4am – barp barp barp. The alarm on my phone rudely awakes a really cool dream. Is it eviction day for me? I know I haven’t got an award winner in the bag, but there is so much more to this whole process.
I have heard that we are going to our new base-pen. The abandoned Orlando power station in Soweto. A few of the contestants are a little apprehensive actually going into Soweto. This is a plus for me. I have photographed in townships almost all of my adult life. I am comfortable with the place and the amazing people. Bring it on !
As we are climbing into the jeeps to leave the studio, Ian asks me if I would not ride with them as they want to talk team. Pierre cottons onto the team ting and INSISTS we travel together. I lucked out !
Wow. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. Mbali asks “ who wants to go? “ Tasmin says “me” . A relief. I instantly feel happy that perhaps I won’t go after first after all.
The rules of the judging are winning photo and a winning collage. The winning team gets immunity for this week, and the winning photographer gets immunity for the following task.
We pull up under the towers. They are imposing. They are an iconic beacon on the Soweto skyline.
It is cold. Winter seems to be flying in. It is dark. Never realised I would see so many sunrises in a row.
Kobus calls us together “ There is NO wandering around today. This place is dangerous. There are MASSIVE holes in the ground. You will simply disappear.”
So the Soweto pen is gonna be a tough thing whilst we are at our new base. The room we are in – our pen – has no glass in the windows. There are humungos high open “doors”. Paint hanging off the walls in sheets. It is obvious that some homeless people sleep in here. The remnant ashes show us that this pen could possibly be someone’s home. Broken glass scatters the floor. I love the graffiti on the walls. Street art at its best.
Tim sets up a time lapse camera and we all watch him do this. I chat to him. He is a great guy. Well spoken. Knowledgeable . Kind. Softly spoken.
So the agenda for today we don’t know. No-one knows. I don’t even know if the crew really know.
“Sam, interview”. My heart rate increases. It is still a hard thing to do. The problem is Les, the writer, asks a question. We are supposed to repeat the question in the answer. It is so foreign to me. I guess if I was a beauty queen in Miss South Africa I would have this down pat. But I’m not. “So, Sam. What is your strategy?” I am suppose dto answer “ My strategy going forward is….” But instead I bumble along with some words that I bet don’t even go together. “Did your team get the shot?” “Oh yes, definitely” I say with an air of confidence that belies my true gut feel. The words and the truth are actually far aprt.
Pierre is adamant that his great hero shot is the one. A hero he shot lying on the ground. I ask where is the emotion ? He is a fireman – Kak photo. We share our photos. We create a story with our collage. A beginning, middle and end. Opening and closing. At last we collaborate, as a team should. Just as we are comfortable with our decisions Kobus comes into the pen. “Listen up” he shouts. We all gather and listen intently. He explains away everything we had thought was the “rules”. We don’t need a story. We could all have the same subject in the photos we choose if we want. What now? We spin again. We simply decide amongst us that we must choose what we want to choose.
Lab soon. We have no idea how long we are going to have in the lab. We decide Mblai must call the time to us. We decide to divide up the time in thirds. Example if we got an hour we would have 20mins to download and choose. 20mins to fix up and 20mins to decide a winner.
“Exposure” lab time. We walk in to a part of the building. The sun streams in the abandoned building. It’s a bit weird. There is a round table with 5 computers on it. Branded in the middle with Digicape. The chairs are wire frame chairs that definitely not make you feel like you want to it in them for long.
The cameras are everywhere. They will be shooting this from beginning to end. No stopping. No edits. Real time. Let’s go.
You have 30minutes. Oh wow. There goes our 20-20-20. So its 10-10-10. OMG that’s no time at all. A big digital dispaly starts counting down.
I start downloading my photos. I go round the table to make sure everyone can download theres. All the new equipment (Macs) and Nikon nx2 software can be very confusing. Paul is a graphic designer so he certainly doesn’t need any help. Pierre can plod along. I couldn’t be bothered at this stage. Mbali and Tasmin need help. Guess who panics? Yip. You got that one right. “My computer is frozen “ “No” “No” “this can’t happen” He looks around like the crew are going to intervene. They aren’t. He is trying to help Tasmin as well. I tell him to “calm down Pierre” I help Mbali to open her image and as she only wants to crop her photo hers will be quick. She leads well. She talks clearly to everyone.
5 minutes left. “let us all go around the table and choose the photo you think best “ Pierre is saying “ It HAS to be mine” “It shows everything – hero – vertigo – emotion” . I disagree. Paul disagrees. But time is UP. We hadn’t decided but we walk away. Kobus comes to ask us if we actually agreed. We hadn’t as Paul and I didn’t like pierres. Mbali says “yes. We chose Pierres” I smile. Cool !
