Botswele Mogotlane

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Botswele Mogotlane is a self-taught photographer who is continuously inspired by the undying beauty of Ubuntu. He is a fashion photographer and his believe in fashion is deeper than what you see in pictures or on the run way. As a young boy his parents would call a “cameraman” on Sundays to capture him together with his siblings in their Sunday costumes and this is where it all started with him marrying fashion to photography.

Born and bred in Limpopo he found himself travelling between the provinces of South Africa in search of a job; hoping to make a living. While he travelled Botswele landed in the Gauteng Province where he was making a fair living until things turned a bitter sweet for him. A desperate Botswele took chances and turned to the camera to make a living. Luckily for him, he became good and even better when he met Dee-Ann Kaaijk of Strike-a-pose photography who mentored him for a few years. This time he found his first love.

While he was getting comfortable shooting the busy streets of Johannesburg, he was challenged to move once more. The influential photography lover had to relocate to the mother city, after he had obtained a scholarship at ORMS School of photography. During this time he has found himself working on different projects but mostly he is focusing on freelancing jobs. Botswele believes that freelancing is the way to go!  He encourages a lot of photographers especially those that are new in the photography industry to take on freelancing work as this proves to build ones reputation really fast.

His work Concentrates on capturing genuine, unique but bold images that hold the diversities of culture.  Many a time when words would fail him, he expressed himself through the lens and that is how he can best tell a story.  The only way that Botswele meditates and takes away any pain is when he takes a picture. He believes in capturing moments and making a difference into lives through images. He focuses a lot on fashion of course as he is solid that fashion itself is diverse. He sees politics and culture all shaped by fashion “fashion is how we express ourselves” he says.

Photography is more than just a talent for the young Limpopo born. Through his images he has proven that there is no better way to meditate or tell a story if not through the lens. Botswele says photography has proven to build memories which in turn becomes a healing process in some circumstances.  He has taken pictures of scarred people. His childhood also holds the best memories of how much a picture can mean in the life of a person, not because of their age or of their status.

While he was chasing dreams and capturing moments, Botswele met Abongwe and Zamokohle who inspired him to shoot “through scars with scars”. He understood the unchanging pain and he took a chance to uncover the scars that had long been hidden under garments and make up. The pictures where the two ladies expose their scars for the first time to the world continue to hold that special place, until this day these are the pictures that continue to make Botswele a proud photographer. He has since held on the quote, “Scars hold stories in our lives that may cause the pain in our hearts and prevent us from moving on.”

View his photographs produced during this year, along with his year-end interview below:


When you started the programme what genre of photography were you interested in and has this shifted over the course of the year?

Fashion / Editorial photography has always been my main focus and over the cause of this programme I’ve improved efficiently in terms of lighting and composition.

Analogue (film) or Digital photography and why?

I would shoot film if I was a black and white photographer as it is more forgiving for focusing and exposure issues, however I feel alive when I shoot in colour and digital has been a great companion in my journey, its instant and I enjoy the post-production aspect of it if I didn’t get things right in camera. Digital is financially viable as film components are rather expensive and often not as accessible in South Africa. Perhaps I’ll shoot film in a later stage when I’m well established.

What subject matter do you find yourself drawn to?

Human beings are the most fascinating components of planet Earth, I’m more drawn to people as my subject.

Pick three words/phrases that describe your approach to the medium?

Ubuntu, Authenticity, Exploration (With passion comes creativity)

What has been the most noteworthy shoot/project you have done this year?

Documentary photography, getting the opportunity to photography Felix Chughuda, Felix upholds the Maasai tradition as he prepares himself to become a Prince of his royal family in Tanzania. He plays music for the public to sustain himself during this period of his initiation.

Who is your biggest photographic influence at the moment and how/why?

Few individuals inspire my work including Osborne Macharia. His photos are part of the afrofuturism movement, a creative conversation changing the way we think about a continent so often mired in out-of-date ideas. “Afro-futurism is predicting a different kind of future, a positive future,” Osborne says.

What has been your biggest misconception about photography as a practice?

That is just “point and shoot and post”.

What is the most valuable thing you have learnt on the course?

That behind every photograph there’s a unique story that is told if we pay attention

What advice would you give to anyone seriously considering applying for the course?

Take a moment and introspect. Be certain that you want to take on this journey because photography involves more emotion than technique.

How has photography shifted the way that you navigate the world?

Photography has definitely made me see the world in a different light, everything is more interesting whether its a trashcan on the side of a road or a church that has been remodelled.