Kgomotso Neto (25) didn’t grow up with a fascination for photography or go to school to learn the ropes. His work is entirely based on instinct. This instinct has made him one of the most revered young photographers on the continent, leading to his work being featured on the Sunday Times and Between 10 and 5. Recently, Okayafrica listed him as one of the emerging African photographers to know.
Changing perceptions one series at a time
His fascination with taxis, as documented in this Zola Budd series, has shaped how he sees the world around him. “Having travelled in taxis my whole life, I thought, ‘How would my life be if I hadn’t used taxis?’ We don’t see the importance of these guys. But [the industry] is one of the biggest black-owned industries in the country and without them, the city stops… the whole country stops.”In the series, Kgomotso documented the stories of taxi drivers, purposefully sidestepping the negative stereotypes associated with them by letting us into their world. “That’s what I’m trying to do with my photography, I’m trying to change stereotypes and certain perceptions we’ve developed as black people in the hood.” The project is ongoing and Kgomotso is hoping to host an exhibition.
He only got a proper camera three years ago
After studying law at the University of Johannesburg, he worked for about two years, then bought a camera, in 2013. He then quit his job to focus on photography full time. He remembers coming home with an expensive camera and his parents not saying anything. Then sometime last year, his mom was like, “The day you came home with the camera, we thought you were crazy. Like, how can you spend so much money on a camera when it’s gonna be of no use for you? But now I can see what it’s doing for you.”
Taking photos made him think deeply about his subjects. “This one time, during my early days as a photographer,” he says, “I shot some old lady pushing a trolley. It was full of fruit, veggies and other stuff that she sold on the street corner. And on her back, she had a baby.”
Kgomotso says at first he felt sorry for the woman but had to stop himself. “I asked myself, ‘Why can’t I see her as someone who’s very important in the community because she provides them with fruit? Why can’t I see her as a provider for her family or an entrepreneur?’ There’s a lot of this kind of notion in the hood, we just see the negative side.”
Since then, he has focused his photography on documenting the lives of people who are on the periphery of society, like the fruit sellers, taxi drivers and recyclers.
“I’ve documented those recycling guys you see on the street pushing those big trolleys. When we see them, we see homeless people. I want that, when you see these guys, you don’t view them as homeless people. They play a huge role of recycling a lot of trash in the city and keeping it clean,” says Kgomotso.
New year, new projects
He, along with illustrator Rendani Nemakhavhani, has just released the third chapter of a series called The Honey, which, he says, is inspired by TV show, Yizo Yizo.
The latest installment of The Honey features video and photography and sees Kgomotso put the camera down for a bit and play a character named Gavini . “This is a time where us young black youth are telling our own stories. And that’s important. I’m fortunate to be a part of this era where we’re changing the narrative.”