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Front row with Monwabisi Sekwane of Crates

Front row with Monwabisi Sekwane of Crates

Our next interviewee for FRM is an emerging multifaceted visual artist who is well-versed within a variety of creative disciplines. He is someone I view as somewhat of a photography prodigy, continuously pushing their personal creative barriers in order to produce unique and authentic work. Monwabisi Sekwane is a Pretoria-raised creative who is currently based in Cape Town, and works on multiple ventures in the city – including his creative platform, 'JPGSANDMP3S', and co-creative collective, 'Crates'.

Monwabisi's photographic style manages to infuse unique creative direction & his visual eye with warmth, intimacy & sensitivity. It's as if his photographic works have the ability of looking at their subjects inward – in order to create a homogenous image which is an apt representation of the personalities which he decides to capture.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

Incase you may not know, images are composed of three different elements: hue, saturation and luminance. Basically, hue refers to the colours, saturation refers to intensity, and luminance deals with how light or dark the image is. This is where Monwabisi's craft continues to thrive and where he sets himself apart from many other image makers within the space; he has the special gift of understanding these three foundational image elements in order to create visual works which reinterpret his chosen subjects – according to the lens which he views them through.

So I had the absolute pleasure of virtually engaging Monwabisi in order to hear more about his process when creating images for his photography, Crates' upcoming collaboration with Converse, what the future of fashion photography in South Africa is, and more.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

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

MS: Not an issue. My name is Monwabisi Sekwane and I’m a 21-year old creative entrepreneur based in Cape Town, from the 012 (not many people know this, lol). I specialise in photography, creative direction & production. Videography is the newest venture I’d say I’m embarking on. Other than the things I’ve listed above, I’m a team building wiz and the best +1 ever. People tend to say I’m quite the character too – I think I’m just living.

How would you describe the style of your photography? What inspires it?

MS: I would describe my photography as intricate or intimate. I believe in using my photography to capture the essence of the individual I’m shooting – or the energy behind the concept of my shoot. It’s meant to be the type of work that builds a bridge between you and my mind, or the mind of whoever I’m capturing. The inspiration for my work is really the passion I have to showcase the nuances of different people; the way I perceive certain thoughts & the people around me. I’m a person who cherishes seeing the most genuine sides of individuals, so I often incorporate that same rawness when it comes to the concepts I create – making sure to put a piece of myself in all that I shoot. The first platform which I Iaunched, @jpgsandmp3s, was my way of connecting the audience to the subject, beyond just my film photography but with the subject’s music taste too. When I create, it’s like creating a puzzle with parts of myself as the pieces – except it’s a puzzle that’s constantly changing because we’re never truly one thing aren't we? That’s also how I know I’ll never run out of ideas or inspiration.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

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

MS: To be honest, I find myself creating the best work after I’ve given myself time off from shooting and when I'm just taking in the world around me – like real life. Distancing myself from viewing pictures with a photographer’s eye, or discussing concepts from a perspective of forcing relation, gives me the time to take the perspective of absorbing it all & breaking whatever I’m processing down into how I see it. This also ensures that I can actually connect to whatever I’m thinking of doing. Whether it’s relating to a personal topic or something that came up in discussion with my friends, or something like that. Reframing concepts always gives me another way to figure out how it specifically inspires me – therefore making how I shoot it way easier. Less noise just helps me refine my frequency so everything just flows when it’s time to execute, you feel me?

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

Could you tell us more about 'CRATES.'? I was researching some of the work you've previously done, and you have an upcoming collaboration with Converse? Very impressive stuff!

MS: Crates man, where do I start. Crates is a creative collective that was started by myself and four other homies, towards the end of 2021. It's kind of a reflection of what we provide for each other as we’re navigating this industry as young creatives; whether it’s asking T to keep me company while shooting a client, or me assisting Mihlali for a concept he’s trying to shoot. We were, and still are, there for each other and that’s taking us further than we thought we would’ve – individually and as a unit. So we thought that building a community which etched being there for each other into its culture would propel so many of our peers further than they thought they’d ever go. Ultimately, we’re tryna change the creative landscape because we believe that what’s happening for us can happen for so many other creatives too.

The work with Converse is still coming up – we haven’t done anything of note with them yet... but our next event is powered by them and we’re super grateful to have them believe in us. It’s nice to see that corporates haven’t stopped believing in the youth and I’m excited to see what more comes from this amazing opportunity that we've been blessed with. We’re not even there yet.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

What has been inspiring you lately in order to continue creating with regards to your photography craft?

MS: This certain feeling of uncertainty has been driving me to push in nearly all facets of my life lately. I just feel like so much has been happening in my life and I know it isn’t for no reason – this thought keeps me up at night. Literally, lol. It’s not daunting but it’s a thought that sits at the back of my brain that prompts me to just be ready for whatever and enjoy wherever I’m at right now. I don’t know what’ll happen in a month, or even next week, so that’s just a conscious prompt not to rush myself or bite off more than I can chew just because I’m excited – there might be more put on the plate as soon as tomorrow. This translates to my photography with the concepts I’ve been ideating. 'A Shot In The Dark' is a concept I’m yet to release that speaks to what I’ve just said; this feeling manifested itself as my most recent personal project. Check out for that by the way!

Photography by @a1ports

According to you – what is the future of fashion photography in South Africa?

MS: I feel as if fashion photography is taking an exciting turn. The South African youth have gravitated away from the generic glamour-esque editorial style when capturing clothing, and this is just fun to watch. Niche mediums are being used, such as VHS, film, and more. It’s becoming more individualised – and the pictures are allowing the story of the clothing to be told more clearly now. We’re not seeing crazy outfits captured in the same manner, using the same presets for every booming picture we see on the net – it’s getting more interesting. Personally, I hope this continues and that we evolve even more, to allow photographs to become more purposeful – even if it is just for fashion. Fashion is a culture more than just clothing, so I feel like if we’re consistently trying to standardise how it's captured, it takes away from it. So, I’m all for the change that’s occurring in the current era of fashion photography in South Africa.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane

Is there any advice you've picked up within your short career which you could impart to any young emerging photographers (like yourself) attempting to make a name for themselves within the local/global industry?

MS: I feel like the best piece of advice I can give anyone trying to make photography work is to surround yourself with the right people. I feel like that was the biggest catalyst for my growth & what keeps me going. Another piece of advice is just do it – you have nothing to lose and hesitation kills a lot of ideas. You’ll be surprised by how much you learn when you’re on the job and passionate about it. Pressure makes diamonds! Lastly, focus on relation over association. It’s worthwhile building relationships with people who you can then work with organically, rather than opportunistically. Shoutout to the homie Farai for that bar. Of course that can only work up to a certain extent, but don’t think you’re too cool to be genuine.

What are you looking forward to most in 2023?

MS: This year I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can take it – for myself and the people around me. I feel like a big factor of the industry is uncertainty; so I can only look forward to what I still have to offer, to myself & the world. I’m obviously looking forward showing the nation what Crates has in store for the “NeXt” event, but I don’t want to say too much – the results will.

Photography by @monwabisisekwane


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