PIOUS HARNESS HAMESE | Flat base decoded
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There’s a little voice inside each of us that’s never ever wrong. At times, we may try our best to ignore it, push it off and pretend that things are as we believe them to be – until the truth slowly creeps out. You’ll be reminded of what you’ve always known because the truth is sometimes easier to deny. When something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t and it would best serve you listen to the silent voice that plays loudly in your head and closest to your heart. You deserve to be all that you desire and dreading the unknown is not reason enough to fear the future – which you should so desperately seek.

Nurture the child within your soul, feed it well and strong and it will reward you back when you think it’s given you more than what you’ve taken from it. The mere things you put into your soul and make a part of your life will become a part of you. So, you’ll always know when something is meant for you, because the heart never lies and it surely brings outthe truth.

Harness Hamese, the ingenious and fervent self-taught photographer,is an old soul at heart. He spent most of his childhood surrounded by the mature, sensible and graceful older generation – the very people who tell tales and have a certain groove about them. He retells secret stories that gave birth to this generation – with a twist that allures the audience to shift back in time and search for the truth; in pictures beautifully placed and arranged between the old and the vibrant, and worth the stories captured in each frame.

“The older people I spent my time with robbed me of my childhood but influenced the way I think and how I choose to tell stories through my photography. My grandfather was one of them but I didn’t know the early influence would stir me in this direction, the style and how I choose to tell intimate stories through pictures.”

It’s exactly been two years since Harness first picked up a camera. Although he somehow knew that this was where his heart was most content, he waited a while longer and needed to understand and appreciate the craft. “The first camera I bought and used was a Kodak M1063 digital camera. I quickly lost interest in it for the mere reason that I had no knowledge of how to work the camera. My mother put it to good use at church, so it wasn’t a total waste.”

Photography was the least of most of the worries he was dealing with at the time when he had just finished high school. He had to find a job when his mother suddenly fell ill and had to be retrenched from work. “She told me and my older brother that the money she had saved up would be used towards her medical bills. When I started working, I didn’t enjoy being a call centre agent but I stuck to it because I needed the money to keep the roof over our heads and sustain us. It was when I worked as a call centre agent that I discovered my passion for photography. I don’t think working there was a waste of time.”

“I came across a photography magazine based in the United Kingdom called Photo Plus, when I picked it up I was fascinated by what I saw. I started saving and invested in photography books and at times I sacrificed the money that was meant to buy food just so I could the magazines. When my mother asked, I would lie and say I didn’t know where it was. My energy and passion for the visual arts and visual literature was stirred because these were my favourite subjects back at school.”

Had he not gone through and experienced what he has, even when he was younger, Harness would probably not have been a photographer or even close to this line of work. “I remember I wasn’t impressed by the fact that there was no record of my life, my experiences and how I grew up. The only pictures I had was when I was only two months old and there was nothing after that. I think that’s where my obsession with capturing souls began.”

The obsession Harness speaks of is capturing and creating intimate moments between him, his audience and the subjects that catch his eye and feed his curiosity. “My choice in composition is purposely used in each picture. I direct what the viewer sees and how they should perceive the subject. When I’m shooting from the ground facing up, my subject is portrayed as one that is in power, whereas, when I’m shooting from above, it may portray vulnerability.”

“Most of the pictures I take are in black and white and I believe that an image saved in monochrome becomes immortal. I love taking pictures of people because I can’t get enough of the obsession and I can’t explain it. When I’m not shooting, I spend time with my five year old daughter and she brings me such joy! I’m a special case to my mother, a comedian to my girlfriend and a retard to my friends. I love and appreciate them for being a part of my life.”

The remarkable work that Harness has produced previously is recognised and appreciated locally and internationally, and has been showcased in three respective exhibitions. “I had a pleasure of exhibiting my work at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, in connection with the Dandy Lion Project between April and July this year. I also attended the KFD Fashion Days in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean Islands and presented my work there. Then, I got a chance to visit Paris and received a book titled, Back in the Days, which I received as a gift from a friend. It was photographed by the exceptional Jamel Shabezz.

“Prior to being invited to these exhibitions, my work became popular and it was continually improving and my talent was being recognised. I didn’t anticipate the response and I never planned to sell or exhibit my work; mainly because I thought my work was not ready. I still don’t think it is because I’m not where I’m aiming to be. I’m confident and believe I can and I will host an exhibition when I’m ready and the timing is right.”

“I’m currently working on a project titled Joharnessburg. With this project, I’m going deep into the heart of Johannesburg's most feared streets to document the realities of the living conditions there. It won’t be limited to that subject alone as there are several other aspects I’ll focus on.”

The meticulous photographer is an entrepreneur as he is a creative. “In my line of work, I’ve had to learn and adjust to the business of operating and updating my website and preparing for and posting pictures of the shoot preparations that go into the work for potential clients. The hassles of admin and marketing the business are part of directing and promoting commercial work. Executing the work is the most essential part of the business because that’s when people believe I can do the work. Photography is not the only thing I do and I don’t live off of it. I have a responsibility to empower myself by being an entrepreneur and always seeking other opportunities.”

Life never stops. Knowing and recognising that past experiences build on to you from who you were is exciting and as equally unnerving. For those who feel trapped and still choose to do nothing about changing their circumstances; stop now and learn to stand on your own. Being taken from everything familiar is not always a trap; your strength, confidence and flexibility will be tested so you’ll have no choice but to stand firm and trust in yourself and what you were meant to do.

Harness Hamese’s energy passes through the lens right into the soul of his subjects. He tells his stories in a thousand ways and would write another ten thousand books just from his experiences and life lessons. He’s a Pious man; a devoted fixated man who offers a refreshing meaning to being true to his heart and following through with what he said he would do. So, he’s a true and thorough artist.

“Art is a time machine that travels back and forth, borrowing from here and there to make up the present future. Art builds from the past and becomes our present. – Harness Hamese

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