Dewald Botha’s main photographic concerns are with things that are ‘out there’. I would describe him as a photographer that seeks to understand his surroundings, and therefore documents the locations he finds himself in. By combining his love of walking and love of photography, Botha is able to communicate small and subtle details about The City, and reveal to the viewer things that would normally go unseen. From reading a lot about landscape photography theory, his project Ring Road speaks volumes to me. The personal project was born out of Botha’s interest in the physical structure of the actual ring roads themselves, which encompass the vastly expanding Chinese city of Suzhou. Over multiple trips, he walked around their entirety and responded photographically – he chose his location and therefore, as Adams would say, photographed the geography of a place. He was actively searching for “pockets of calm and quiet, exploring with engagement and intimacy, the slight differences in architecture, surroundings, neighbourhoods, and small manicured parks, all bordering the central old town.”
As things progressed forward and Botha became increasingly interested in the area, his autobiographical touch and sense of metaphor was duly added. He was no longer just photographing things that he discovered on a journey, he was beginning to use his imagery as a vehicle and metaphor for boundaries and limitations. The sole purpose of the giant structure is to transport people within vehicles to different destinations, and to allow the city to operate. It is a part of the infrastructure. However, to Botha, it is more than this. He is questioning the concept of whether we, as people, create our own limitations or if we still possess the necessary skills in order to take charge of our own lives and pose as active agents for change.
His shooting technique for this project is something that has inspired me for my own project, and it is reassuring to discover that there are other individuals that share the same interests and views about the city as myself. I would say that my ‘obsession’ stems from my constant questioning about the world around me, and particularly how I and others around me interact with the surroundings. The term psychogeography, although fairly pretentious in some ways definitely has a place within photographic culture, and it enables wanderers or flâneurs to experience the city with a refreshed perspective.
Relationship with Trees – Dewald Botha.
Exhibiting Relationship with Trees – Dewald Botha.