For some, travelling through the endless miles of the hot, dusty Karoo is a journey to be gobbled up at speed, leaving a mere trail of dust between departure and arrival as fierce and wind-whipped as the dust devils that dance among the brush.
Photographer and author Louis Botha used to be one such traveler until the Karoo’s great silence and complex simplicity crept into his soul.
“It’s difficult to explain why, although I am convinced it is because photography taught me to ‘look differently’ at things but I started to plan my journeys to include the network of dirt roads that track through the various regions of the Karoo’s vastness,” he says.
Stopping as often as possible on his journeys, Louis Botha began to observe and appreciate from a new perspective: “I discovered a wealth of beauty and diversity I had never connected to before. This process gained momentum, pulling me in, until I realised I had lost my soul to the Karoo and I bought an old Victorian house in the 250 year old Prince Albert.
After a qualification in the field of commerce and several years in the corporate world as an executive, Louis Botha came to realise that Life is short, and Art is long!
“I decided to rearrange my lifestyle completely in order to make more time to express my vision and feelings through using light reflecting off my subjects. It’s only when one becomes part of the Karoo community that one fully appreciates the meaning of the words ‘less is more’!”
Captured by the quality of natural light available, the atmosphere of stillness, exposed human emotions and the character of its ancient landscape, Botha says, “In slowing down my life, my senses were sharpened. I was able to see again, to smell, to hear, to taste and to feel, almost as if for the first time.”
Photography of Voice
“For me photography challenges me to communicate without words, to evoke emotion without saying anything, to tell a story or to present the ordinary in an unordinary way, to make the viewer look again, think again, feel again, appreciate again. I am attracted by discovering the other side of people and things, the treasures waiting to be discovered in seemingly empty relationships and vast open spaces. The challenge is to remove the clutter and the pretention, to reveal what is real.”
Simple Images Big Photo Art
Using an old Hasselblad from the 1950’s Louis Botha’s new knowledge gave rise to his first book ‘SLOW DOWN look again’offering 148 pages of black and white storytelling portraits on film of the people of the Karoo, their ordinary lives and the mystery that will always remain firmly part of Karoo for those who are destined to be just visitors.
His second book ‘Karoo’ is an even deeper look into the wide open spaces, silence and timelessness of this unique and ethereally beautiful landscape.
“Why go to Tuscany or Provence for peace or photographic opportunities when we hold such treasures on our own doorstep. Here, in the Karoo you are offered a chance to discover yourself, to figure out where you stand in relation to your creator, your loved ones and your next of kin. Thinking about who you are, what you stand for, your purpose in life and what it means for others, it also then becomes easier to engage with the environment, to connect with people, with places, with weather conditions and objects in your everyday life.
Adds Louis Botha, “After a while, one’s images start to reflect back at you, the true spirit of the subjects, and of oneself. This experience corresponds with the saying ‘every photograph says something about the subject, and something about the photographer’!”
When shooting, Louis Botha uses digital photography in general. Occasionally, and depending on availability, he may opt for medium format film when doing portraiture or panorama landscapes. His preferred end product is an image that is printed on high quality fine art paper or canvas, to be displayed on a very special wall.
Gallery Showing at De Bergkant Lodge
To meet the many perspectives of the man behind the camera, step into 4-star De Bergkant Lodge at the top of Main Street, Prince Albert where Louis Botha’s framed images adorn the walls.
Says De Bergkant Lodge proprietor Michael Sönnichsen, “We are fascinated how Louis Botha has captured the essence of the region and its people and we are honored to be able to bring this beauty to others in the form of a gallery showing his photographic works.
“Visitors to Prince Albert are welcome to come in from the heat outside and view his selection of works or purchase one of his photographic works, or books. His first book Slow Down Look Again retails for ZAR 490.00, his latest book Karoo retails for ZAR 690.00 or you may purchase both for ZAR 1 000.00.”
Photographic Workshops in Prince Albert
Hoping to share a little of his gift of sight and the beauty of the Karoo with others, Louis Botha offers a four-day photography course in Prince Albert which includes a landscape and a portrait practical workshop and addresses both the visual and technical skills required to capture images with greater impact. It is a very special workshop designed to introduce visitors to the abundance of silence, space, timelessness and beauty of the Karoo and its people.
“It’s not about the camera. If you can see it, feel it, you can capture it,” says Louis Botha. “I am intensely aware of the importance of light and time, for our lives, for the longevity of the earth and everything on it, and for the impact it has on every image captured.
“In friendly Prince Albert, people are warm, humble, rich in knowledge and stories, kind and sincere. Here, there is an abundance of form, texture, structure, colour, contrast, solitude, emotion, space and safety, and an absence of clutter, pretentions, materialism and noise.”