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Award winning photographer Themba Mbuyisa reflects on his journey and shares his hopes for the future

Themba is an award winning photographer and shot Glamour’s current cover on shelves. A friend of the brand, he reflects on his journey in the world of fashion photography, what it takes to be a success and his hopes for the future.

Glamour: Can you share your journey as a professional photographer?

Themba: I was lucky enough to win the ELLE Style Reporter Award in 2016 which opened a lot doors for me in the fashion and commercial industry. Before that I had just finished my Advanced Programme in photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in 2015. During my studies there I used to apply for other opportunities, just to get my work out there. I got to travel to Brazil for an Artist Residency, I was selected to travel to Italy for a commercial commission with two other students for FASSI, I won National 3rd place at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2015 and I got the Goethe Institut fund in 2016 to curate an exhibition at the Goethe On Main gallery space alongside a friend of mine, Nkosinathi Khumalo.

Going to work for a publication was set to be a new experience for me coming from rather an artist background of photography to now this editorial and commercial space, but I was excited and ready to learn.

I spent just over a year in the publication space and decided to freelance from 2017. I participated in group exhibitions international and nationally, received a couple of awards while also getting commissions and growing my portfolio and experience in the industry.

I have just signed with an agency for the first time in my professional career and I am excited for the journey I am about to have with Lustre Global in the commercial space while I focus on developing my own bodies of work.

Glamour: Do you remember the moment you decided this is the career path you were going to pursue?

Themba: I think everything happened so quickly for me, I enrolled as a student in a beginner course at the Market Photo Workshop and I got to hold a professional camera for the first time which was a beautiful experience, within a month an image I had photograph got featured in a magazine and the prize I won was a memory card. From there on I was just excited to be out there photographing while I learnt how to speak about my work in class.

Glamour: What genre of photography do you specialise in?

Themba: I like to describe my work as contemporary fashion and editorial photography. Because sometimes I switch in between a documentary style with a clean editorial finish.

Glamour: What are the key attributes to becoming a successful photographer?

Themba: I think everyone has their own recipe when it comes to this, however; I think it’s important to create a community for yourself of like-minded creatives that can walk the journey with you. Whether it’s a producer, make up artist or a stylists, just someone who will inspire your creativity.

Glamour: Can you share a career defining moment?

When I was selected as one of the 10 artists for the 32nd Hyères fashion in photography festival in Villanoailles, France and finding out that I was the first ever African photographer to be selected as a finalist. I got to be introduced to Tim Walker who was leading the Jury and he gave me feedback that I cherish till this day.

Photographer Themba Mbuyisa/Glamour Cover Shoot

Glamour: Who are the photographers that inspires you?

Themba: I think I am usually inspired by photographers who are working on long term projects, just to commit yourself for years photographing single image which somehow have to work together next to each other and allow them to form a body work.

Glamour: Favourite personality you’ve photographed?

Themba: I think it has to be the late Riky Rick and Molly Goddard in France. I usually don’t photograph celebrities or famous people unless it’s for a commission.

Glamour: What in your opinion makes a great photographer?

Themba: I think a photographer who is able to be consistent in their work for a longer time is a great photographer. It’s easy being a photographer but it’s tough remaining a photographer and living as a photographer.

Glamour: What words of wisdom can you share with aspiring photographers?

Themba: Even though we can’t run away from wanting the latest cameras, lenses and lighting or hot models, big stylists, I still believe that using what you have separates you from the rest and that’s what you should focus on.

Glamour: What is next for you?

Themba: I am now represented by Lustre Global. I am trying to complete my current work in progress body of work and use it for exhibitions, with a vision of being a gallery artist.

Photographer Themba Mbuyisa/Glamour Cover Shoot
Photographer Themba Mbuyisa/GQ Cover Shoot
Photographer Themba Mbuyisa/GQ Cover Shoot

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