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Look around your world and see it for what it is. If you must, discover a new pair of eyes and observe how extraordinary ordinary things are – as they are often right in front of you waiting to be seen. Most often, we are blinded by life and the circumstances we are thrown under and we find ourselves entrapped in situations that suck the pure joy and colour out of life. We can’t always be blamed, because the eyes don’t see until experience slits them open with truth – that lingers for an epiphany that invites us to change more than our own being.

What if the very things and people you meet along your journey suddenly had to disappear? Where would you turn and who would you ask for assistance? More so, who would you depend on for comfort? The small enormous details we skip over and go about our lives are the very details that sketch out our existence and our response to the world and how we view it. Appreciate what you have and don’t wait. Don’t wait until your circumstances change and shift you to a different dimension before you can ask; what if I looked closer and appreciated the simpler things? What if I didn’t wait?

Kgomotso Neto Tleane is an exceptional photographer with a magnetic eye that captures the authenticity of black South African life stories. He seductively lures and directs the attention of past narratives that remain ignored and untold. The raw direction and focus of his work is instinctive and curious. He sees what we see but takes the time to appreciate and expose the detailed lives of people with intricate stories who find themselves in dire circumstances that affect the human soul.

If he didn’t know any better, Kgomotso’s grandfather may have swayed him in this direction of a creative career in photography. Like most of us, he had no clue of what he wanted to do or achieve out of life until two years ago when he bought his first camera. “I grew up in a rural area thirty kilometres away from Polokwane called Kgamashe. There was no influence of photography or anything related to it. Only now when I think of it, my mom would tell me that my grandfather used to visit from Johannesburg during the holidays and whenever he came home, he would take pictures of us. When I was searching and wanted to buy an analogue camera sometime last year, he gave me his and that’s when I remembered that he used to take pictures of us. He mostly shot family portraits.”

“I met a studio photographer at an event recently and I showed him my work. When he asked me why I do this I told him that when I came to Johannesburg, I realised that we don’t appreciate the things we see every day. We don’t see them even though they are in our faces all the time. There’s so much beauty and stories in these daily activities but we fail to see or appreciate them.”

Kgomotso’s photography style is instinctive and it came around the time when he needed to find himself and his uniqueness. ”I didn’t realise I was focusing on these elements when I started shooting. There was one picture I shot and for me that was when I realised that this is what I should be about. I took a picture of a woman who had a child on her back and she was pushing a trolley that looked very heavy. When I got home, I looked at the picture and I was saddened. The picture looked amazing but I didn’t like that I chose to take a picture over trying to help her push it. I also noticed that there were taxis in most of my shots even though I didn’t intend on taking pictures of them. This was also something I was amazed by.”

“I want to tell township stories and do something unlike the normal. That’s also the reason why my work has been well-received and appreciated because of its uniqueness and the not so obvious. We form part of the narrative because we’re familiar with the lifestyle and we should embrace it.”
“When I started, I was just shooting with no purpose. But since I joined the Umuzi Photo Club, I’ve learnt to focus. When I want to work on something, I work on that specific task until I finish with it. Now I shoot with a purpose and a goal in mind. I’m also still trying to grasp the concept of time. Work has become busier but it’s manageable.”

You know you’re doing something right when you can’t tell the difference between work and play – especially when you make a living from it. “Personal time is work and work is my personal time because I don’t think of it as work. There was a point in my life when I used to think of my job as work when I was a call-centre agent but not anymore. Photography is my work but it’s also the time when I have the most fun.”

“Even when I go to parties, I always have my camera with me. Whatever happens, I shoot everywhere I go. It started as a hobby and it moved into something more serious so I dropped everything I was doing and focused on it. I live off my work and this is how I survive. It’s very hard to make money off the things that you love.”

“I haven’t really participated in any shows or exhibitions recently but I’ve been invited to a few. I feel like I don’t have a solid body of work that I can put out. I’m working on a taxi series and other projects and that’s what I want to showcase. My work is recognised mainly through social media and the digital space because that’s how people know of me and my work. It’s crazy because that’s how people came to appreciate and love my work.”

Kgomotso wants to explore the beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and rich history of Africa. “I want to travel to most of the countries in Africa because I like the rural homelands and that’s wher I’d like to shoot. I’d want to go to Kenya, to explore and meet the Maasai tribe. They inhabit southern Kenya and northern Tanzania and they are interesting people. For a long time, Africa has been portrayed as a dark and unattractive continent and only now people are opening up to it. Even western countries are referencing a lot of African styles and are making them their own. It’s like we are waiting for their approval. We have to tell our own stories.”

“I’ve been trapped in my work and photography bubble because I haven’t been travelling much this year. I’m focusing on the work I’m doing at Umuzi. I love working and meeting different creatives and collaborating with them. Collaboration is the best thing a creative could take part in because the most amazing ideas take form and you learn and take away so much from each other.”
“When I’m not working, I love meeting people and going out, I go out a lot. I listen to a lot of jazz as well.”

Before Kgomotso can find his true success, he wants to find out what he’s really about and be content with what he chooses. “I want to find my style, a suitable focus and know what it means and what it’s really about. If I can make a living out of my personal work then I’d be happy. It may take a while but telling stories of people is what I love doing. I want to get paid for playing. That’s my ultimate idea of achieving success.”

His distinctive style has caused stirs and peeked interest from fellow photographers and people who genuinely appreciate an artist who looks at the familiar with exceptional accuracy. He encourages the mind to look closely at the beauty hidden beneath shallow eyes and tells stories to those who probe deep enough to see truth. He’s Personable and continues to find himself in what he loves from the life that is a part of him. To check out Kgomotso Neto Tleane Behance page click me.

“Art is changing perspectives around us. It is showing people what they already see, changing their mindset and sparking conversations. Art should always change lives.” – Kgomotso Tleane

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