“Images speak louder than words, they move and transport me. I wanted to create my own images that did the same, go to new exciting places and discover what it is that makes people tick. Photography is about interacting with people and discovering new places and the different freedoms we all have; mostly it’s about learning from people and getting out of my comfort zone.”
Marc Shoul (born in 1975) is a South African photojournalist and documentary photographer. He’s currently based in Johannesburg. Mark Shoul studied photography at “Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University” in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
“As far back as my long-term memory takes me, I remember always having a camera with me: as a kid on holiday, at parties, with friends and any other occasions.
As an adult, not much has changed; except now I take numerous amounts of photographs, like a man with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This compulsion is like having a craving to record things, observe and document.
For me, photography is medium-conveying information, which I am able to use in order to expose, communicate, engage, understand, and learn from the people and situations I instinctively look for.
My ethos is: “I enjoy seeking out situations and letting them unfold in an unconstructed and unconscious manner. In many ways, my photographic technique is like fishing. I throw my line out and wait for the important moments, which often do not come at all. I have to exercise patience, observe and develop trust in order to harness a relationship with the subject, which in the end helps make my presence less obtrusive and the key to obtaining powerful images. I work alone as it is less threatening and fully allows the subjects to reveal themselves, in all their glory.”
Series “Flatlands” (People of Johannesburg) by Marc Shoul
Marc Shoul, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
As a kid I had a little Minolta Autopak 400. When I completed high school I spent a year in Israel and shot continuously, not thinking too much about the results. When I returned to South Africa I started playing with images and collage. There was a one hour photo lab that gave a free film with every process and that hooked me. After studying photography, I started assisting some photographers as well as shooting for local magazines. During that time I would keep myself busy by experimenting with composition and various subject matter, constantly trying to make strong images.
Why did you become a photographer?
Images speak louder than words, they move and transport me. I wanted to create my own images that did the same, go to new exciting places and discover what it is that makes people tick.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is about interacting with people and discovering new places and the different freedoms we all have; mostly it’s about learning from people and getting out of my comfort zone.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
That’s a tough one as there are many photographers that have influenced me, namely David Goldblatt with his deep and endless documentation of South Africa. But Jim Goldberg’s work in his book “Raised by Wolves” (see a video) jolted me. Those images are able to transport and draw me into another reality. He was able to get under his subject’s skin and that is what I admire the most.
Your favourite photography quote?
“We don’t take pictures with cameras, we take them with our hearts and minds.”
Interview with portrait photographer Arnold Newman (September 2001), talking about his work and career:
“A real artist to me is someone who can show us our old, familiar world in a new and different way, we’ve never seen before.”
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working?
My shooting style is very straight. I look closely at gestures and composition, keeping in mind the elements that surround the subject.
I tend to spend a lot of time with my subjects going back to see them again and again to show them contact prints and to give them prints. This helps earn their trust and therefore helps to get better access. Access is key without it I’d have very little.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
Look long and hard at your images. The more you shoot the more finely tuned you become, having said that, one needs to “break their eye” so that images don’t look the same as the images one has photographed in the past.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Be able to make images when there is nothing.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It needs to make you want to look at it again and again. It should keep unfolding. If an image is able to confuse, intrigue, suck you into the situation, have movement and rhythm make you want to cry and smile in the same moment, then you’ve got a winner.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I draw most of my inspiration from living in South Africa, with its huge contrasts and its growing pains of a young democracy.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
From fellow photographers and off the net.
Digital or analog?
I shoot film for my personal projects and digital for the rest.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I use my old 500c/m Hasselblad for my own work and Canon 5D Mark II for clients.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
Burn Magazine, Panos Pictures, Photography Now and VII Photo.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Never take no for an answer. If there is a door, knock on it. Keep shooting, that’s the most important thing.