Documenting Real Stories: Annual Festival in South Africa | Fearless and Framed

Documenting Real Stories: Annual Festival in South Africa

My name is Jana, and I’m one of the very few documentary photographers in my area here in South Africa. These photos that I share with you are very close to my heart, and remain one of my favourite sessions of all time.

Since documentary family photography is still so new and fairly unknown in my country, I often struggle to explain to my clients (I mostly photograph families) what a true documentary style photo session is, and worry that I’m not giving them what they want or expect.

This sometimes leaves me feeling despondent, and doubting myself. So, when our local school asked me to photograph an annual festival that they were planning, I leaped at the opportunity.

Imagine, a whole day of shooting without giving one direction or instruction – documentary photographers’ heaven! And, doing something for my community at the same time – very exciting!

On the day I was busy very early on from covering the fun run event. I photographed all the lovely stalls, food, entertainment and games throughout the day. Just as the sun was setting this pop singer, a local lad and previous runner-up on South Africa Pop Idols, came on stage. It was just him and his saxophone player.

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The light was gorgeous (as documentary photographer I often shoot at less desirable times of day – which is fine, but this worked so well for the occasion!) and the colours blended just perfectly with everything around me. I found myself standing in the middle of the crowd (with my Canon 5D miii and Canon 100mm macro lens – an unusual choice for me since I LOVE my Canon 35mm L lens for documentary work) as the atmosphere grew more and more exciting.

Everywhere I was pointing my lens, amazing moments were happening. The crowd was responding to the music like I couldn’t believe and the air felt almost tangible. I was feeling the vibe and started clicking away.

I kept looking for the light as I moved through the people. This resulted in high contrast images with darker shadows, lower contrast sun washed images, as I photographed straight into the sun, and even silhouettes showing the beautiful sunset (I put my white balance on Cloudy, to emphasize the orange glow of the light of the setting sun).

What struck me most about the experience was that people were just being people.

Sharing beautiful music on a beautiful day with each other.

No prejudice, no politics.

Now I’m not really into politics, but being from South Africa will forever put a question mark on one’s motives and political opinions. A day like this gives me hope for my beautiful country and its people, and shows me how far we’ve come.

Yes, we still have our challenges, and a lot more needs to be done, but we’re getting there!

These photos are more than photos to me, it is hope.

Writing + photography contributed by photographer, Jana Wiehahn.

About Jana Wiehahn:

I am a documentary style family photographer based in Gauteng, South Africa. After school I studied IT and worked in the corporate world for 10 years, but after the birth of my son I was lucky enough to escape! After taking a year off I started looking for something to do and almost by accident I discovered photography after attending a workshop on how to take better photos of your kids. The attraction was immediate and severe, and I have not been able to let it go ever since!

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