look at the city’s fire services and to cover an in-depth feature on inner city Joburg for French GEO Magazine. But those are other stories.
I packed Chui my cat and a few things into the Landcruiser, hitched the BMW bike to the trailer, drove the 1400km to my rented room in a Rivonia townhouse, to cohabit with a single mother and daughter. Save to say, Prince their Labrador and Chui never did see eye to eye.
Joburg’s manic highways are thronged with billboards. Metal Monsters as they are called. I decided that at night some of them reminded me of UFO’s. I decided to investigate.
Now here comes the NOIR part.
You see if Cape Town is SA murder capital 1A, then Joburg is Homicide Heaven 1b. The Gauteng Province number plate, GP, stands for Gangsters Paradise.
My subjects, these metal monsters, were usually to be found in derelict chunks of land, sandwiched between frenetic 6 lane highways. It was common knowledge that much of Joburg’s underclass of homeless, illegal immigrants and so forth, lived incognito within the maize of underpasses and bridges. Some often sleeping in the numerous dykes and ditches away from any structures at all.
These rather wretched slivers of land, were crisscrossed with trails and rudimentary footpaths, sort of like hippo trails one finds in the Africa bush. Albeit no hippos here, just a lot of poor , desperate people, traipsing these trails, day and NIGHT.
To shoot my subjects I would have to usually stop either Landcruiser, or more often my bike, on the emergency lane of these demon driver highways and flick on the hazard lights. Lest I mention. People in distress on SA’s highways are either rescued or robbed. I would then hop over the crash barrier and go fumble my way down into the inky blackness, because once out of the beam of the highway lamps, things got very…err hmm. Noir.
I was fully aware that as an Umlungu (whitey), with an expensive Nikon camera around my neck, domke bag full of lenses and a mobile phone, I was a sitting duck for any thug or serial killer. Down there in the blackness I was in unfamiliar territory. Their territory! All I could do was prey to Allah!
For tactical purposes I kept no torches. No point giving my position away! These little photo forays called for stealth. Every few foot steps, I would stop. Scan the gloominess, try pick up a rustle or a cough. But all I could hear was the deafening sound of cars on asphalt driving at break neck speed. Setting up a tripod seemed like lunacy. But a tripod it had to be.
Each camera click sounded like a gun shot, or so it seemed, so nervous I was about drawing someone out of the undergrowth. You know? With a panga clenched between his teeth!! Sorry but my imagination did tend to run wild. It reminded me of my days swimming in Cape Town’s False Bay. You knew the Great Whites were down there somewhere. But you swam anyway. And when something brushed against your leg, you almost screamed out loud! Every rustle in the undergrowth created the same fight or flight response.
Alas the UFO series photographically is rather mild by comparison to the back story. Hence I decided to elaborate on this introduction. Either way. Hope you enjoy.
To see more of the series, please visit;