You’ve seen him at events ranging from Jewish functions to music festivals, as local photographer Stuart Shapiro is there to capture it all — and more. He tells us about his photographic adventures, his unique approach to his art — and eating a tortoise! Read on to find out more…
Tell us about the work that you do:
I’m an event and experiential photographer based in Cape Town. I pride myself on creating my own unique style of photography and innovating new ways in which to use a camera, technology and social media to merge the digital and photographic world.
What motivates you and why are you passionate about your work?
My fascination with the human psyche; why people do the things they do; how we think; what we think; moments and memories and how our journeys shape who we are, have always been the strong driving force behind my photography. I love interacting with people, seeing even just a glimpse of another person’s life and hearing their stories. The camera has always allowed me to embrace this fascination; it has given me the opportunity to take on the role of the explorer, adventurer, journalist, artist and curious kid.
Every picture tells a story. I feel photography is a reflection of who we are. It shows us a moment of life frozen in a frame. Life, after all, is just an amalgamation of moments.
You have done a lot of work for Jewish community organisations. What has been exciting or inspiring about doing this work?
I love the Jewish traditions, everything that comes with the upbringing of a good Jewish education and social life. There is a certain bond within the community and an honour that I feel needs to be upheld as a Jewish young man. Just being a part of it, creating those moments and giving back is rewarding.
You are known for revolutionising photography at festivals and events. Tell us about what you do differently?
Light is the key to photography. I scan a crowd; take note of the natural light or colours and positions of all the artificial lighting to determine the best angle for getting the shots I want. Once that’s established, it only needs to take a second. I look for moments. I look for people that are animated, engaging or feeling an emotion. And then I hit the button. I believe there is only one correct photo and one correct moment.
Apart from giving away some secrets there, I have built various contraptions to allow me to merge social media and photography or harness light. One such unit, weighing close to 15kgs, sits on my back and can overpower the sun. It is essentially a portable fashion studio for events, allowing me to control the lighting conditions and create vibrant unique images.
Tell us about the range of subjects in your photographs:
My photography always involves people. It ranges from brand activations, national festivals, high- end corporate events to the odd fun social event and travel documentary photography. I have tried out many of the photography divisions — fashion, product, food etcetera — and found my passion lies with people. What has been your favourite subject to photograph/ favourite project, and why? recently had the privilege of working with the Khoi San tribes for a Dutch publication. The journalist was digging into the truth behind the politics, traditions and history of the tribe — a controversial topic of which I got to hear first-hand from the Elders. We spent a week with the tribe, learning their roots, problems and politics. Drinking home-made beer, eating a tortoise and hearing stories around a campfire were some of the highlights. For me, capturing this truth fuelled my love for photography.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
It’s certainly putting on my ‘game face’. Photographing people takes a lot of energy and confidence. The ability to make someone feel comfortable for that second or to not intrude on the moment. I have to be confident and give out the energy I want to receive in the photo. My choice of equipment and style for any shoot is always influenced by my mood.
What is the most rewarding aspect?
Living people a special memory is truly rewarding — the ability to look back on the moment and remember everything that came with it. Who they were, where they were, how they were feeling.
What is your advice to others who want to succeed in the photography industry?
When it comes to event-related photography, think about your hit rate. It bothers me when I hear a camera firing off countless shots of one given moment. There is only one moment; there is only one correct setting to get the shot you want. A great photographer doesn’t go home with hundreds of shots, deleting and selecting. Know what you want to shoot when you see it, press the button when it’s the right moment and know what your settings need to be to capture that moment.
Anything else you would like to add?
I will be developing and launching some exciting new products to capture your events. These photo -booth systems will be available for weddings, bar/ bat mitzvahs, general functions etc.
Keep your ears open!