Okay, okay – at this time of the year we can be heard making this common statement – “This year has flown past so quickly”. And honestly – that is exactly what comes to mind right now as I sit down with this post. At the start of 2014, Design Monarchy put their hand up to become involved with a World Design Capital 2014 project. The project involves the makeover or upgrade of the Acute Care Surgery Ward in Cape Town’s iconic state-run Groote Schuur Hospital. You can read more about this project, #WDC323, by reading our previous posts on the matter: here & here.
We did suspect back then that this project was going to be a biggie. There have been times when huge strides were made in this ward upgrade, times when I felt it was standing still and other times when it just moved at its own pace. As frustrating as that may be, I guess that is just the nature of this beast we are working with. Nevertheless, we go with the flow and keep making our plans for completion. That has been ear-marked for February 2015.
This week saw another two more amazingly generous sponsors install the first phase of their product. I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Efraim De Leeuw of Albert Carpets in Cape Town, and he brought Percy Lotter of FloorworX along with him. Together these two companies are responsible for providing one of the major elements (cost wise as well) for this ward upgrade… new bumper rails. FloorworX provided the product and Albert Carpets the labour expertise for the installation thereof.
They kitted the new Nurses Station with these bumper rails. Next year sees them installing meters and meters of the same throughout the whole ward.
Bumper rails are one of those elements of design that we don’t even notice when we move around a hospital. In a very busy ward, such as this Acute Care Surgery Ward, patients are moved to and from the operating theatre all day long (just about) – these bumper rails are thus critical in providing protection to the ward surfaces.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This past weekend was a biggie for Design Monarchy, Dr Juan Klopper (Head of Acute Surgery Ward at Groote Schuur Hospital), Monique of Easylife Kitchens Western Cape and Nadia Nel of PG Bison. Why? – because the first part of the construction phase of the #WDC323 Ward upgrade kicked off (you can read more about the project and our involvement: here). It was magic watching this World Design Capital 2014 project lift off. When I walked into the ward on Friday – which had been completely emptied out of patients and nursing staff – I really felt like shouting: HOUSTON, WE HAVE A LIFT OFF!!
The ward might have unnaturally been devoid of patients and nursing staff alike, but not of human activity. Into that space, Easylife Kitchens generously poured in their various installation teams – all voluntary I would have you know. The logistics of such an installation was not for the faint-hearted since franchise teams came from all over the Western Cape. Yet despite the crazy logistics, which was spearheaded by one diligent Easylife Kitchens worker bee, Monique Da Costa and her boss, Tersia De Wet (also very busy on site) – the whole installation process went off like Swiss clockwork. All the sights and sounds of a busy carpentry site was seen and heard. Teams of people some cutting wooden panels, other drilling, still others glueing stuff – with the cleaning crew never far behind.
This weekend’s AWESOME heroes:
An Easylife Kitchens team hard at work replacing the worn panels on the beds and tables with brand new PG Bison boards.
Being part of this project I have met really incredible folk and companies who are adding their contribution to the development of Cape Town’s community via World Design Capital by getting behind this project. Then of course, none of this weekend’s work would have been possible without the diligent efforts of Nadia Nel of PG Bison, who generously sponsored all the boards and materials. Without this charitable contribution Easylife Kitchens would not have been able to show us how they work their cabinetry magic. Then – a very special shout-out to the folks over at Eclipse who donated the joinery hardware – handles, hinges, runners, etc.
Let us not forget that the Groote Schuur Hospital Management Board has been awesome as well.
From left: Bev van der Westhuizen of PG Bison; Rose McClement of Design Monarchy; Dr Juan Klopper – Head of Acute Surgery Ward at Groote Schuur Hospital; Nadia Nel of PG Bison; and Monique Da Costa of Easylife Kitchens – a winning team I think!
WATCH THIS SPACE! There is much more to come as we continue driving toward the goal of the complete ward makeover. There is still plenty of work to cover and more generous people to encounter. I will be interviewing Dr Juan Klopper during the course of the next few days, so that you can meet the man, hear his vision for the upliftment of the community he serves. P.S. You might have read something about our Groote Schuur ward makeover project in this morning’s Die Burger!
Since our last post on this very worthy project, we have gained several new contributors who have generously sponsored either their time, product or services. In the next couple of weeks we will tell you all about these worthy peeps and how the project is progressing.
In the meantime however we still desperately need the following:
Furniture:chairs for the waiting room; visitors chairs for the ward; and a handful of office chairs for the doctors & nurses.
Fabrics: for window & privacy curtains; as well as re-upholstery of selected furniture.
Blinds: for selected windows.
Upholsterers & Curtain-makers:for reupholstery of new & existing furniture as well as curtain-makers willing to sew the ward’s new window & privacy curtains.
Spray-Painters: the ward’s beds and pedestals needs respraying. Plascon has already generously supplied the paint we just need somebody willing to do the actual spray-painting.
Hygiene Equipment: 5xnew paper towel dispensers; 11 x new soap dispensers; waste paper bins and 6 x medical trolleys.
… and one new bar fridge.
If you own, work for, or know of a local company or business that is willing to donate some of their time, product or services to this VERY worthy cause, please do not hesitate to contact us. This project is an excellent opportunity to make a charitable contribution whilst linking your company name to a renowned initiative such as World Design Capital can facilitate brand awareness and an indirect marketing pay-off.
Here is a little sneak peek of this weekends work….
The Groote Schuur Acute Surgery Unit nurses’ station had seen many years worth of wear & tear – but now the Ward boasts with a sleek new nurses’ station courtesy of Easylife Kitchens and PG Bison.
An Easylife Kitchens employee working hard at putting the Ward’s new Quick Access Station together.
Replacing the old Nurses’ Station was no easy feat as the ELK team had to work around the existing power skirting. The two “G’s” – Grant & Gareth of Easylife Kitchens Langebaan were sweating blood but by the end of the weekend the counters were installed and looking beautiful. Job well done chaps!!
The new cabinetry set up in the Medical Storage Room – what an amazing difference it makes.
Easylife Kitchens replaced all the (seriously worn) tops of the overbed tables with brand new MelaWood boards from PG Bison.