A photographer shares her story of using her camera lens to depict the art and magic that exists in everyday life
Dineo Mtetwa, is a storyteller at heart — whose main interest is to portray the nuances of township life.
The 25-year old’s collection of images, which are both taken in colour, while others are black and white feature fleeting moments and regular objects that are part of our daily lives – some of which we hardly pay attention to.
Mtetwa, publishes most of her work on her Instagram, where you can see photographs of people rushing in and out of taxi ranks, minibus taxis on the road or parked, school children milling about in the streets, street vendors, quaint houses and people sitting around in the township and protests.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, about the inspiration behind one of a recent black and white photo she took of a woman street vendor, walking, while carrying brooms on her head, she said, “umama othengisa umshanelo (the woman who sells brooms) was just walking by. “You don’t know her struggles or her achievements, but you can see the context and the setting”.
Mtetwa acknowledges that township stories have been told before, but she believes she brings a different perspective.
She says that it is not a usual occurrence to see images of people like her hanging in art galleries. To put an end to this, she dreams of one day running an art gallery in a township to make her photography accessible to her subjects.
Born in 1998 and raised in Soweto, Meadowlands, Mtetwa is passionate about the township, adding that, “even if I become a billionaire, I still be coming from Soweto.”
She holds undergraduate and honours degrees in Bachelor of Arts from Wits. She also holds a master’s degree which looked at the minibus taxi industry, public health and passenger’s pandemic stories in Soweto at the same institution. Mtetwa is now a PhD candidate, and her research is on medical anthropology, focusing on how electricity impacts every aspect of human life.
She explains that education has changed the ways in which she interacts with Soweto and other people who live there. She had questions about it that she could not find answers to before she was equipped with research tools. “School has filled in the gaps” she says.
Social entrepreneur, creative and friend of Mtetwa, Mpumelelo “Frypan” Mfula says that “the mixture of academic understanding, social and intuitive understanding of your neighbourhood, the world and your subjects is powerful”.
Mfula has worked with Mtetwa from late last year to date, in a project called Let’s Play Outside which is a content development programme that teaches high school pupils from different parts of Johannesburg how to use mobile phones for storytelling, content creation, publication, and monetisation.
Mfula describes her photography as “authentic” because she has no formal photography training as she started from “a thing of feeling”.
As a coach for Let’s Play Outside, Mtetwa currently teaches the pupils at Daliwonga Secondary School in Dube, Soweto how to develop a short documentary.
FEATURED IMAGE: Dineo Mtetwa in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied
Social media continues its pursuit to take over my daily life. I am probably a better photojournalist on Instagram than most professionals and I have developed better investigative skills than the FBI.
I have come to a realisation that my activity on social media is far greater than the average joe. Or is it?
I constantly ask myself what life would be like without the various social media accounts that I have, and if the time and effort I put into each of them is actually worth it.
Posting pictures on Instagram used to be a daily activity until it became more like a full-time job. It takes me a good couple of hours to decide which photo I should put up on Instagram. I question every single thing about the photo. Should it be in black and white? Would it look better if it had a filter that makes me look tanned? Does this photo match the scheme of my profile feed? I also struggle to find the perfect caption. Should it be funny, philosophical or even relate to my picture at all? I have spent countless hours scrolling through Pinterest trying to find a decent caption that fits my picture and then I just end up using an emoticon anyway. The amount of effort I put into posting one picture makes me wonder about the precious time I have just wasted.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 really. A world without social media would not allow me to do the small things in life that I enjoy. Facebook lets me check up on friends who I haven’t seen since high school. I can watch my cousins grow up in America without missing out on their milestones.
But social media sucks me in. One minute I’m watching a video of a man who ran the Two Oceans Marathon on crutches and two hours later, I’m watching a video of a dog barking to its favourite song.
My mornings usually begin with checking my cellphone and spending endless time checking my social media accounts. The process starts with WhatsApp, then I switch over to Facebook to check whose birthday it is (I would never remember otherwise). Then I have to catch up on what’s happening on Snapchat stories and liking pictures on Instagram. I watch people skydive in Dubai and think of all the activities I could be doing if I left my bed.
I finish off this ritual with a good scroll through Twitter, trying to find out the latest news in hopes that I will pass the week’s current news pop quiz. When I’ve completed all these chores, I finally feel ready to get out of bed.
As a student journalist, social media has become essential in my life. Twitter helps me stay tapped into up-to-the-minute news. I also share stories I have produced on there. Not everyone reads newspapers anymore and without social media, I’m not too sure how people find my stories.
Social media has truly become so rooted in my life that even my decisions are dictated by the things I see on Apps on my phone. Zomato decides where I want to go out for dinner. If I need to contact someone for a story, I tweet them.
