From Model to Photographer with Kudzai King (Podcast 787)

From Model to Photographer with Kudzai King (Podcast 787)


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Today I have the pleasure of sharing an inspiring conversation with Kudzai King, who started as a model in Harare, Zimbabwe, moved to Cape Town, and then on to New York, where he now works behind the camera as a photographer. I found it fascinating how the various aspects of Kudzai’s life have helped to form a foundation for his future endeavors. I have had our conversation transcribed, so will share that below, but I will also embed the video here for those that prefer to watch, followed by the transcription of our conversation.

Martin: So, Kudzai, I am absolutely thrilled to have you on the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast this morning. Welcome to the show.

Kudzai: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here. Excited.

Martin: I say this morning, but for you obviously, it’s this evening, you’re in New York. You are in New York at the moment, aren’t you?

Kudzai: Yes, I’m in New York. Right now, I am looking at the sun setting.

Martin: Ah, okay. Mine’s just come up.

Kudzai: Yeah. Yours has just come up, yeah.

Martin: Yeah. We’re going to talk about a lot of things. One of the main things about your story, which I found so fascinating is how you got from Harare, is it? In Zimbabwe.

Kudzai: Yeah. It’s a very complex name. It’s got a lot of Rs. But the way you pronounce words in Japanese, it’s literally quite similar. So, Harare.

Martin: Harare. Okay. It’s exactly the same. We were talking a moment ago before we started the interview. I’ve travelled to Namibia a lot, that’s a couple of countries over from Zimbabwe, where you’re from. I imagine, you lived in the capital, right? Were you born in the capital? Is it a really busy place or how is it there?

Kudzai: How is it there? Well, just to start from the beginning, I was born in the capital. My mother was born in the capital. My grandmother was born in the capital. But that’s from my mother’s side. From my dad’s side, my dad grew up in the village, and then their whole entire family educated themselves, and became professionals within the working world, and moved out of the city, and now, they’re spread all over the world, basically. Yeah. I was born in Harare in the capital. It is a busy city, but not as busy as New York is, but certainly, quite busy. It is the hub of the country, basically.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: Yeah. It used to be quite modern a while back. Obviously, politics and all that got into a mix of things and it is what it is now. But it’s a beautiful country nonetheless and it’s got amazing people.

Martin: Wow. Yeah. We were just touching on the languages, and I managed to get your– I didn’t get your capital city right first time, but I managed to get the pronunciation of your name, Kudzai, pretty on the target. I’ve spent a lot of time– At the moment, my only photography tour that I do outside of Japan is in Namibia, which is like we say, two countries across from Zimbabwe, sandwiched, I guess, by Botswana.

I love languages. Obviously, I spent 32 years in Japan. I learned Japanese quickly in the first few years. And I spend a lot of time trying to learn little bits of the languages, because I travel with people who are from the Oshiwambo tribes. One of them, he’s a Herero guy.

Kudzai: Oh, yeah.

Martin: So, I know little bits of each of those languages. Also, we visit the beautiful Himba people in Namibia as well. I have a few little words that I use with those. So, I understand enough to be dangerous. If someone speaks back to me, I have no clue. 

Kudzai: The languages that you spoke about or rather the countries that have the languages you spoke about, they all sound quite similar because they’re all in a group called Nguni language. So, even though they’re completely different languages, because of that particular dialect that they share, you find that there’s a language in Zimbabwe called Ndebele. It sounds very similar to what’s in South Africa, which is called Zulu. And Namibia as well, there’s certain words that sound quite close to the Shona language, which is what I natively grew up speaking apart from English. 

Yeah, they all share these dialects, and it’s quite fascinating because having traveled myself as well, bounce around them like, “Oh, I hear a word.” There’s a connection, and sometimes, the same word means the same thing in another language. But then, sometimes migration has intermixed people, and then within the spaces that they managed to dwell in, they curated their entire language and way of speaking, but still they share that dialect.

Martin: Yeah, wow. We’ll carry on with your story in a moment. But one other little fact that I want to throw in here, because it’s a claim to fame from a few hundred years ago. I don’t know whether you view this as a good thing or a bad thing. But one of the first people from England that would have traveled in Zimbabwe and Botswana and those areas is actually the guy who named Victoria Falls. And he’s my great, great, great, great granddad, David Livingstone. 

Kudzai: Oh, David Livingstone. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: Oh, yes.

Martin: When I was a kid, on my dad’s side, my dad’s mother’s name was Livingstone. And obviously, I then became a Bailey. But Livingstone on my grandmother’s side came down from David Livingstone. He was the guy that, again for good or worse, named Victoria Falls. There’s a statue of him there on– I think it’s the border between Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the tiny strip of land that comes over from Namibia.

Kudzai: Oh, that’s very fascinating. Very fascinating. One of the things that happened in my country, when we won independence in 1980 is that a lot of past sins are forgiven. And then, the people that added to the progression of what became Zimbabwe are people that are celebrated, and David Livingstone is actually one of the celebrated people in history that shifted and morphed the country into being what it is. I actually went to a school called David Livingstone.

Martin: Oh, wow.

Kudzai: Yeah. 

Martin: That’s amazing.

