Photography comes a long way since the days of heliography invented around early 1800s by Nicéphore Niépce and his associate, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre.
In 1832, the duo are said to have “put the last touches, using a residue of lavender oil distillation, by means of a second process producing images in a one day exposure time”.
But in the mind of this writer, photography has not always been respected as an art form. To make matters worse, nowadays cameras are cheaper, lighter, and easier to use.
Be it amateurs or professionals, just about anyone can take a good picture. In the President’s Day national art, basket and craft competitions, photography was introduced as one of the categories at a later stage in the competitions, as if it was an afterthought.
Despite its slow start, it has now caught up with dominant categories such as painting and drawing in terms of being magical and impressive.
Prior to the invention of photography, painters were the ones who could only produce realistic images of the world.
But in today’s world of social media images, it is hard to imagine how unique it must have been to produce a perfect realistic painting at the time in the past.
Some people think that photography cannot be regarded as art simply because it is produced by a machine rather than human beings.
From what the National Art Gallery in Gaborone presents this year, one would not dare dismiss photography as an art because it is indeed an equal to drawing and painting.
Evidently, this year’s winners of the photography category at the President’s Day competitions went beyond realism and managed to do something that painters and other fine artists could not do.
The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, reflects a truly thoughtful and broad approach to photography, especially from the dextrous hands of the winner, Thabo Keorapetse.
The self-taught photographer from Francistown is not new to winning the competition. He first won in 2016 with photo piece entitled “Togetherness”.
Back then, Keorapetse’s award-winning piece depicted an old man clasping his hands together. This time around his artwork called ‘e seng mo ngwaneng’ captures jolly running children. One remaining trait about his photography is that it is presented in black and white just like his 2016 one.
Keorapetse documented the old man’s life in time back then.
This time he mirrors the children’s memories front cradle in just one shot. His picture carries more essence because viewers can see both young and old lives through them.
Three years later, he has floored the judges through the high quality of his art.
The detail of Keorapetse’s work is amazing and incredible. One can never get tired of appreciating his painting because it ignites those childhood memories in the mind when nothing matters except the playground.
His work looks like some kind of magical realism painting rather than photography, thanks to the vaporous lighting. With this picture he may have been trying to show people that no one should ever tamper with a child’s happy memories.
People who have fond memories of their childhood tend to have better health and less depression as adults.
So Keorapetse’s winning photograph shows that every child deserves to be happy especially at his or her early stage in life.
To bring more energy to the whole gallery is another picture from Gaseitsewe Moruakgomo. He took a close up picture of a traditional Setswana tshega (loincloth for men).
The picture shows the tshega in detail. Even though the picture does not show the subject’s face, his composure shows that he was donning the tshega with pride. The picture adds more features and draws the eye to specific locations on the picture.
The third place winner is probably the best among the three in terms of representation. Mogakolodi Motswagosele came up with this untitled artwork. The picture shows a bruised naked woman shackled with ropes underneath a small compartment.
The photograph demands a viewer’s attention. It also brings to surface the manner in which the photo was taken (posing). Obviously, one of the underlying messages the picture tries to reveal is that of women abuse and gender violence.
It is also a black and white picture. It goes on to show how this year’s photographers thought along the same line.
Most photographers love to use black and white because it has more soul, emotion and atmosphere compared to the coloured one.
With the removal of colour, winning photographers at this competition revealed the essence of their work. All the three winning pieces step away from reality adding authenticity and beauty with the use of black and white.