Musa Nxumalo was born in 1986, in Soweto. He made his first significant foray into photography at the Market Photo Workshop, under the guidance of prominent South African creatives Sabelo Mlangeni and Thabiso Sekgala. Nxumalo is renowned for his striking, black-and-white portraits of youth culture in his native Soweto, as well as greater Johannesburg; his oeuvre is a sensitive, eclectic tribute to the dynamism of Soweto’s nightlife, and reflects moments of extraordinary beauty and tenderness in the midst of the mundane.
Nxumalo garnered critical acclaim for his collections Alternative Kidz (2009) and In/Glorious (2012); he is currently working on a collection entitled The Anthology of Youth (2016), part of which was exhibited at Smac Gallery’s Contemporary Booth at the FNB Joburg Art Fair in 2016.
Nxumalo’s work has also been included in a number of international group exhibitions, including For Those Who Live In It in the Netherlands in 2010, Space Between Us in Germany in 2013, My Joburg in Paris in 2013, and Perigrinate, which has exhibited in an array of African locations from 2015 to 2017. His comparatively short career has engendered considerable critical acclaim: Nxumalo won the Edward Ruiz Mentorship in 2008, was awarded first prize in Visual Art for the Impact Awards in 2010, and was nominated for the distinguished First Book Award in 2015.
The Wanted shoot was a relatively novel experience for Nxumalo. “I hardly do fashion shoots… I was sceptical at first, but once I got to the shoot I felt at ease and worked well with the models and the Wanted team.” In the ordinary course of events, Nxumalo’s work is the sum of organic, fleeting moments: “I usually take photographs when I go out, and I am very spontaneous, even with my compositions. Sometimes I would go out prepared to take photographs in the club and, depending on how the evening turns out, I would either take them or decide to put my camera away, and observe the scene and the people — which usually informs my approach for the next time I come.”
Previously, Nxumalo has been reluctant to do editorial work. He is loath to compromise the anonymity which empowers him to capture a scene from an insider’s vantage-point. “The fashion and popular media scene is usually associated with stardom and ‘celebrityness’ — is there such a term?” he muses. “I think it is problematic for the way that I work, because once you become famous, then it becomes difficult to photograph people; they start recognising you… or you have to deal with the deadlines and hectic schedules, which for me takes away from the process of honing the final photographs.”
The Wanted shoot adhered as closely as possible to Nxumalo’s extemporaneous approach. It was shot almost documentary-style at the iconic Kitchener’s Carvery Bar in Braamfontein, and featured amateur models wearing young South African designers, not posing, but behaving as they would on an average night out at this vibrant, inner-city venue.
- Represented by Smac Gallery