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Front Row with Katleho Mavundla

Front Row with Katleho Mavundla

Our next interviewee for FRM has a creative vigour which matches their vibrant & eccentric character; a multidisciplinary creative well-versed within a variety of disciplines, such as filmmaking, photography & writing. Katleho Mavundla is Johannesburg-based but actually from the Vaal–a super interesting geographical combination which I have witnessed birth some of the most talented creatives I have ever met.

I really enjoy how Katleho speaks about their craft, as well as his personal take on his role & position within the entire local creative industry. He diligently uses terms such as "imaginator" and "trans-disciplinary artist" to describe himself–which to me, is a clear indication that he appreciates the duplicity within his creative nature; opting to harness it rather than limit it. His portraiture skills lead with honesty and uniquely manage to celebrate each and every subject which they capture.

As I mentioned earlier–Katleho is from the Vaal and I personally find this interesting because I have noticed a pattern of some of our most eccentric & creatively radiant individuals all emanating from this area. I've even had the pleasure of interacting with a lot of them for FRM; think back to Babysitter's Thapelo Vena, Thabo Kopele, and so many more. Funny enough; Katleho & Thabo actually have a fashion film together which has just received its third international selection. This is the type of accreditation which I feel Katleho has spent so many tireless years working towards.

So enjoy this following interview with 'Katleho The Guy' as we delve into the biggest inspirations within his work, leading with honesty in your creativity, working with Thabo Kopele to create an internationally acclaimed fashion film, and so much more.

Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?

KM: Katleho Mavundla is a son, a brother, a friend and lover (not just romantically speaking). I am an emerging and “exciting” creative from the Vaal, and I spent a large portion of my life in Qwa Qwa, Free State. I am a kid riddled with imagination and a huge appetite to create. I just want to be great man.

I’m a filmmaker with an honours degree in Motion Picture (Film & TV), I’m a photographer and a melancholic writer. I don’t know if it's an actual word but I’m an imaginator. Ultimately I’m a trans-disciplinary artist & this approach has allowed me to have my fingers in a few mediums of my interest.

How would you describe the style of your photography?

KM: Honest. My work just has to be honest. Less technical but honest to how I feel, honest to the subject, and honest to where we are.

I'm super into how balanced your imagery is. From colours, hues & saturations, light and everything else which encompasses the image—I just love your decision-making! How did you manage to develop your craft as an image maker to reach this level which you're currently at?

Again, my work is honest. Never really technical but true to the conditions of when the picture was taken. I’m not saying I don’t know what I’m doing—but in most cases I set up my camera to make sure I can see what’s in front of me. And honestly I continuously learning “on the job” and that’s how I improve. My last picture or film will always look better than the previous one because I took something from then and implemented it to the new work. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that my work is a continuous up-skill from the work I’ve done before. The quality improves but the direction will only ever change slightly.

Do you have a specific process when creating these images within your photography practice?

KM: Repetition. After I’m done with the work, I have a little debrief with myself. I look at the settings I had the last time. I take mental notes of the those smaller things that changed or influenced the final result—and I go out and do it again. I take a moment of chance, and turn that into something I’m certain I can do, and not by chance anymore. These “beautiful mistakes” are really great teachers.

Whilst conducting my research—I found out that you actually have a film (in collaboration with Thabo Kopele) which recently got nominated for its third selection, including Fashion Film Festival Milano! Can you tell me more about this experience? And maybe more about some of your favourite work shot thus far?

Honestly, the whole experience has been a reassuring mindfuck. So this work was the second film we did with Thabo Kopele. And again, this was an opportunity to fix my last mistakes from our first fashion film, and to try out something new. But this work as a bit more important for me than I think it was for everyone else on the crew—because for me it was talking to God asking for a sign for if I should continue on this creative path or not. During that process is was asking God for signs of sorts that I can be good at making films. As if my degree wasn’t enough, I wanted to prove that I can do work that can went beyond just Instagram; work that could compete on an international/global level. I really just wanted one selection as a sign, because during this time I was applying for jobs with production companies and hitting up directors so I could learn with them, BUT I WAS GETTING A LOT OF NO's! So my honours degree wasn’t enough to land me a job in the field I love—the little experience I had was stronger than personal relationships other younger director/filmmaker had with big companies & established directors that could get them the jobs and mentorships. So I said fuck it—I’m going to make a film that’s going to reassure me that I’m good enough. Three international selections later, I can say I’m reassured.

I don’t know when this will be published but my favourite work so far is the new project we are sharing the

week of 23/06/2023. Just because I was shooting and directing something I haven’t done before—so I’m excited to see the mistakes I’ve made.

Is there any advice which you've picked up within your short career which you could impart to any

emerging visual artists attempting to make a name for themselves within the industry?

It takes a while. Blessed are those that know but be gentle with yourself on the journey of discovering “Why”. It’s important to figure out what you’re doing and why—something which will honestly sustain you in this difficult pursuit. Take your L’s like a champ mfanaka because you will yo! But be gentle enough to get back up and look at your “WHY”.

What are you looking forward to most in the second half of 2023?

This one isn’t deep or anything—but I want to go to Cape Town. I have a few friends down there but I want to make more. The community (looking from outside) that side seems solid. And I guess hopefully (manifesting) a production company from anywhere really would be interested in representing me or have me around long enough to steal (like an artist) some insight and knowledge. Because also—I gravitate more to film directing than photography.


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