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Oppikoppi Portraits

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I was shooting Oppikoppi for Mahala.co.za last year. It was my second time and the previous year I – like everyone else at the festival – couldn’t help but get smacked in the face by the silly amounts of dust in the air. I was coughing up mud for a week after. It really is terrible, but with the dust comes a beautiful red glow at dusk and I thought that it might be a good environment for some portraits. Having dust or pollution in the air helps darken the sky a bit and prevents bits from blowing out. The previous year I had caught a bus from Durban and then got a lift from photographer Justin McGee and DJ Creepy Steve so luggage had to be kept to a minimum. This year I stupidly thought that driving all the way from Durban to Northam might be a good idea. It wasn’t (the drive from Oppi to Jozi alone is torture on Monday morning, so ten hours will kill you), but I got an assistant, Erin Wulfsohn, to come with and threw in an old studio soft box and a lightstand with grand plans. Unfortunately it is so hard to pull yourself from the hellish hangover and genuine exhaustion at a festival in the afternoon and do actual work, so we only went for one walk around the camping area. All of these portraits were done in that one walk in one hour. This year I’m planning to do things properly.
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  • Oppikoppi Portraits
    Photographs of the dusty people
  • Located just outside the dry northern South African town of Northam, a farm called Oppikoppi wakes up annually to make sure that 18 000 music fans destroy themselves properly. Situated in what could possibly be the worst location imaginable to throw a festival (thorns, DUST, dry bush prone to fire and potholes the size of the road), it has become one of the only South African festivals to sell out. A brilliant collection of people breaking free from the ratrace for that one weekend a year when being an animal is OK, and destruction is encouraged. An outlet of such ferocity that people seem quite happy to return to their schedules, ties and day jobs.

    This is a collection of portraits I shot using a (now in tatters) 60 by 60cm softbox off axis, carried by my assistant for the festival, Erin Wulfsohn. All shot within the space of one hour whilst the cursed dust ensured the most beautiful graduated sky.

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