At the end of the day, I’ve come to terms with my social media dependency. My relationship with my phone is not an abnormality, I actually think it’s become the norm in my generation.
If I had one rand for every time I looked at my social media accounts, I would be a millionaire.
Hold that thought while I go decide what photo I’m going to post on Instagram next.
Since the rise of popular social networks such as Instagram and Twitter people have been able to portray themselves as more glamorous and free spirited. Many people find these social networks pretentious as they do not display what is truly happening in people’s lives.
EVERYONE WANTS LIKES: There has been a strong desire from social media users for their content to get as many”likes” as possible even if it means portraying themselves in a manner that is contrary to who they truly are. Photo: Provided
When going on Instagram, you come to the realisation that everyone is beautiful, wealthy, gym freaks, and well-dressed. People usually post pictures which enhance their popularity in their social circles. Every Monday people post pictures of their #MCM (Man Crush Monday) and on Wednesday of their #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) and these people are usually ‘bae af!’ (very beautifully and attractive). Then there’s the #Foodporn where people post pictures of good food which usually seems classy and healthy. Let’s not forget the “outfit of the day” popularly known as #OOTD. This is when people post pictures of an outfit that they have carefully sought out for that particular day.
There’s little modesty where this is concerned. Designer labels are mentioned to let others know just how expensive their clothing is. All of this in the quest for more ‘followers’ and ‘likes’.
Meanwhile on Twitter everyone is an expert on matters, witty and brave. This can especially be said about ‘twelebs’ (Twitter celebrities). These are ‘tweeps’ (Twitter users) that have a large following because of some or other reason. Usually it is someone who is not afraid to voice their opinions at all costs. This has lead to what is known as “Black Twitter”, the kind of tweets that are a bit too honest. People who engage in such tweeting are usually highly critical.
The tweets have to be short, concise with a funny and sometimes offensive punch line that will keep everyone glued to their phones. People also watch television via twitter through the tweets of others. Everyone can use their expertise to commentate on what is happening in a soapie, movie or sports match.
Why search for information on Google when there is ‘twoogle’. Find information about everything and anything at anytime just by asking their followers.
“There was a point where I posted half naked pictures of myself”
Junior Makena, a final year student at the University of Johannesburg has been labelled a ‘tweleb’ with an impressive eighteen thousand four hundred followers. Makena believes that social media culture is about people being more open and creating a space for people to network. However he does add that people should have limits to what they say and show some sense of morality. Ironically he has not always followed the ‘morality code’ that he deems important. “There was a point where I posted half naked pictures of myself”, this is how he got more females to follow him. It says that there is not much pretending when it comes to his online persona, Makena says that he is the same person online as he is offline. He does however admit that social media is a platform to be pretentious for many. ” I have met people who say they live at a certain place on Twitter, but they were not able to show me” he says.
Social media has been a new age tool that has brought about a different kind of generation. A generation that is focused on a sense of belonging that has endorsed a certain kind of lifestyle. Some might just say that they are ‘faking it till they make it’.
Will we all look back one day and laugh at all this social media madness?
Mxit came first, Facebook followed, Twitter was not far behind but while each of these social media platforms was growing, the “selfie” was quietly establishing as one of the hottest trends in recent times.
If you’ve been buried under a rock somewhere, a selfie is a picture or photograph taken by one’s self and shared on social media platforms. There are different kinds of selfies taken daily, by celebrities and ordinary people alike.
There is even a song about selfies by the band the Chainsmokers. But while their popularity is undisputed, the motivation for this trend is not quite clear.
Academics, psychologists and sociologists alike are still probing the obsession with the self-image and the need to share almost every moment via a turned-around camera. Studies so far have have shown that selfies are an indication of a person’s obsession with appearance and the need for attention which is largely attributed to a low self- esteem or narcissism even.
People compete for the perfect selfie in all sorts of settings, including the gym, at a party out with friends, just lazing around or studying in their rooms. For others it is about a new hairstyle, a hot outfit or their make-up.
“I usually take selfies when I have a new hairstyle, I take a lot of selfies then,” says 4th year Social Work student, Sinethemba Nkosi.
For Nomvelo Chalumbira, 2nd year BA student, she takes selfies when she is out with friends in a new place or on holiday, and sometimes when she is really bored when studying.
She added, “I don’t take them often at all, because I feel like it’s very vain and most of the time when I take them, I’m in a comfortable space with people I’m comfortable with or where I’m comfortable myself.”
SAY CHEESE: A group selfie with some of #teamvuvu. Photo By: Illanit Chernick
Selfies are not a big deal for Silindokuhle Mavuso who is studying a BSc Honours in Geology and Palaeontology, “I barely take selfies, maybe one or two a month and if I take one it’s because I’m drunk with friends.”
