Like many of us, high school is the end of the road, a fork in the road and the pressure on career choice is bigger than a mouthful of cheeseburger. Photographer and artist Angie Lazaro had to make a choice and didn’t study photography.
Not at first. Instead, on the influence of a friend Lazaro pursued fashion design, followed by a romance with journalism that led her to finally coupling with pictures. And what a ride it has been, evidenced in her vast portfolio of commercial, editorial, and artful images created over a two-and-a-bit decade long career.
“My first camera was a borrowed one,” says Lazaro, but her natural talent for lighting and composition brought her to the realization of her calling, a life behind the lens, in photography.
A master’s degree from Rhodes University later, Lazaro was ready to immortalise moments, emotion and instances. She eventually did buy her own camera and has travelled the world on assignments since. “It has been about people for me, meeting incredible and amazing people has been so rewarding. I will never forget photographing Nelson Mandela on stage, and, while I was still a junior photographer at the time and it is not my best work, but it left an indelible memory. I also had the honour of meeting Madiba backstage just before.”
Lazaro gets equally as excited about photographing a plate of food as she does beautiful interiors, celebrities, and everyday people. “I can never be a wedding photographer though,” she says. “The pressure of time and deliverables means that one cannot be truly creative and spend time with composition. It’s all just a schedule.” A good picture, she says, is sometimes photographing what’s developing right in front of you.
“I will never forget, on assignment in Kenya, there was a young girl in a bright fuchsia pink dress, selling water. And then at one point she moved away from us, walked into the ocean and took a moment to chill in the breeze, with the bottles still on her shoulders she held her hands up at the breeze.
That’s photography. And that, to me, was beautiful. For a brief instance she was free, free from having to sell the water, free from her poverty, free from her life, and just having that time where she just enjoyed something for herself. So, for me, that is capturing a moment in time and while I know that I’m projecting a bit, that is what I think she was feeling. That’s what it meant to me as an observer.”
Memories are not always just about the picture, but the before and after, too. On assignment to interview and photograph a sangoma in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town, it was the journey leading up to taking the photograph that ingrained itself into her memory.
“We had to follow directions that literally read something like, ‘at the orange pumpkin, turn left. At the stop with the cell phone tower, turn right,’ you get the picture. It was an adventure just to make it to the interview.” Anecdotally Niq Mhlongo, author of bestselling book Black Tax, was their bodyguard. “How incredible to see his career catapult into the stratosphere,” adds Lazaro.
Lazaro’s credentials read like a rollcall of A-list achievements with, at last count, 45 magazine covers to her name and hundreds of advertising campaigns and editorials.
She has photographed Morgan Freeman, Naledi Pandor and Jeannie-D with a rolodex of other celebrities, sports personalities, captains of industry and, sometimes, wannabes in front of her camera. “Photographing Helen Susman was another highlight of my career, to meet, capture and just bask in the proximity of someone who made such a significant impact on the course of our nation’s history.”
There is nothing as intimidating to an artist as a blank canvas or an empty page in photography. But then again, Lazaro seems to have no problem. Her cup runs over with creativity. As an accomplished artist, too, she recently hosted an online exhibition, A Part Apart, on her site when Covid-19 prevented a bricks and mortar showcase.
Here, she takes browsers on a creative journey, shares her emotion freely and opens-up to the audience in a way few artists can commit to doing. “Though my photography and my art, I want to share my world. An experience, engaging with the universe from a particular point of arrival or departure. Isn’t that the purpose of art – to embrace, to talk, discourse and to feel something,”