I wasn't Durban born. Rather born in Pretoria and relocated here at the age of 1. As an adult I've spent just over 2 years living in 2 different cities, in 2 different provinces. Each time it simply wasn't home. I have dreams of travelling. Having my own Eat, Pray, Love year... but I'm not quite sure how I'll pull it off with the desire to be home is always so strong.
The reality of todays world and South Africa in particular as it stands means my boys could very well relocate out of the country within the next 5-7 years. Both of them have full British citizenship courtesy of their father so it will be easier for them than others. This means potentially they will settle somewhere overseas. I have already told them that should they both settle within the same geographical area eg Europe - I will consider relocation.... Nathan in fact is insisting on it. But again that means leaving all that is home for me.
What makes the tug of Durban so strong?
Having worked in the city centre in my early 20s and just after the first democratic elections, at a time when marches were an almost everyday occurrence I learnt quickly not to be afraid to move around on the streets. At lunchtime the girls and I in the office would nip between the marching crowds to get lunch or go do our shopping and then work our way to the office. You learnt that the trick of chin up, shoulders back, eye contact and a smile worked to keep people at a distance. Show no fear. I was just 19 when I started my 1st office job. I remember walking up West Street towards the bus ranks and feeling my handbag suddenly become rather light... as I turned around I spotted the teen who had opened my bag... calmly walked up to him and took my wallet back and carried on my way. Not sure I'd have such nerve today but you have to just learn to go with the flow. I've never really experienced trouble in the city at any time. Maybe I've just been lucky? Maybe it is because of my attitude?
6 years ago part of my job description was signing clients all around Durban. This included travelling into the townships of KwaMashu & Umlazi. Areas of Phoenix & Chatsworth. Into the centre of town to the main banks to meet with clients. Into hospitals such as Addington, Prince Mshiyeni, King Edward. Places where most white South Africans will most likely never venture in their lives. It certainly gave me a new appreciation for the things I took for granted. Tarred roads. Running water. Space in my home. Decent medical care and clean private hospitals and provided me with an understanding of exactly what real suffering was, right here on my doorstep.
As I got into photography there were more opportunities to try different genres. A big one obviously being street photography. The thing with street photography is you do have to have the right attitude. You cannot go around town all skittish and nervous worrying that someone is going to snatch your camera. I've been on numerous shoots and it is proven time and time again that the majority of people think you are tourists. When you engage with them they are in fact thrilled to hear that you are from the city and not afraid to come into 'their' areas. Another thing - like I would go do my shopping at Pav or Gateway or my local shopping mall - the markets and street vendors where we shoot are where these people are doing their shopping. 99% of them are not interested in you. They are trying to get their chores done so that they to can get home to their families and relax.
The pleasure of street photography is you can walk the same streets 7 days a week and you will never get the same shots. Each day is unique. The city is filled with unique scenes. You just need to open up your eyes to see it.
So what is the tug of Durban for me :
- The weather of course - the lovely warm winters with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The stunning storms in summer. Spring rains.
- The people - from the witchdoctors it the muti markets to the yummy mummies in the malls... Durban has a cross section of all sorts making up her population and you can people watch for hours and see slices of all
- The beach - the soothing sound of the sea
- Living in Durban means I'm by the beach or 2 hours away from the mountains going inland or 2 hours away from some of the worlds most beautiful nature reserves going North.
- The melting pot of cuisines, arts, cultures all on my doorstep
- The memories. It is where my sons were born. Where they have grown up. My childhood memories.
Yes it is always an adventure to go live in another city or another country and maybe I will do it, for a while. But Durban is and always will be my home. I'm a person who needs my roots. My roots are here. They will stretch to accommodate my exploration of the world but will hold me firmly in place so that I know I always have a safe place to come back to. With all it's problems it also has so much potential. It is a beautiful city filled with character and charm.
I've chosen a selection of photos taken over the last 5 years of so in and around the city - enjoy the slideshow of my city and my home.