JoziFolk - images of everyday life in South Africa

  JoziFolk - the Stories and Portraits of Real South Africans

 July 2014

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"I'm 75 years old and still work full time as a professional photographer. I specialise in aerial photography. I didn't start out as a photographer. It was a hobby that just grew and grew until I had so much work that I had no option but to leave my job and start my own photography business. Since then the contracts have just kept coming.

"I've stuck with shooting film as it's always just worked for me and I use some of the best lenses ever made. I tried digital cameras but somehow they never worked for aerial photography for me." 


"There have always been Vespas and Lambrettas in my family. They're just fun to ride and we love the old, mechanical technology. Last year a few of us rode our Vespas from Joburg to Cape Agulhas and back."


 "I supervise a team of carpark, car-washers. They don't mind that I'm a young woman in charge because I've done this job for four years. Saturday is our busiest day when we get to wash up to 120 cars.

"I like the job. People are nice and the boss treats us well. In ten years time I hope to be rich."

How will you achieve that?

"The Boss pays well."


"I was a traffic cop but had a friend who was a civil engineer. He landed a huge contract to develop a mine in Equatorial Guinea. But also had to arrange for other infrastructure to be put in - a military base, clinic and airport.

"He asked if I could help and gave me a list of companies I needed to contact, for prices of all the stuff needed. I sourced earth-moving and mining equipment, armoured cars, beds for the clinic, aviation equipment for the airport...everything.

"Needless to say, I gave up my job as a traffic officer and went into selling mining equipment full time."


"I used to work in the theatre at a nearby hospital but then I hurt my back and they told me I wasn't allowed to work any more.

"I get a small monthly disability pension but have to work as a car-guard to make ends meet.

"Yesterday was a very good day. I earned enough to buy a new cellphone."


"We've know each other as friends for five years and are at school together. It was our love of fashion, hair and just doing crazy things that drew us together.

"We're hoping to break into modelling at the end of the year."


"I'm originally from Kwa Zulu-Natal. I completed a one-year teaching diploma through UNISA and, aged 20, came to Johannesburg to find a teaching job. But where ever I applied they told me I was too young. They said I need to be 25 or have a child of my own. I never realised there was an age-restriction for teachers. I didn't even qualify to work as an assistant teacher.

"So now I work as an assistant manager at a restaurant. There is a lot of pressure and the hours are long but I enjoy it, although, in my heart, I still want to be a teacher."


"I was born in Zimbabwe but both my parents died before I was 12. My sister took care of me but, when political upheavals caused the schools in our area to shut and conditions became very bad, we slipped into South Africa and lived as illegal immigrants. For two years we lived in Mpumalanga and I did not go to school. When I moved to Johannesbsurg I resumed my schooling but was a long way behind the other kids. But I worked very hard, caught up and matriculated last year.

"There is no doubt, the incident that changed the course of my life took place on a Monday afternoon, when my best friend persuaded me to accompany her to a meeting run by a Christian NGO. They took me under their wing, helped me get an ID and become a legal resident and have since arranged financial support so I can study at a tertiary institution.

"I'm doing really well and next year will qualify with a diploma in Human Resources." 


"The taxi business is very difficult at the moment and only the strongest, if any will survive. I've been here since 07h30 this morning and it's now 11h30 and I haven't had a single fare.

"If I'm lucky I may get two R80 fares today and if you think about it, when you factor in the costs of maintaining and running a taxi, I'll come out with less than a guy who works in a garden - and he will likely get fed as well.

"It's difficult to make R1000 a week nowadays. In the past we used to make that in a day. There were two killer blows for us. First the arrival of the Gautrain which devastated our airport/city business and then the fact hotels started operating their own, free, shuttle-busses now. Those vehicles are often operated by big transport companies so little guys like us have been cut out.

"And because we up don't get to pick up clients from the hotels we don't get to interact with them and turn them into repeat business.

"I have no choice but to survive. There are five mouths I must feed and house and I'm 52 years-old - what company is going to hire me now?" 


Have you ever done anything you are really ashamed of and regret?

"Hmmm...I think I'm going to have to plead the Fifth Amendment on that!"


"It's freezing! Do you mind if I stand by your fire for a bit?" (140659) 

"I work for Hospice. The best part of my job is the people I meet but shopping and going to movies also makes me very happy." (140662)

How would you like to be remembered?

"As someone who honoured the SELF in everything and everyone. And as a man who allowed everyone's own reality to manifest."  (140656)


Do you see a future for all of us in South Africa?

"Oh yes, definitely! ...if we can find a way to all stand together." 


"You can take my photograph but I am on duty so I can't give you a comment."


"I'm still at school but I sell fruit and vegetables to make a bit of extra cash on the side. I'm going to need it when I go and study engineering...or art." (140661)

 "I'm a Sandton Ambassador. My job is to help people. For example I will direct them to the Gautrain station or give them directions to the US Consulate or the hotels in the area. The hours are long and I am on my feet but I like people and most are nice."


 "I'm just in town today to attend a seminar at the US Consulate, so you'd better make this quick!" (140650)

I'm still at school but I sell fruit and vegetable to make a bit of extra cash on the side. My plan is to study engineering...or art."


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"I had a few "Yanks" before but always wanted a Buick. I saw the previous owner of this one driving it on the highway nine years ago and flagged him down. I asked if he wanted to sell but he said 'no' but I gave him my number anyway.

"Two days later he called me and we agreed on a price. I bought it as an ongoing project and since then have replaced the engine and gearbox with an original and have probably invested R350K in her.

"I'll never sell her. It's the best car I've ever had."


What would you do if you won the Lotto?

"I'd buy a house for my Mum and start a business in Soweto.

"I'd also finish the AIDS and HIV counselling course I started and get more involved helping youngsters."


No words required.

Photographer: Xolisa Gqabaza


Do you see a future for young white guys in this country?

"Not at the moment and if things stay like this. But my generation can't just sit around and accept it. We are the ones who are going to have change things. We are going to have to find leaders we can be proud of because right now I am not proud to be a South African. The corruption is disgusting. Somehow we will have to find ways to accept each other.

"But no matter what, I have no plans to leave."


If you could start over again what would you do differently?

"I'd go into the trade I'm in now but much earlier. I was in sales selling different products and then finally life insurance. But changes in regulations and the depressed economy saw my wanting a change. A friend's son who ran a plumbing business offered me an opportunity to join him and take care of the business' admin but he ended up taking me for R110 000.

"Fortunately I'd personally built up a good name and reputation with some large companies. I hired a black guy who was plumber and he's taught me. Together we've built up a successful business."

And the dog?

"I'm just "babysitting it for the weekend."


"I love Alfas. Had one myself. But the truth is: you can't have an Alfa AND a wife!"


"I've got 15 of these old cars that I've restored. It's something that gets into your blood, like a tattoo. After you get one you want another and then another. I've got tattoos of all my cars so I guess I'll be getting more along the way.

"I'm on my sixth wife now but I'll never get rid of any of my cars!"


Seen at a car show in Krugersdorp.


 "I'm at university studying biological sciences. I really want to do something with my life that is significant. Maybe my work will one day result in discovering a cure for AIDS."


"My father came to this country as a 14 year-old boy from Greece in 1928 and could speak no English at all. But he put all his efforts in learning to read write and speak it. 

"He worked for Greek cafe owners and then together with his brother and a policeman from Greece, formed a company that owned some old-fashioned cafes. In 1936 he introduced American-style soda fountains that exploded in popularity.

"In 1974 we opened a roadhouse that is still something of an institution and although my dad died 12 years ago he set the foundation for my success in business.

"He taught me two lessons that I carry with me in life. He always said: 'look after your name. If you lose all your money you can always make it back but if you lose your good name it's gone for ever!'

"And he also said: 'Remember, money speaks all languages!'"


"I'm always searching secondhand bookshops looking for books to complete collections. If I can't find them here I search for them on the Internet. Sometimes the postage can be ten times the cost of the book."


"When I was a cop we spent a lot of time sitting around braai-fires cooking potjies. I got a lot of experience and became good at it. This is a competition today but we're all really just here for fun.

"I'm cooking a venison potjie with Gemsbok and Eland."


"There are two things on my list to do in life. I really want to finish my degree. I started a degree in languages - did two years of English and two years of Greek as well as French. I loved it but had to stop because life and the pressures of business left me with not enough time.

"One day I'll complete it. Just my own satisfaction and enjoyment.

"The other thing? To learn to ride a horse!"


"I'm a certified Ballet Teacher but I don't enjoy teaching children so that career avenue wasn't an option. I worked in IT in the corporate world but didn't enjoy the long hours, the long commute and all the hassles associated with a corporate career.

"So my husband and I bought a printing business. Naturally it comes with its own pressures but we now control our own destiny and what you put in is what you get out. These are wonderful times and there is huge scope for entrepreneurship in South Africa." (140708)

"Last year I competed in the World Championship Invitational Barbecue in the United States." (140665)

"Elections are bad for business! I've run doughnut stalls at shows and markets all around the country for many years and whenever there is an approaching general election, people simply stop buying and my sales dive.

"It gets better after the elections but still takes three to for months to return to normal."


"I grew up without a father and my mother died when I was 13 leaving me to care for myself and my little brother. My mom's family live in Mozambique. We had no-one here, so we had no option but to fend for ourselves.

"It was incredibly tough. Neighbours tried to help where they could but most of the time we had no groceries or money. But I was determined I'd maintain our home - a one-roomed shack - and that my brother and I would live normal lives.

"My school results suffered and on occasion I missed exams when my brother became ill and I had to stay home and care for him. In 2010 I suffered a minor stroke that doctors believe was the result of stress.

"But help came when a Christian NGO came knocking on our door. They basically saved our lives. Every day we got a hot meal and they helped us get the paper-work sorted so we could apply for a social grant. They also gave us a monthly food parcel and school uniforms at the beginning of each year.

"Last year I matriculated with good marks and enrolled in a college but was pregnant at the time. My son was born two months ago and I've had to drop my studies for the time-being but I'm grateful his dad is providing support."


What are you going to do today to make yourself happy?

"I dunno. Lunch...lunch always makes me happy. Nothing special, just a sandwich."

And you?

"I'll probably surf the Net." (140653)

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