art, decor, Interviews

krisjan rossouw paints with light

Krisjan Rossouw

Fine-art photographer Krisjan Rossouw has always had a keen eye for detail. He developed a love of gardening at a young age, and even though he doesn't have much of a garden in his De Waterkant home, the Capetonian still appreciates greenery in his everyday life. There are pots filled with 'lollipop' trees and bushes that get pruned daily. Plants feature prominently in his photography, too. 'I've always felt that humans and nature fit perfectly together,' he says. krisjan roussow Krisjan's new and ongoing collection, Kingdom, is inspired by the glorious world of plants – from vibrant purple jacaranda trees and romantic red roses to bright yellow berries and lush palm fronds. In his portraits, bold silhouettes and vivid, almost surreal colours, are emphasised by moody, high-contrast lighting.

krisjan roussow Kingdom 17

Keeping his photographs as raw as possible, Krisjan avoids doing hair and make-up on models, preferring to highlight their natural beauty instead. Silky skin stands out against steel backdrops that are spray-painted and splashed with coffee and a mixture of gin and tonic to create texture. A few portraits show people adorned with jewellery made from cake tins and air-duct coiling, which provide an extra metallic pop. Through the skills he garnered while chaperoning models for Steam Models when he was younger, Krisjan is able to create a relaxed atmosphere on set, and this shines through in the emotive quality of his work.
krisjan roussow Kingdom 3 at Roche Bobois

Although he's quick to accredit much of his success to luck, it's undeniable that Krisjan's talent and dedication have played large roles in his rise to fame. The photographer started out using an underground bunker as his studio, and had only one fluorescent tube and a few torches and lamps at his disposal. He began experimenting with hues and lighting filters, which eventually gave way to the effect he uses in his work today. By placing his Nikon D5000 on a tripod and setting it to a slow shutter speed combined with a high ISO, Krisjan is able to achieve the grainy, painterly effect he's become known for.
krisjan roussow Kingdom 8

It is this compelling mixture of painting and photography that makes Krisjan's work so intriguing, and he is greatly inspired by Vladimir Tretchikoff and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. 'Caravaggio is a kindred spirit,' Krisjan says. 'He painted images of dark and light, while I paint with light.' As for Tretchikoff, Krisjan found a love for him as a youngster: 'I think it's because he was viewed by everyone as quite kitsch, but I was fascinated by him,' he explains. 'Tretchikoff painted African women in these blue tints and hues – maybe it stuck in my mind.'
krisjan roussow Afrika 7 at Roche Bobois

Krisjan is currently in the process of renovating his home to incorporate a gallery space. The 150-year-old building provides the perfect backdrop for his ethereal photography, and he plans on having two front rooms to host exhibitions, and moving himself upstairs where he's building a rooftop swimming pool and an olive garden. At the moment, you can see Krisjan's artworks displayed at Roche Bobois on Kloof Street, curated by The Boutique Gallery. For all enquiries, contact William Vaesen at or call 084-516-2086. To view more of Krisjan's work, visit
krisjan roussow Kingdom 16