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BlaQ Smith, the man who photographs AKA

2017-07-30 00:00
Blaq Smith
Blaq Smith (Photo: Supplied)

Johannesburg - Celebrity photographers are in many ways authors, dedicated to a specific genre within contemporary photography, documenting the life of their chosen subject. The photos that those like BlaQ Smith shoot influence the way the public perceives their subjects. In his case it’s almost always rapper AKA, who is his most reliable client and gets preference. The photos and details of the life of AKA, as seen through BlaQ’s lens, have helped fans form a collective memory of moments in the rapper’s life. When, at the age of 23, you get to hop on a jet on a whim and travel around, curating the online image of one of the country’s foremost musicians, that’s a damn hot job.

BlaQ catches AKA’s candid moments, whether he’s on tour, just hanging out somewhere or being a dad to his cute daughter Kairo. “The beauty of photography is that it’s a moment in time captured forever,” BlaQ tells #Trending.

He shoots on his Canon DSLR, and edits and posts the shots wherever he is in the world. “Whatever we’re doing, I’ll take out my laptop and try to edit the pictures and get them up almost immediately.”

Don’t bother trying to get a surname out of this guy; he would only reveal his first name, Kopano. It’s in order to create a safe distance between the guy behind the lens that his over 50 000 Instagram followers love and the youngster who is simply living a dream he never even knew he had.

BlaQ says photography was never part of the plan. He adapted his name from the Talib Kweli and Mos Def album Black Star, and was a multimedia student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2012, keen to become a fine artist. “I hardly draw these days – guess I get to do it with my eyes now.” During his first year at university, with photography as a subject, he developed a deep interest in telling stories from behind the lens. These days you can spot him around Braamfontein, documenting the local street style. “I’ve been shooting street style and culture since my first year at UJ.” He says he always tries to capture moments perfectly, as if they are still in motion. And it’s this documentary style that’s made him want to eventually branch out into the film industry. “I’d love to put motion into the images on a high scale, but in time.”

When asked how his work collaboration with AKA started, he said: “He kind of found me on Instagram after seeing photos of a shoot I did with Yanga. His creative director ... put him in touch with me. It’s funny that a year prior I reached out to him in Instagram DM and then ... a few months later, he hits me up,” he says. “Everything happens at the right time.”

And about those AKA and Bonang Matheba shots we all love: “Sometimes they’re hanging out and I’m the third wheel, which can be a bit weird or awkward, but it’s exciting. I never know where I’ll be next week.”

While an artist documenting their life with a personal photographer might not be new, BlaQ Smith and AKA have made it something cool to do in a time when telling our stories is becoming more important.

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