LEBO DITIBANE, the young self-taught photographer bred in Johannesburg and based in Pretoria, loves to shoot ordinary people. Intrigued by the complicated nature of human beings, Lebo began snapping images after becoming slightly obsessed with a South African photography website in 2008.
Since then, he’s built an extensive portfolio, documenting street culture, everyday people, music and urban landscape in image form. By approaching the lens as a storyteller, Lebo is in constant connection with the action in each frame.
ACCRA [dot] ALT caught up with LEBO DITIBANE to discuss African photography, his favorite project right now and building an alternative African universe.
ADA: How would you assess the current state of African photography?
LD: I would say that the expansion of technology has allowed for exposure to the most remote places on the continent. People are learning about cameras and other skills through this technological outreach. The photography has now received a good platform to be seen by the world. More and more people are inspired to pick up cameras and more and more pictures are getting seen out there.
ADA: When you make images, what do you intend the takeaway to be for your audience?
LD: I suppose, at this stage in time, I make images for several reasons – to show the beauty that we live with, to inspire others to also express themselves in harmless ways, and for people to love themselves for who they are, really. I have never worked with professional models for shoots. The candid shots are about life, as it goes, like Africa isn’t that awful. At all.
ADA: What kind of stories are you telling with your images and why are they important?
LD: I am a big believer in the concept of freedom and free will. Yes, rules are there to govern us as humans to some extent but in a way that does not hinder our human nature. That are some of the issues I see in the world – in Africa – from people that want to freely be same-sex loving, to albinos being like any other person. A person is a person regardless of which country he or she is from. Everything is beautiful, depending how you look at it. That’s the most important part about life, about photography.
ADA: What do you love about your city and what motivates you to photograph it?
LD: Diversity, from the people that live here as well as the foundation of the city itself, its varying buildings. The state of a city’s atmosphere determines the mood of its people somehow. To me, Pretoria is that calm city where most of its people are seeking some form of peace of mind. The hustle is there but it’s not a crazy like in Johannesburg. It’s chill and that makes me capture it more.
ADA: What kind of themes are driving your photographs at the moment and why?
LD: I wouldn’t really say I have a theme. Right now, it’s kind of about women. We don’t celebrate women in the world enough so I’m pushing that more. I recently did a miniseries called Woman on Top as an idea of putting women on the pedestal that they deserve.
ADA: How are African photographers shaping the world’s perception of the continent through their work?
LD: Well, I think the world is truly getting that we are not riding zebras to go from home to work or school. African beauty is shining out. My small gripe with what is largely considered “African photography” is that it’s largely referenced by pictures of villages and other rural places. As much as Africa has such, I just wish people can acknowledge our cities as well. I saw not long ago, night photography of Nairobi, and it really made me want to go there! There’s beauty everywhere, we must not box it up if it’s not “African photography.”
ADA: Being online gives artists a sort of open exhibition space to show their work,. How has this changed power dynamics between artists and curators in your city?
LD: Being online hasn’t really hampered the gallery but rather given a bigger reason to showcase what is actually good out there. Yes, anybody can hold their own exhibitions now – online, at a park – but it’s still something of note, something worthwhile when an established gallery calls you up for an exhibition.
ADA: What do you shoot the most – people or structures – and why?
LD: People. I mean I do structures, too, but they are eternally fixed. I do landscapes and no day is exactly the same as the one before. People are more versatile, more dynamic. Just one individual is never the same based on circumstance at a certain time, moods, emotion. Imagine you are dealing with different individuals over time. You just get so much more out of what it is to be human. It’s Godly stuff.
ADA: If you have to imagine the continent in an alternative universe, what sort of place would it be?
LD: It would be a planet where the Caucasians did not see the need to conquer other peoples’ land but a place to rather function with them, share ideas and interact. This continent is rich from nature to knowledge. This place is without borders, just a places you belong. It can change also if you feel the need to seek something greater. It’s just beautiful.