Q&A with Photographer Patrick McKenna


The Groote Schuur #WDC323 Ward upgrade project recently received a generous donation of beautiful framed and unframed prints from Cape Town-based photographer and writer, Patrick McKenna. We asked him about the inspirations, frustrations and aspirations behind his images.

Q: When did your interest in photography begin?

Patrick-McKenna

Photographer Patrick McKenna

We’ve rehearsed this question and answer before and as you know, I am rather embarrassed about admitting the truth. But here goes: as a young boy growing up in Zimbabwe during the 1960s and 1970s, there were only two publications that catered for an adolescent boy’s growing interest in the female form: National Geographic and Amateur Photographer. I consulted them religiously at every opportunity and the brilliance of their images shaped the rest of my life – regardless of whether they featured the female form or not. That’s when I started begging my mother for a camera.

Q: How old were you when she answered your prayers?

About 10 years old. She bought back an Instamatic camera from one of her trips to England. I have always been obsessed by the beauty, colour and power of horses and horse racing. Handily, we lived right behind Borrowdale Park racecourse in Harare and I was up at the crack of dawn next day to photograph the gallops. Sadly, my early attempts at photography failed because of my youthful impatience. Rather than wait for the films to be developed in a professional darkroom, I simply closed the curtains in my bedroom, pulled the film out its canister hoping that my pictures would magically appear before my eyes. Of course, I simply destroyed them.

Q: Have you ever had any formal training in photography?

One or two evening course, but that’s it. I think that formal training is vital when it comes to learning the technical aspects of photography. But I am not convinced that you can be taught to see with a photographer’s eye. That takes time and intensive personal study of the world around you. It means following your interests and developing your own styles and themes. It means trying, failing and trying again. Of course, if you have a natural talent, that always helps.

Q: Which photographers do you admire most?

I was hugely moved by the Magnum masters: Henri Cartier-Bresson and his colleagues. Old school black and white US street photographers like Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand also had a major impact on me. As for colour specialists, though, I hate Steve McCurry. Every picture he publishes is an absolute masterpiece and he makes me want to just give up and stop trying to match him. The list of the other big names I admire goes on and on. Robert Doisneau, Eugene Meatyard, Martin Parr, Lee Friedlander, Don McCullin and South Africa’s own virtuoso, Roger Ballen − among so many others. But I would also point out that the world is full of brilliant unknown photographers whose names you will never know. They are all over the internet. They are in galleries, magazines, books and graduation exhibitions. They are everywhere and you can learn from all of them.

Q: Digital or film?

Both.  I am very grateful that I started taking pictures before the digital age. There is nothing like trying and failing with an old manual SLR film camera. Or spending several hours and lots of money in a darkroom until you have dodged and shaded the perfect picture in a tray of chemicals. But digital photography is a modern miracle that I celebrate every day. Perversely, the possibilities it opens up are so immense that I sometimes feel paralysed by them.

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration these days?

Absolutely everywhere and anywhere. From a vast open landscape in the Overberg to the sand beneath my feet on Noordhoek Beach, the world is full of patterns, colours, textures, moments and inspiration.

Last year, I held and exhibition in Cape Town called Sea. Land. City. That just about covers all my strongest sources of inspiration – except for horse racing, which remains one of my obsessions.

That said, photographers are also vulnerable to same obstacles that effect writers suffering from writers’ block. You can visit locations that have inspired other photographers for decades and feel absolutely nothing despite your best intentions. I am Zimbabwean to the core. Ironically, however, I find it very difficult to feel photographically inspired in my own country, which is revered for its natural beauty. Perhaps it’s psychological!

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Never stop looking. Look at the masters. Look at Instagram. Look at the National Geographic and Amateur Photographer. Look at Flickr and Pinterest and random images on Google and in magazines and books. Most of all, look at your own universe. See the colours, textures, shapes all around you. Predict the moments. Learn how to capture them. If your technical skills are limited, enrol in a night class. If you lose hope and inspiration, never stop photographing. If you don’t like what you see, just hit delete and try again. That’s the beauty of digital photography. Two more points: you won’t get the images you want unless you are there to take them. And you can never, ever get too close to your subject.

Q: But with all these resources and sources open to aspiring photographers, isn’t there a danger of inspiration overload?

You have certainly got a point. Accessing raw inspiration is not a problem. The challenge comes with distilling all that raw material into a consistent and recognisable style that is unique to you. That is where practice and hard slog is so important. Eventually, all the fluid sources of inspiration and influence will crystallise into the distinctive shots that will define your style. The perfect image will always be elusive and there will always be an element of luck involved in capturing it. But as Gary Player once said: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

Q: What next?

