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Growing up in Soweto, clothing was seen as a status symbol, and Sipho Gongxeka recalls being surrounded by individuals with a keen sense of style and an immense interest in fashion.
Sipho recalls, “I was continuously surrounded by fashion-conscious individuals. To these individuals, clothing was a status symbol that separated ‘the men’ from ‘the boys’. It signified power and affluence, just like the characters I grew up watching on television and in films.”
In this photo series, Sipho photographed skeem’ saka, which means “close friend” or “my crew”. He chose this title for the collection because it embodies meaningful and intense relationships.
The characters in these shows were young people living in the township, just like him, but they exemplified style, opulence and class. Many of the characters, however, also glorified chauvinistic and prejudiced behaviour.
Sipho purposefully wanted the photographs to resemble film stills, referencing his main inspiration.
The characters from these shows and films continue to captivate Sipho and he is gripped by the thought that they’re an actual inspiration for gangsters. Although constructed, their reality cannot be ignored.
Sipho mostly photographs friends and people he knows, and also does a lot of the styling if need be.
Sipho’s riveting photographs highlight the relationship between fiction and reality, using “real” models who are styled and choreographed.