Selfies are intimate and relate one’s personal experiences. But because of the belief that “if it’s not on social media, it did not happen,” content like selfies is readily shared on social media.
Nkosi says, “Most of the time I use them as DP [profile picture] for BBM or Whatsapp and Facebook.”
Mavuso who thinks taking selfies is conceited and pointless, tries to avoid taking them. He believes, as Chalumbira does that, taking a selfie is a very vain thing to do.
Whatever your feelings about them though, the popularity of the selfie is such that the word has been added to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary.
It was announced this week that the word, defined as “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks,” will now join other terms like ‘tweep’ and ‘hashtag’ in the dictionary.
ANTI-SOCIAL?: Recent anti-social media campaigns have criticised ‘Generation Y’ of being out of touch with the world. Photo: Lameez Omarjee
Hi, my name is Lameez and I am addicted to social media.
They say the first step to recovery is admission. Only, I am not in denial and I have no plans to recover.
I think Mark Zuckerberg is gangsta and the only regret I have is not dropping out of school to start a multi-billion dollar company by the age of 23, myself. If this journalism thing does not work out, I am asking Mark for a job, to finally put my other degree to good use.
Anti-social media campaigns have ironically gone viral. I have watched the videos. I recognise myself, looking at the screens and not “being in touch” with the world.
But these anti-social initiatives are not the most objective videos telling only one side of a story which on its own sounds ominous for future generations.
The video where the man misses the chance to meet the love of his life because he is too busy looking down at his screen and subsequently misses the feeling of holding his grandson in his arms, thirty years later is so overly dramatic! I can Google tons of people who found love on the internet, they are all on Craigslist.
People say social media makes you anti-social. What the “deuce?” (I learnt that from reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes, so, contrary to popular belief, I do actually read).
Sure, I hate it when my dad does not hear what I am saying because he is too busy playing Candy Crush on his iPad, but have you ever played Candy Crush? Have you watched a vine? Do you know what YouTube can teach you?
I use Googleand Wikipediato expand my general knowledge and using that knowledge I contribute to an international community of bloggers where I get to exchange ideas with talented writers and learn to improve my own work.
“Each day the number of avenues for you to express yourself creatively on the web are growing.”
I am more in touch with the world because of social media.
As an introvert, social media has given me opportunities to voice my opinions appropriately assertively, on platforms where people with differing values and perceptions can engage with me.
I know the closest relationship I have is with my smartphone. But at least he does not hang out in other people’s pockets. And when he gets boring I can always replace him with a better model.
HIDING OUT: The Split app helps you avoid people by using geo-location information from social media sites. Photo: Tracey Ruff
Social media has made connecting with people really simple and easy but what if you don’t really feel like bumping into your crazy ex the next time you step out?
Responding to the need for people to avoid each other at times, a new mobile phone app called ‘Split’, was released last week. The app makes use of information from social media websites, using geo-location data, to alert the user when someone they are trying to avoid is within their vicinity.
[pullquote align=”right”]”What if I’m in a relationship, but my boyfriend uses it and finds out I’m with my second boyfriend?”[/pullquote]
Udi Dagan, the app’s creator, came up with the idea after a night out ended in an uncomfortable scenario for him. “The idea for Split was born on a frustrating night, about two years ago, when I ran into my ex-girlfriend in a bar,” he told ubergizmo.com. “After a few awkward minutes, I hurriedly gathered my friends out of there and into another pub down the street, where I literally bumped into another ex … not a good night.”
The app, available free for iOS and Android devices, uses geo-location information from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare of the people you want to avoid and alerts you when they are nearby. It also suggests an escape route on a map for you to make your get away, and even notifies you if they are attending the same Facebook events as you.
“I think it’s really cool!” said Lethabo Kutumela, a first-year BComm Accounting student from the University of Johannesburg. “It’s something lots of people would want to have. I’d use it if I had a fight with my boyfriend, or if I was trying to avoid a stalker.”
The app does raise questions about privacy, however, as it provides the location and movements of people without notifying them in any way.
“I never want that app,” said Semkelisiwe Makhoba, a first year Film and Production student at Wits. “It’s too personal; people will know where I am and what I’m doing. It could also get you into trouble. What if I’m in a relationship, but my boyfriend uses it and finds out I’m with my second boyfriend?”
Split is not the first anti-social app to become available. A similar app called Cloak was released a few weeks before Split and offered the same opportunities to avoid people, although it only used information from Foursquare and Instagram.
Today we’re taking a look at the #WitsShutdown protests which are over historical debt and unaffordable accommodation, which have seen several students suspended, physical clashes between protestors and security and disruptions to the academic programme for many. In this bonus episode of We Should Be Writing, we let students unpack their views on what has […]