Netcare does NOTcare???

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In the far off distance you can hear it coming. The season gives off a distinct echo off the windows of buildings. You can tell it’s here when a white Nissan Bakkie, overloaded with amps, invariably turns around a corner followed by the sounds of hundreds of people singing in unison.

It’s one of the weirdest seasons in the Johannesburg calendar , and it’s not based on the browning of leaves or chilly morning sun rises. Its strike season.

Whereas carnivals and festivals in European countries can stop traffic for a day, the South African strike has become synonymous with bringing a city to a standstill. It is a festival like no other.

Journalists either hate them or love them. I fall into the latter. There is excitement. There is action. You have people who are prepared to block the streets to scream their grievances to the world.

Honestly it’s always a thrilling thing to get caught up in the moment. You feel like you are part of a mass unit. You want to sing along. You pick up on the atmosphere of the crowd and feel enlivened by their energy.

But secretly, as a journalist, you become bored of watching the same event unfold in a different location. The trick for me is that I look for something new every time. It’s a photographic challenge to produce something when you can predict what’s going to happen next on the road. I actually get more of a kick out of seeing something different in my photographs than I do at the real event. It’s even a common thing among people who cover these stories often to wish for a gun fight to ensue. (I am not saying I am one of them, but I am not going to deny it either. )

In spite of my colourful introduction, I feel like I have to say that I take strikes very seriously. People might seem like they are having a glorious time out dancing, but for a South African, protest has a violent history and you as a journalist always have to be aware that there is a subtle undercurrent of this. In the end Journo’s do care when it comes to strike season. But I think a lot of the time it’s for the wrong reasons.

You have to be able to distance yourself from the action and focus on what’s at hand…a story.
In this instance, members of NEHAWU, a major labour union in the country, were posing a nationwide strike for an 11% wage increase against a company called Netcare (a company involved in private hospital care). According to the people I was talking to, they work long hours for a basic income of R5000 a month. They have been for the past six years working at this rate. Five years ago, this would not have been much of a problem. But with the heavy increases in transport, electricity and food costs within the country it’s become very hard to sustain a lifestyle within Johannesburg.

(Believe me I know, I have lived off that amount for a few years, not so long ago.)

One of the things that struck me at the protest was that they were not talking about how “fat cat” money earners were pulling in millions of Rands of profit in the business. Leaders were talking about how they didn’t see the sense of “executive breakfasts” or “Irish coffee’s for tea”. These are small things that could help prevent a budget from being blown out of proportion. Just think how much money a business could save if it didn’t spend that extra cash on a smoked salmon every day.

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The airplanes set the standard – a visit to the Heidelberg airport, Johannesburg

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A man from all countries: Although not the person we went to photograph, this flight manager was such an interesting character I had to snap him. On the back of his jacket are the locations he has worked as a pilot.

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Shot at the Rand Air Show in 2010, I am amazed at how much my photographic style has adapted since then.

One of South Africa’s most widely distributed magazines, DRUM, invited me to photograph an up an coming pilot at the Heidelberg Airfield. Behind the scenes I quickly snapped some airplanes and it reminded me that the last time was this close to some airplanes was in 2010 when I shot  these with my old Tamron 200mm.

Man things sure have changed since then. It’s amazing to see how much your photographic style can change over two or three years. I am so much more confident in my abilities as a photographer.

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2013 – Heidelberg Airfield

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2013 – Heidelberg Airfield

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2010 – Rand Air Show

The Cosmos comes…winter approaches Johannesburg

Blooming in stark contrast to the yellowing grasslands of the highveld. Many South African’s can relate to the blooming of the Cosmos flowers on our highways as an indication that the seasons are beginning to change and it’s time to wrap up and put on jersey’s for winter.

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What are some of the icons in your world the remind you of the coming of winter Blogshpere?

Sandton City – A mix of rural rawness and modern architecture

From rags to riches, Sandton is home to South Africa’s economical hub (Sandton City) and also one of the country’s largest townships, Alexandra. Typically it’s an African city where socio-economical differences are contrasted right next door to each other. On the one hand hand you have rural grasslands and the other is the smooth contours of the cities modern architecture.

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A few kilometers outside of Sandton’s CBD the landscape remains raw and wild.

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Morning sunlight catches the top of a building on Sandton’s Maude Street, in the heart of the business district .

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A crane is reflected on the glass windows in Sandton.

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A panorama overlooking Alexandra and Sandton city (in the far distance). I am always reminded of the vast economical difference South Africa has when driving past this location. We have the poorest of the poor living right on the doorsteps of one of the richest sectors in the country.