Aspiring photographer finds her focus

After two months of residency at the Amplify Studio, Noncedo Charmaine Mathibela’s first photo exhibition, To Love or Not to Love: a Street View, was celebrated at the Loop Street studio, on Thursday February 2, as part of the First Thursdays initiative.

Ms Matibela, who lives in Gardens, was the first aspiring photographer to complete Amplify Studio’s artist-in-residence programme. It’s a free initiative that tries to support at least 12 local photographers a year, with a two-month mentorship and training course.

Ms Matibela’s project told a story of love on the streets – an appropriate theme for the month of love.

The photographs show couples living on the city’s streets, and each is accompanied by a blurb explaining how they found love in a hard place.

Ms Matibela says the exhibition was a compilation of work spanning back to the beginning of October.

She was mentored by veteran photographer and lecturer Jenny Artschuler, and the exhibition was curated by Elodye Davids.

“Jenny helped me focus my project and find my feet,” says Ms Matibela.

“My project was about homeless couples finding love on the streets.”

The project was also a personal journey for her, helping her get closure on trying to mend a relationship with her absent father.

“There was so much support for this project. I chose to work with homeless couples because this exhibition tells their stories. We all see homeless people all the time but we never stop to think that these people have stories too. They found love in hardship.”

Ms Matibela, who is a fashion designer and former community newspaper photojournalist, says photography has always been a part of her life. “My mother had many albums and she had a camera. So I did my B-Tech in photography in the hopes that I can create an archive of black female photographers and their work.”

Ms Artshuler says she is very proud of Ms Matibela. “I’ve been doing mentorship for years, and I’ve always helped people set up exhibitions around the city. I’ve always loved photographing couples on the street – not just homeless couples but any couples, and I’m attracted to love.

“I met Noncedo when she broke into one of my walkabouts. I became interested in this person who was so eager to learn. I thought of her often and then she was named the first resident photographer.”

Ms Artshuler says she has had a full career and feels it’s important to give back.

Ms Matibela, she says, has raw talent and was “lapping up everything”.

“She immersed herself in ways of understanding the relationships she was seeing. It was such a short time and she accomplished so much – it’s miraculous.”

Ms Matibela is enthusiastic about tackling new projects now that her residency is over.

“I was almost relearning photography in the time I was here. News photography is very different to this.

“In my next project, I would like to look at violence that street women go through and have to endure. I’m excited.”

The founder of Amplify Studio, Todd Facemire, says they are thrilled with the success of the first programme. “We have three new residents on board for the next two months, and they are motivated and excited.”

One of the residents will work at the studio as an assistant. “They have full access to the gallery and all the equipment, even if they want to do some freelance projects to earn extra money, as the programme is free and they don’t earn a salary.

“The project is growing, and it is wonderful. We had growing pains, as expected, but it exceeded my expectations. The exhibition today shows that it can be done.”

Ms Matibela’s exhibition will be up at the Amplify Studio until Friday March 17.