Wits Vuvuzela spoke to photographer Matt Kay, whose photographic exhibition “The Front” opened at the Market Photography Workshop in Newtown on March 25. The exhibition showcases the diverse activity on the beaches of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.
Matt Kay has had an extraordinary year. Not only did he receive the 2014 Tierney Fellowship, which supports young photographers to produce a body of work over the course of a year, but he was also mentored by renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt.
“I grew up in Nottingham road in Natal, it’s my memories of Durban that inspired this body of work,” Kay said. His previous works were about public spaces, particularly malls, and the beach seemed to be a natural progression from there.
With images that span the 15 beaches of Durban’s coastline, Kay ‘s exhibition captures the peculiar actions and behaviors of people and nature on the beach. “I wanted to capture and highlight some of the things that I don’t understand, they captivate and interest me”.
“Powerful pictures have details,” said Kay. His photographic representations offer detailed accounts of a multitude of isolated and communal activity from religious baptisms, old women taking a dip in the ocean to dilapidated sand statues.
“It is important to document the coastline now, because the sea moves and change is inevitable, that’s why it must be captured now.”
Having left South Africa in 2004 to travel around the world to places like the Caribbean, Kay returned to find a Durban that had become what he calls a “showpiece for tourism”. Something that he says is not reflective of the daily lives of individuals occupying the space.
He lamented that he “deliberately tried to avoid race”, in his work but conceded that one cannot escape the socio-political and historic background of KwaZulu-Natal.
The artist hopes that he represented the space as honestly as possible and that tourists and South Africans alike will start seeing the space in more layered and meaningful way as opposed to the pristine, generic and “kinda fake” way that the space has been represented.