Magazines are places of visibility, so it’s essential to have all types of people represented. While many magazines are working toward hiring more inclusive talent, both in body shape and skin tone, there aren’t many opportunities for African fashion designers to showcase their apparel exclusively. However, there are now publications that are trying to change this narrative.
Afrostyle is a monthly magazine that supports and facilitates the African fashion industry. It provides a forum for Africans and those of other races to discuss current issues in a way that not only encourages positive dialogue and understanding but also provides readers with a better understanding of Africa, its people, and the culture as a whole. It seeks to showcase Africa’s beauty through various avenues, particularly through fashion, to promote diverse cultures and ethnicities.
Inspired by Afrostyle, photographer Liezl Zwarts recently created a personal project entitled “We the People,” which she submitted to the publication. Impressed by her work, they published the story in their 4th printed edition.
Based between New York and her birthplace of Johannesburg, South Africa, Liezl’s photography is versatile, ranging from advertising & fashion to fine arts. She explores the truth of creativity by capturing the moment where form elicits emotion. She discovers creativity in the place where humanity meets nature. The results are dramatic compositions that encompass a distinct mood.
I wanted to shoot something ‘light and friendly,’ Just a bunch of friends hanging out, looking effortlessly cool. I often do lifestyle shoots for advertising clients, and I wanted to shoot something a bit more ‘me.’ Something without a client or agency involved.
Shooting at the picturesque Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, the project’s personal nature allowed Liezl to experiment, and the DIY disposition of the project shone through in the authentic and unrestrained manner of the resulting imagery.
The contrast of the beautiful dark skin with the ethereal light is a striking balance, and the resulting imagery is a true celebration of darker skin.
The coloring of the clothing used on the shoot also compelled an eye-catching composition due to the distinct contrast with the natural soft lighting, which highlighted each piece of fashion exhibited.
We had to walk quite far with so much clothing and many people, but no one complained; I worked with such a great team. We ended up doing the entire shoot in like three hours.
On set, Liezl wanted to create the feeling of it being slightly misty/foggy. To construct some atmosphere. So she utilized flares to create smoke and waited for the wind to blow most of it away before shooting.
We had such an amazing team. Everyone was super easy and game for anything. Everyone jumped in to help carry things. We have the most hilarious photos of my assistant running around with flares in the background. Quite a few of the images had her in the background.
Liezl has the natural ability to connect with people and make them feel comfortable on set. Skills she used with the models to ensure a confident and decisive subject.
I’ve never been one of those photographers who get excited when the newest and latest camera gets released. I’m more about the subject, the people, the team that I work with, and the creative flow.
However, the project did not get off to the best start, meaning Liezl had to work in the moment and use all her professional instincts to operate in the most effective manner.
Firstly, the make-up artist overslept, and we had at the last minute to find someone else. Luckily I have a lot of friends in the industry, and Renate was more than happy to jump in and help last minute. It ended up so beautiful. She’s an amazing makeup artist. Sometimes things happen for a reason. The second thing that happened is one of the models’ phone died, and he couldn’t find us. So I ended up getting another model to replace him. And then the original model showed up. So we had four models instead of three as planned. But I think that also worked out for the best. We just had to go with the flow.
Despite the challenges, she was able to overcome them flawlessly and take the positives from the shoot to enhance her future endeavors.
I learned not to get too stressed about things. When you stay calm, it’s much easier to deal with problems and come up with solutions. I also think that teamwork is important. Working together as a team really helps.
Amid all the hard work on set, Liezl also found some comedic value.
My assistant running around in the background, trying to create a natural-looking fog, was very entertaining for everyone on set.
See more of Liezl’s work on her website.
Assistant: Basetsana Maluleka
Retoucher: Lauren Bubb
Stylist: Julienne M’Poko
Make up & Hair: Renate Verwey
Models: Amakou Telar, Yanga Ndamase, Cedric Kiang, Tomiwa Adesanmi
Writer: Jodi Redelinghuys