We walk out. Man it was manic again.
The pen becomes too small for me. I stand outside chatting to the make-up artist Heather. She is lovely. She is excited about the whole process but has been in the industry for a long time, We chat about arb stuff, which is right up my ally !
We go off and watch the bungy jumpers off the Orlando power station towers. 3-2-1- OH man adrenaline surges through my body watching. Imagine doing it!
We are called randomly after lunch to go in to the building in our teams and graffiti our names on the wall. It feels like we are really making our mark here now. A physical sign – we were here !
Back to the pen. Wait. Wait.
I Watch everyone reacting to the tension in different ways. Ian pacing. Tasmin sleeps. Judy chatters away. A few groups of people form in a circle of chairs or a group outside. Much of the debate is about what happens next. The unknown is the hardest thing here. Not the outcome unknown. The unknown about the process. It is cols. I am not dressed warm enough. I feel fairly comfortable as if we are up, Mbali will call Tasmin. We are lucky to have the “joker” in our pack.
The other 2 leaders, Ian and Johnson are nervous. Who do they take up ? I am so happy to not be the one to do this tonight.
We’re going in.
Walk ins : This way. Then that. The jimmy jib doing its job. Getting all the angles the cameras need to get to produce an awesome product at the end of the day.
The set is a round table where the judges sit. There are 3 empty chairs facing them on the other side of the table. At the back of them is different colour lounge chairs. For the contestants.
Pierre says “ are you always this calm”? I am nervous, but I know that my head is theoretically not on the block tonight.
Craig tells us that the judges have deliberated. NONE of the chosen images are good enough to win this week. Huh ? we are all confused. We are now ALL up for elimination.
Our photos are on the table. I am wondering how my photo came out. How it looks in the collage. Mbali, Ian and Johnson are up. They have to in turn explain why the chosen shots were chosen. We can hear nothing. Bryan has certainly a lot to say. They don’t sound impressed.
They say whose photo they felt were the best in each team. Team Aperture Kwenas photo. Our team – Pauls. Optical – Brendon. I am so very happy for him.
Now who are the leaders going to bring up with them. Mbali was always going to take Tasmin. She wanted to go. Johnson says Myles. Wow. Ian takes Brendon. I am blown away. Has Ian just committed suicide ? The judges chose Brendon’s photo as the winning shot in the judging. My heart is beating . I have been giving Brendon a lift each day and he felt Ian was going to choose him. I advised him not to stress, Now he stands there.
I am sad. The whole process is harder than I thought it would be. Fighting back the tears stinging my eyes. Who is gonna go. We know Tasmin will go. But who is going to go from the other teams ?
The judges are very harsh about the photos. About the lack of emotion. They feel Pierre’s “ shows no action. He could be tying his shoes”. They don’t like the others either. Lola’s photo which is a smoke filled photo with a fireman walking away they say “looks like he is exhausted”
They start with our team. “Mbali why did you choose tasmin? ” “We had to do everything for her “. Tasmin isn’t gonna lie down though and she angrily tells the judges “ I took my own photos” . Bryan looks at Mbali and says “ Mbali, your shot shows a man standing there” “ You have just taken your last shot.” Omg Mbali is gone. She tries to argue. To ask why ? But nothing is going to help. She walks out in disgust. We are all shocked.
Now on to the next teams. Myles photo is good. I can’t hear. Man it is frustrating. I am think Ian. Why Brendon? He is no threat! Ian is asked the question and his answer was “He isn’t a team player”
I am sad. He had told me this morning on te way in that he was scared this may happen as Ian and lola had stayed after the green screen day and they had called him and told him they were deleting a whole load of his images off his camera as he isn’t there with them.
Next thing I know the judges are saying to Brendon. “You aren’t the sharp shooter”
Oh wow now the tears flow freely. My heart breaks for him. He is such a sweet guy !
They walk the walk of shame and we all follow. That’s it. That’s it for Mbali and Brendon and we all have bought another day.
Kids your wish is my command “please don’t go off first “
YAY I SURVIVED.
We mingle amongst everyone. We are all a bit shell shocked. I am raw with emotion. This process is only going to get worse.
People chat to the judges. Trying to get as much out of them as they can. I almost couldn’t be bothered. My photo was NOT great. So there is no point getting the judges opinion on it. I am grateful to still be here. 2 members gone. 13 left.
It’s getting tough.