Reflections from a custodian of moments
The exhibition shares an intimate collection of moments I have captured over the last five years, inviting you to look through the lens with me at some rather unique angles of everyday occurrences. From lamenting the loss of a friend, to the unexpected inspiration imparted from a child at story time and personal learnings from a ballerina in an abandoned hospital, I apply my left-of-centre blend of storytelling and lensing ability to make sense of the world around me. All photographs are editions of ten.
The exhibition has been shown at The Market Theatre, during the 2023 WOMAD South Africa Festival, at Open Studios in the August House artist building and continues to be shown online on Latitudes.
For more information on the artworks and to purchase a limited edition piece, contact Sara Hallatt of the Meta Foundation.
See the exhibition catalogue here
A stretch of the Johannesburg city centre opens up and says no more. No more mismanagement, no more neglect, no more disregard and disrespect. No more politicking to no-ones benefit, no more. But my city is resilient, she is resourceful and a fighter, raised on the dusty plains of this once-mining camp. She will bounce back, stronger than before, perhaps with less weighing her down. A shakeup is coming.
A man and his craft
Although not blessed with the ability to play any instrument, I love music. Jazz in particular. And although I don’t understand the technical nuances of the genre, listening to it never fails to speak directly to my soul. In my lack of understanding, I am intrigued by the interplay between the musician and his instrument. How he holds it, the position of his fingers as he plays it, the angle of his head as his coaxing of the instrument results in that magical sound I love and appreciate so much. There is life and an energy between the musician and his instrument, and I seek to capture and record that, perhaps in a way, as my attempt to understand the genre.
Breakfast in Bethulie
While writing a travel article on the Royal Hotels of South Africa, I stayed over in the Bethulie Royal Hotel. Famed as The Book Hotel by virtue of owner Anthony Hocking’s love of books, which cover every available space throughout the property, the hotel also has a rather impressive collection of LPs. This section of the collection serves as the dining room, which when paired with the glorious morning light, made for a personal all-time favourite breakfast spot. It’s almost impossible not to feel the nostalgia emanating from the collection as you partake of your poached eggs, there in the southern part of the Free State province. Particularly after having chatted to Anthony and fellow guests long into the previous evening, enjoying each other’s favourite jazz numbers from his rather vast collection.
Saturday afternoon at the pool
I love to travel, and when I get to travel with my friend Allison, it’s that much more exciting. Particularly as she was once a prima ballerina, who still holds herself with the grace and poise learnt from hours of ballet. When Allison and I found ourselves in 2021 at a public swimming pool inside a caravan park in Riversdale, in the Western Cape, I was initially rather dismal at the prospect of shooting anything worthwhile. And then Allison did what Allison does, and took a walk and sat on the edge of the diving board. The grace embodied in her simple pose had me snapping away and reminded me that beauty exists all around us, we just need the eyes to see it. The scene took me back to my youth and the many carefree afternoons my siblings and I would spend around our swimming pool at home.
Johannesburg has an energy unique unto itself. And, at no time is this energy more tangible than during the night hours. Mundane activities take on surrealist nuances as daily realities playout in an often fascinating reversal of roles. Nothing is as it seems in the City of Gold, and long may it stay that way.
End of the line
The small Mpumalanga town of Carolina holds many fond memories for me from early teen days of hiking in the Eastern Transvaal. On a road trip in 2020, I noted a sign for the turnoff to Carolina, and immediately rerouted my car in her direction. Sadly there is not much to see in the town, but on the far side I turned the car around, only to see the railway line and its rather abrupt ending in this rusted metal structure. The scene beautifully juxtaposed my love of railway lines, which represent the freedom to explore, against the permanence of the ending. Its weathered featured had me entranced for some time, with the moody weather playing its part. Endings can, in themselves, be rather fascinating things. It all depends on your viewpoint.
The power of presence
In a world where being present is so often forgotten, it took the innocent actions of a child to remind me of the importance of this basic human imperative. This young lady’s attention during story time on a Saturday morning in Turffontein is a regular reminder to me, to more fully engage in activities that make up my day.
Ye though the restrictions are eased
As a child, my grandparents would often take my siblings and I on train trips between Johannesburg and Gqeberha, then Port Elizabeth. It was a time of adventure as we headed into what my young brain processed as the unknown. Perhaps this is where my adult fascination with railway lines comes from. As COVID restrictions first eased in late 2020, I went on a trip, passing through Dullstroom for a few days. A heavy mist descended as I approached the fishing town. Noting an open farm gate on the side of the road, I instinctively pulled over, aware from past experience that there was a railway line on the other side. Only after framing this shot, did I note the sign Tuisbly, meaning stay at home in Afrikaans. The scene immediately spoke to my wanderlust seeking soul, contrasting the imperative to stay at home during a worldwide pandemic against the yearning to head into the unknown and explore new lands.
As the world closes in
Standing in an abandoned hospital in Kempton Park, the young ballerina takes on a dual role as performer-model. As the photographers below reset their gear, she appears frozen in the moment, momentarily unsure of what is expected of her. This sense of dis-ease, brought on by dusty, dark hallways, sparks a realisation in my mind that the real world, and its duplicitous expectations, is not suited to the young.
My good friend, and one of the original South African travel bloggers, Merushka Govender sadly died in early 2019. Many times my travel companion, our times together were marked by laughter and a shared love for life. Mush, as many of us called her, was an self-proclaimed Afrophile with a deep love for the inner city of Johannesburg, which we shared. Driving home from her memorial that Thursday afternoon, I detoured through the inner city to avoid traffic. Without thought, I found a parking and went on a walk through town with my camera, the place she had loved so much. Coming upon Harrison Street in the now-late afternoon rush, I was drawn in by the yellow demarcated bus lane and the old-world buildings further down the street. To me, this spoke into the essence of the inner city – a place of beauty and contrast, fraught with challenges which should not be present. Like the imposing bus lane, often ignored by motorists and taxi drivers alike.
Ryan Enslin is a Pietermartizburg-born, Joburg-based photographer and travel writer. Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in the early 2000s, he soon came to understand that storytelling flowed in his veins. A self-taught photographer, aided by the odd course to hone his skillset, Ryan is happiest when lensing a scene that speaks to the storytelling nature of his soul.
Ryan photographs his subjects using prime lenses, preferring to physically frame the scene using the placement of his body to ensure a more detailed level of engagement with the subject. This approach delivers frames which are personal and evocative, as he translates the initial internal connection to a subject into the physical manifestation of the final photograph.
In his first exhibition Reflections from the custodian of moments, Ryan invites the viewer to look through the lens with him and consider his take on everyday occurrences.