Last Friday Live took a trip to the urban sanctuary of Maboneng Precinct to meet up with photographer, videographer and all-round cool guy Chris Saunders at his studio. We talked about all things elections and politics plus got his opinion on the current state of Johannesburg and the country as a whole.
Live: How do you use what you do to influence society?
Chris Saunders: My work has influenced society in the past because of trend and exposure to certain individuals. Documentary photography generally does that.
Live: When you hear the words “Freedom of Expression” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Chris: South Africa. We’ve always had it. However, just that at the moment I feel we have issues with Freedom of Expression but hopefully we’ll never lose it again.
Live: How do you exercise your right to Freedom of Expression in your work and your craft?
Chris: In my day-to-day life I’m generally very open about the things I say. Some people are very surprised to hear the things I say, especially some of my political ideas, but I’m not a populist.
Live: Have you ever experienced an instance when an individual or a company/organisation has been offended by your work?
Chris: The first instance this happened was when I was very young and I was sitting on the line between documentary photography and fashion photography. I made the mistake of shooting this white model in Katlehong, I had this idea of showing the Cape Town conundrum through fashion which is not always the mechanism of expression. It was my misunderstanding of how sensitive things were at the time and it brought about a lot of questions.
Live: Do you feel today’s politicians represent us as the youth of this generation?
Chris: The guys that are talking in government don’t, so no they don’t. They are blatant and opulent and they spend tax payer’s money in a way that is unnecessary when they should be setting an example for young people.
Live: Seeing that it is election season what are some of the most striking images you have seen?
Chris: In South Africa we are very good at forgiving and forgetting things very quickly so I think the most striking images and the thing we need to remember is still Marikana.
Live: How do you feel about the Secrecy Bill? If it passed, how will it infringe on the Freedom of Expression of not just journalists but creatives as a whole?
Chris: The Secrecy Bill is so secret that no one understands it and that’s the biggest problem with bills in South Africa.
Live: Are you voting? Why? For Who?
Chris: Yes I am, but I’m confused even for me when it comes to the presidential elections. I don’t think we have a candidate in South Africa that is worthy of that position at the moment.
Live: How does the current political climate affect your craft?
Chris: The current political climate affects everyone inevitably in this country. It’s so volatile nobody feels like they have any stability. I feel people want some stability to create a society.
Live: Given the chance to take the final decision what would you do differently?
Chris: Firstly I’d be more honest to the people of this country, like when something is wrong tell the people it’s wrong. At the same time get the people involved in their own upliftment, don’t just treat them like subjects.
Photos edited by: Siyabonga Mkhasibe (@Todar88)