#12 TimeTime travel, coming of age, vintage games and youth culture all feature in this new issue of Photography+ Time. Antony Cairns' project Gordon Earl Adams – Eternal Time and Infinite Space explores one man’s pursuit of time travel. While Kíra Krász’s portfolio documents her confinement during lockdown through the lens of the classic 1980s video game Tetris. Luo Yang’s ongoing series documents youth culture in contemporary China. Writer-in-residence Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni introduces us to the work of Johannesburg-based photographer Ngidi Thandolwemfundo. The work explores Thandolwemfundo's journey into fatherhood, reflecting on how this specific change has made him the man and artist he is today. We delve deeper into the work of Tarrah Krajnak as she uses photography and text to engage with her native Perú and her given indigenous identity while investigating socio-political events in Peru in the late 1970s. We also explore the work of Shiraz Bayjoo and his project Searching for Libertalia, an exploration of the layered history of Madagascar.
By: Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni
The merciless pursuit of a life that fits into societal notions of normalcy can sometimes cause us to forget to take stock of every moment, or to pay attention to how the passing of time alters our humanity. In a way, one could say that each passing minute, every breath taken, constitute the ink falling into the pages of our lived archives and writing the stories of our time on earth. Photography, in some ways, is an art form of the afterward. Photographers often have the time to look at the images they make – and the meanings attached to these images – only in retrospect.
Life as we know it tends to be the same. In a world of fleeting moments that turn into memories, we often find ourselves rushing through the present and into the future so we can look back at the present as past. Johannesburg-based photographer Ngidi Thandolwemfundo challenges this notion with a body of work, titled In-Between (2019–), that turns a lens on the past that was at one point the present. He explores his journey into fatherhood, and how this specific change has made him the man and artist he is today. The work creates an important conversation about a boy who must become a man, and a man who must become a father, all in one lifetime. In a country like South Africa, where a volatile, colonial past has rendered many Black men unable to grow into fathers, Ngidi’s work is a fresh perspective on the importance of reconciling past and present and utilising time as an archiving tool.
In many African communities, one’s ancestry is an important aspect of identity. Paternal ancestry is one of many pieces in this puzzle, and in many conversations around it the focus is, more often than not, on the child and its future than on the parents. In In-Between Ngidi shifts the lens to focus on people before and after the life-altering moment when they become parents. ‘In-Between is an introspective conversation about the transition into parenthood, and a critical engagement with the concept of domesticity, and my own masculinity,’ Ngidi has explained, ‘a simultaneous questioning, defining and redefining of something that was never discussed between my father and I.’
The documentation of time in the ever-changing scenes of life is an unwritten history that young photographers like Ngidi seek to illustrate. ‘I started creating this work,’ he has said, ‘while my girlfriend and I were pregnant, as a personal account of thoughts, emotions and encounters I continue to grapple with, a reflection on my and sub-conscious feelings about impending fatherhood.’ The images captured by Ngidi during various stages of fatherhood reflect the mindset of an individual who pays careful attention to how time, space and circumstance can alter the psyche of the person going through this life stage.
South Africa’s colonial history, among many atrocities, was responsible for the obliteration of many Black families. The conflation of violence, undealt-with trauma and the erasure of Black heritage created households that were run either by fatherless fathers, single mothers or siblings who were forced to become parents. In seeking to learn more about how to become a good father, Ngidi uses photography to stage a dialogue with himself about his own relationship with his father, and how that may or may not alter his own experiences. In-Between is a visceral and deeply honest look at how people carry untold stories about their lineage and experiences that continue to shape their humanity. Ngidi’s work takes a careful look at the moments in-between, the moments so often missed when we chase material things in the hope they might result in sustainable futures for those who will come after us. In doing so, In-Between brings to light the importance of the mundane, and emphasises that history is not a series of isolated stories but is in fact an account of varied lived experiences narrated always by time. Ngidi’s images are a visual representation of the complex and layered headspace of someone who attempts to grasp what he has failed to make sense of at a previous moment in time.
In-Between was exhibited earlier this year as part of a group show titled The Image Is Our Voice, a collaborative effort between Through the Lens Collective (where Ngidi was a student) and Berman Contemporary. The show was curated by Els van Mourik.