To capture the best image that has ever been captured by anyone, ever. I’ve no idea where it is, what it looks like or when I will see it. But I know it’s out there somewhere and I am going to keep looking for it. Meanwhile, if any of my images help a patient in Groote Schuur along  the road to recover, that’s good enough for me.

Want to see more of Patrick’s beautiful work? Be sure to visit his website: here; or check out his Flickr account: here. You can also follow him on his Facebook Page: here.

10 Spring-Inspired Accessories Under R150


By Marica

Spring Time is upon us in all her glory! Nature has finally shaken free of Winter’s cold clutches and adorned herself with a myriad of colourful and happy fauna and flora. Not a moment too soon I might add – this winter was dreary indeed – and I usually LOVE winter.

It also seems our flowerbeds aren’t the only things stirred by this long awaited Spring Revival – the shops are suddenly filled with bright, vibrant and cheerful things! So, let shake a bit of that winter gloom – here are TEN beautiful and colourful Spring-inspired décor items and home accessories to make you all excited for this most beautiful season of the year…

A happy SPRING to all!

{click on images to enlarge & view sources}

 

Quick Tip #33: Shutters Turned Wall Organizer


{click to enlarge}

I think it is time for another little Décor Quick Tip series… this one is going to be about various clever things you can do with old or reclaimed louvre shutters! I have stumbled upon some seriously cool images and ideas, so keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks!

#33  Repurpose old shutters by converting them into a nifty wall catch-all. The shutters’ louvers make for an excellent odds-and-ends receptacle – a perfect place to tuck letters, postcards and invitations, or display art and photographs. This shutter organizer will serve you especially well in your foyer or study – you can even attach a hook or two for keys or add a notepad for quick shopping lists and memos…

[Image sources: 12, 3]
 
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GIVE-AWAY! 10 Homemakers Expo Tickets Up For Grabs!


The Cape HOMEMAKERS EXPO, will be taking place from 4 to 7 September 2014 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) in the Mother City.

The Homemakers Expo kicks off on Thursday at the CTICC and we have some awesome double tickets to give-away to 10 lucky individuals! So lets have a little speed give-away shall we!

To enter and stand a chance WIN you must:

1) Comment on this post below and tell us how excited you are for Homemakers Expo.

AND

2) “Like” our Facebook page: here 

… additionally if you have Twitter you can also do the following…

Tweet this post and include @streaksahead @SAHomemakers

Now since this is a speed give-away you only have TWO DAYS to enter! WINNERS will be announced close of business (5pm) Wednesday, the 3rd of September 2014 – the winners’ tickets will be emailed to them.

Want to know more about this year’s Homemakers Expo? Here is what you can expect:

Themed “Bold, Bright and Individual” this year’s Expo boasts seven exciting feature areas for visitors to engage with specialists and industry leaders in home improvement and design.

HOMEMAKERS Expo, in association with Home | Tuis magazines, will once again host the ever-popular DIY Workshop series. Visitors will be given the opportunity to get up close and personal with DIY professionals, who put their personal signature touches to various novel home and décor projects.

inVOGUE  – celebrating stylish living… a cameo collection of the latest interior décor trends & ideas.

d’VINE life – tantalize your taste buds… showcasing the Cape’s finest boutique wines, delicious cheeses, tapenades & other gourmet goodies.

an ARTISANaffair – explore gorgeous homegrown creativity… the hottest curated collection of unique, handmade craft and design by local artisans and craft entrepreneurs.

Design Project 2014 – cutting edge & innovative design by South Africa’s leading local talent.

alfresco living -inspiring outdoor spaces & exterior living trends… think alfresco dining, azure pools, pergolas & shade solutions, designer decks & furniture, terraced herb gardens and patio glamour.

tuis/home – get up close and personal with the DIY pros… who put their signature touches to various innovative home & décor projects.

KSA Pavilion – turn your dream of a new kitchen into a reality… from appliances, work surfaces, sinks and taps, to the latest functional designs.

more info…

Show Dates:     4 – 7 September 2014
Show Times:
    Thursday – Saturday, 10:00 – 20:00
Sunday, 10:00 -18:00 

Visitor Entry:
   Adults R70 | Pensioners R50 | Children under 12 free

Tickets available from Webtickets and at the door

For further information, contact: (021) 511 2800 or expocape@homemakers-sa.co.za. Also visit www.homemakersonline.co.za.

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