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Kloof photographer opens exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site

In addition to unveiling an exhibition of never-before-displayed photos of Nelson Mandela, Matthew Willman has launched his new book. Be sure to enter the competition to win a signed copy of 'Stepping Away'.

MATTHEW Willman has Jim Richardson’s quote on the back cover of his book: “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”

The Kloof storyteller has stood in front of presidents, celebrities and everyday people, and he found them all interesting. Willman believes a passion for your subject is the route to impactful images.

“The greatest photographers in the world are not simply photographers as those are not passionate about the camera. The best photographers are passionate about what it is they photograph. I teach my students that,” he says.

Willman was a commissioned photographer for the Mandela Foundation for ten years and will be unveiling an exhibition of never-displayed photos at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, on December 8.

“There are 20 works from private commissions, taken over 20 years. They are huge, beautiful and in a voluminous space. The entire collection has never been seen before in public in South Africa, except for just two pieces. The images of Mandela’s birthplace and his Rivonia trial notes haven’t been on public display,” says Willman.

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The exhibition has a deeper impact for the photographer.

“I’m proud of that work as it’s so beautiful – a simple exhibition that is bringing Mandela home to KZN, to the capture site. It’s the principle of laying rocks and keeping a legacy alive through storytelling,” he says.

The Willman family are long-term Kloof residents, and he remembers happy years at Thomas More College. Willman studied photography and was a ballet dancer working towards his teacher’s qualification when fate came knocking. He has photographed politicians, Nobel Laureates, sports stars, actors, musicians and for international corporates. He is also an author and public speaker and has narrated and co-produced an Emmy-award-winning documentary.

Win a signed copy of Matthew Willman’s new book.

The photographer has written six books, and the latest, called Stepping Away, deals with Willman redefining himself and his career.

“I stepped away as I don’t shoot commercially now and am doing my own projects. I believe in the power of speaking out, releasing, and cognitively placing things together. Part of my process was the creation of this book. It’s beautiful and introspective. It’s the true story, and it’s the humanity behind the photos,” says Willman.

The photographer values the creative arts and founded the Matthew Willman Arts Trust.

“I was sitting with Mandela one day and said to him, ‘How can a young, white, middle-class boy from Pinetown make a difference?’ He said, ‘If you want to remain relevant, you must serve.’ So, I set up an NGO, a foundation for the arts with a focus on education. The funding comes through my work and exhibitions,” says Willman.

An initiating event for Willman’s philanthropy passion was the Dreams for Africa chair, which raised funds for the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT). The beaded chair travelled the country, and Willman documented the journey.

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Hand in hand with collecting faces with his camera, the photographer collects memorabilia from his travels: a pebble from every country he’s visited; his 350 airplane tickets from the last 12 years; a smudge of soot from Air Force One, and a leaf from the only tree in the street to survive the 911 attack, to name a few.

A personal message scribbled by actor Tim Robbins, displayed with Willman’s mementoes, best sums up the next chapter in the photographer’s life as he steps away from his busy career.

The words from The Shawshank Redemption actor are “Matthew, get busy living.”

That is exactly what Willman aims to do.

Stand a chance to win yourself a copy of the book by filling in the competition form below, the winner must be able to fetch the book from Highway Mail offices on 115 Escom Road, New Germany.

Matthew Willmanns book competition

Stand a chance to win yourself a signed copy of the book by entering the competition.

 

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