Originally a press photographer in the 1980’s for the Beeld before moving to Cape Town to obtain a BA Fine Arts Degree at Michaelis School of Fine Art. Lien Botha, a photographer and artist merged into one. Most know her as the photographer who adorns the pages of VISI, others remember her as the winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Arts Award in 1997 and again in 2003 when nominated as Festival Artist at the Klein Karoo National Kunstefees. We chat to Lien to discover a bit more about the person behind the photographs.
Q: At which point in your life were you bitten by the photography bug? A: When I was given a kaleidoscope at the age of ten.
Q: How do you decide which camera to use for which shoot? A: I will work with what is needed by a particular body of work. With Safari and Amendment I used the word/text as collaborator of the lens. In the early eighties as a press photographer, I gathered Highveld dusks with a Nikon and Ilford HP5, ruthless processing and a growling editor who didn’t care less about high contrast. Many years later, I used a Canon 35mm for ‘drawing’, a Mamiya RZ Pro medium format camera for precision and a very old Yashica for the ‘unseen’. These days however, I mainly surrender to the bliss of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Sometimes I still take out the Mamiya, just to listen to the sound of the shutter.
Q: Are you anti-photoshop or do you think that it has its place in the professional photographers world? A: No, I’m certainly not anti-photoshop and I believe the application certainly has its place. It is just not something which I utilise much in my own work. I have seen images which are actually quite dire in their superficiality due to way too much interference and manipulation. Perhaps the latter has something to do with an idealized world.
Q: When shooting for a lifestyle magazine like VISI, do you find that sometimes your creativity is heightened/stifled due to the specifications of the client brief? A: VISI has such a particular pitch that I doubt if a photographer could feel stifled by a brief from the magazine. Every shoot remains a challenge, every shoot is unique and contains its own set of codes, for me the learning curve remains a major driver. The moment you become too relaxed or comfortable is when you should see a warning sign.
Q: Which photography genre unleashes your true passion and why? A: I have always worked primarily from my environment: the typical landscape as well as the internal landscape, and from this wide space comes small moments and events that can trigger an idea or concept. It is usually the ordinary that informs my work: love, loss, the memory of an ancestor, the life-cycle of an insect. The world is a stimulating place filled with order and disaster.
Q: Do you see yourself as a South African icon? A: No, certainly not, but thanks for the thought.