hl next level 2018: photographer lindsey appolis

Trevor Stuurman
Photographer Lindsey Appolis first picked up a camera when his son was born in order to document his child’s life. Lindsey quickly discovered that he had a real photographic eye and within two years, had quit his job in the corporate world to pursue a career in photography. He’s about to start work on a major local action feature film as its production stills photographer.

how did you get started as a photographer?

It all started with a mission to prevent my son from befalling the same fate as me i.e. no captured memories from my childhood. I went out and bought a DSLR camera to document his life. Suddenly, every free moment turned into a photographic opportunity – and from photographing him, to early morning missions on the streets of Cape Town, I discovered I had an eye for composing images (at the time I had no idea what that meant). Fast-forward two years, and I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue a full-time career in photography.

did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

At the age of five I think it was, I watched Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ on TV and after that, all I wanted to be was a dancer. This led to a 20-plus-years love affair with dance, starting with popping and locking and going on from there to contemporary dance to ballet in La Traviata. If you look through my work now, you can clearly still see traces of this love affair.

what’s been defining moment of your career to date?

In early 2014, I travelled to Tanzania to document the humanitarian work being done by an American organisation in the schooling and hospital environment as a volunteer photographer. It was an emotionally amazing and eye-opening experience that allowed me to understand the expression ‘This is Africa’ and grow as both a photographer and human being. I met so many interesting and complex people along the way and being able to capture their joys, pains and the full ranges of emotions was a truly humbling experience for me. I was then asked to submit one of my images to a US-based online photographic competition open to photographers from all around the world. My image won first place – I still can’t believe it!

who are the creatives on your radar right now?

Being an advocate for collaboration with in the creative world has made me realize just how many amazing South African creatives there are out there. This is the tip of the iceberg for me: Daryne Joshua, who directed Noem My Skollie; Nosipho Dumisa, director of Nommer 37; Simon Beesley, who edited both those films as well as The Rise of Us; illustrator Linsey Leventhal; cinematographers Zenn van Zyl and Pierre de Villiers; jazz musician and film score composer Kyle Shepherd; photographer Rizqua Barnes; and illustrator Ben Appolis.

which photographers do look up to?

I am inspired by Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Omar Badsha, David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim and George Hallet. Why? The essence of their work resonates with me. Their images tell stories of daily life with such depth and realness it’s hard not to be moved by them.

where do you find your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from many places but definitely my cultural heritage (growing up on the Cape Flats and wanting to share these stories with the world), as well as new experiences through travel, dance, people I interact with and just the emotion and beauty of everyday life in South Africa.

what is your earliest visual memory?

My first memory of being inspired comes from my mom forcing me to play in the street: this afforded me time to observe and soon I realised that the community I lived in was a like a real-life TV show… it was overwhelming and colourful, from the lovers on the corner smooching at sunset, to the vagrant stumbling with his haversack on his back filled with clanging quart bottles, my friends and I playing soccer in the streets till we couldn’t see the ball any more, and the neighbours shouting blue murder with rollers in their hair, and I distinctly remember feeling like I wished I could capture these moments. I loved to observe and just take it all in, not knowing how that would benefit me later – and it was those moments that impacted my way of interpreting who I was expressively.

which city would you say that everyone should try to visit?

Hands down it has to be Tokyo, Japan. It’s as far removed as possible from anything I’ve known, in a good way. For me it was the winning combination of amazing food (and I mean ‘amazing’), a ridiculous music and art scene and very interesting spaces.

what’s the most memorable piece of architecture you’ve ever seen?

The Chichu Art Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, on the island of Naoshima in Japan– stark and beautiful. Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.