South Africa-based cinematographer Gray Kotze shares our belief that at its simplest form, a portrait should be a mini story that says something about the subject. To add a deeper dimension to his portraits, he set out on a project called “Faces” which documents the people he met and worked with while living in Tokyo last year.
“At the time I was in the process of leaving Japan and returning home after being away for two years,” he shared. “I had lived overseas in two countries in two years. Living like that it’s inevitable that people come in and out of your life, so I started this project with the idea to catalog and remember some of the faces of the people that I met along the way.”
“Each portrait represents a person I’ve known and attempts to capture the personality and essence of the individual in a moment. The project is an ongoing one with no end in sight.”
The decision to shoot this project in analogue is something that Gray also shares with many of us who still work with film. After initially shooting in digital, he decided to experiment with film to hone his photography skills and minimize the amount of shots he was taking.
“Shooting on film makes me far more aware of the technical side and the importance of getting correct exposure. Shooting digitally you can quickly correct a mistake but shooting on film doesn’t offer immediate feedback. I think limitations are good for any creative field, it makes you work harder.”
The most moving portraits are often results of a certain intimacy between the photographer and the subject, which allows a story that transcends appearances to surface. Coming from the project, Gray also realized that doing portrait work made him more appreciative of the individuals he encounters and the stories they let him capture on film.
“The closer you get to a person the more you recognize and appreciate their nuances. Photographing this project, and looking back on some of the images, I think that portraits should make us appreciate the people that come into our lives, even if it’s sometimes only for a brief moment.”
Gray followed this thought with a story about one of the most memorable entries in his project so far.
“A number of the portraits I took as I was saying goodbye to good friends. One especially stood out. On my last day in Thailand my friend drove me to the airport. We were cutting it fine for time but I knew that I had to get a photograph of her before I left. So we pulled over and I took her photograph, I finished a roll of film and then she rushed me to the airport.
“After an emotional goodbye, I picked up my bags to leave and realized that in the rush I had misplaced the roll of film I had shot. After hurriedly searching the backseat of her car in the airport stop and go area, we managed to find the roll, the last roll I shot before leaving. We said goodbye again and I managed to get on my flight.”
To see more of Gray’s work, please follow the links below: