He’s a photographer, artist, videographer and blogger. He’s been on GQ’s 2011 best-dressed list; he has his own blog and contributes to others’ (check out his work on Itswhatiminto). He’s from the dusty township of Tembisa (which, by the way, means ‘hope’) in Jo’burg and he is going places. When I look at his work, I get goosebumps. I like his style, his tone, outlook, and his vision. I guess I just like him.
When did your love affair with photography start?
It was by accident, really. I was browsing the internet and came across blogs such as The Sartorialist and Jak & Jil. I began curating images of other photographers’ work and realised I needed somewhere to put them, and that’s when I started my blog. I focused on architectural design, interiors, photography of all kinds, art and more until I grew bored with collecting images from other countries, places and spaces. I borrowed a very basic camera and began shooting at events and the occasional streetstyle. Things developed quickly from there and the rest, as they say, is history.
I love your photographs of the The Street Sartorialists in Melrose Boulevard. What excites you about the stylish Siya, Wanda and Kabelo?
I appreciate their humility and how they use their sense of style to communicate something about themselves. The exciting thing about them is that they epitomise the new vanguard of fashion in South Africa in many ways. Thanks to the power of the internet and blogs, they now have a following. Without the internet, the fashion world used to be far more elitist and reserved for a handful. Fashion belongs to the streets again.
Tell us about your project Portraits of South Africa.
It is one of my favourite photographic series to work on. It’s an ongoing series through which I want to focus on South Africa’s diversity. The initial series was inspired by the people I’ve worked and collaborated with. The next in the series will concentrate on South Africans from different walks of life and after than I plan to travel later this year and do another set that focusses on other parts of Africa, Europe and the US. In the end I plan to have an exhibition called Portraits of Earth.
This image captured somberness, a seriousness with a soft overtone that I really liked.
The image has raw energy, a curiosity and a street edge that I appreciate.
I like the warmth of this portrait. It had a whimsical innocence.
One of my favorite images, it is certainly one that is emotive but also has an invisible wall to it. The eyes are like the windows to his vulnerability. Only just.
This image captured a sense of ambition, of striving and reaching higher. It also has a touch of emotional anguish.
What excites you about South African streetstyle?
South Africans have a flair for originality. The streetstyle I see often makes bold statements and although I don’t agree with a lot of the style, I can appreciate its boldness. I also enjoy the way in which many people are customising their clothes and making it a true form of self-expression. It’s exciting to see.
What almost always makes you stop and snap?
Authenticity, when I can tell that a person is dressing the way they dress for themselves rather than to be seen or noticed.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a brand campaign for one of the biggest fashion retailers in South Africa. It launches in June and is one of the most exciting projects I’ve collaborated on this year. I’d prefer the work to speak for itself, so stay tuned.
What’s next for Anthony Bila?
The exciting thing about life is that it can take you anywhere. Whatever comes next, I want to bring Africa to the world and the world to Africa through my work.
Any advice for aspiring bloggers/photographers/artists?
Be true to your own form of expression; don’t just jump on whichever bandwagon everyone thinks is cool. Have an opinion and have integrity. Be original, find your niche, find your voice and, most of all, do whatever you do for the right reasons. If you love what you do it will sustain you when you feel that no-one’s taking notice of your efforts.
Photographs: Anthony Bila and Stacey Van der Walt