Kudzai: We’ve got schools called David Livingstone, and then streets named after him as well, and then obviously, you spoke about the statue.

Martin: Oh, that’s amazing.

Kudzai: Amazing having to meet one of his descendants.

Martin: Well, that’s brilliant. Thank you very much. I didn’t realize that. So, that’s a bonus for me.

Kudzai: When you visit, you have to really explore, because his name is really ingrained within history in Zimbabwe.

Martin: Brilliant, brilliant. I’ve only really just over the last few years started to look into his life and what he did. It’s one of those things that I’m also still very, very fresh at, but I’ll look into it more. Okay, well, thank you for that. We’ve got to where you started. When did you get into the modeling, you became a male model? Was that when you were in Zimbabwe or you moved to Cape Town, right?

Kudzai: I’ve kind of darted around different countries all around. But initially, I kickstarted in Zimbabwe. I was 16 and at that time– it’s only now this year that I’ve realized that perhaps I’ve had fashion roots for a long time in my life now. But at that time, I was 16 and I was involved in fashion. Me and a couple of friends had kickstarted a successful clothing label without us actually knowing that we were pretty successful what we are doing. At 16, we broke apart the business and we all focused on different things. One became a famous designer, the other one became a famous musician, and then I became a model, and celebrated my own right. 

But at 16, I decided that I wanted to model. And luckily, my mom has always been quite supportive of me. As soon as she heard that I was interested in that, she found connections and then I was now in talks with a modeling agency, which taught me the ways of modeling. Back then, you had to do a class or a course basically with a particular agency to be acquainted with the industry. I did that and that carried me on until I was 21. That’s how I initially got into fashion. It’s an industry that taught me a lot. Most of the things that I know, apart from having learned photography from anew, they are inspired from my industry days in modeling.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: I did modeling in Zimbabwe. And then, our family moved to England. I’ve got two moms.

Martin: Have you?

Kudzai: Yeah. My stepmom and my sister moved to England. And then at some point, I joined them and did a little bit of modeling there. But then, I was always to and fro, because Zimbabwe was always home.

Martin: Hmm-mm. Wow. 

Kudzai: Yeah.

Martin: That’s amazing. What a story. When did you find yourself over– You went over to Cape Town. What age were you then roughly?

Kudzai: At the age of 21 is when I moved to Cape Town. I was in England. I did a little bit of school in England. And then, at some point after school, I decided that Cape Town was a place for me. I visited Cape Town once for a holiday. I fell in love with it so much. The very next year, I told myself I’ll move there and then I sure did move there the very next year, I didn’t know a single person. I didn’t know a single thing, but it felt like home. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: It felt like home. And I just melted into the spot, and I found my feet. So, 21 is when I initially moved.

Martin: Yeah, that’s strange. I find a lot of similarities between those in some ways, because I remember– I came to Japan in 91. So, it’s 31 years ago now. And I remember after six months or so, I went back to England for my first holiday, like time off. When I came back to Tokyo– not to Tokyo. I was in Fukushima where they had the nuclear power plant meltdown a few years ago. But when I was standing on the platform to get the train back up to Fukushima in Tokyo, I let out this huge sigh of relief. It was like, “I’m home.” It was the home thing. So, I can relate to what you’re saying how with Cape Town, it just felt right. And sometimes, I think that’s it. It just it feels right.

From there, you moved to New York. Tell us about the transition, because you were the male model and you decided to switch to the back of the camera. You became a photographer. And that is, of course, the main reason why we’re talking today, because the podcast is all about photography. I just love your story. So, tell us how you got from male model to photographer.

Kudzai: I believe at the age of 20, this is me being to and fro in England and Zimbabwe. There’s a particular photographer, amazing photographer that had shocked me when I was still doing modeling. At some point in my modeling career, I’d felt like I had exhausted the excitement that I could get out of it. I felt quite constrained because I couldn’t tell a story. Because I do believe that when you’re a model, you are the canvas. You are the blank. canvas. A very vital tool in creating artwork. 

What I wanted to be was someone who could come with a brushstroke and paint on the canvas and craft the art. I felt at that point that photography was my next best way of expressing myself. These are the days of Facebook. I reached out to this particular photographer. She was big and I didn’t know whether she would reply or not. But there’s a motto that I’ve lived with since I was young and that is, “The worst anyone can say is no.” Rejections and no’s are amazingly for me, because then I now can instantly recognize that there’s an obstacle. When I’ve got the intention, I just have to figure out how to get around the obstacle basically.

Tracking back to what I was explaining, I lost my train of thought there. But I reached out to this photographer. Her name is Michelle Fordham and she’s an incredible photographer. Less now a photographer and more a fitness guru. But then, she was doing a lot of photography. I reached out, she responded back, and we set up a coffee. In my head, the intention that I was seeking out was to be an intern. We spoke, had a great time, connected really well. By the end of it, I was hired as a full-time assistant.

Martin: Oh, wow, that’s amazing.

Kudzai: I know. Now, I was being paid to learn, which was pretty amazing. She taught me a lot of business skills, and how to operate certain things, how to be respectful to your clients. Yeah, I think if I’m to really pick the most valuable things she taught me was the business structure. I think with lighting and everything else, I bumped into it as I went about. But she laid out the foundation for me when I was working with her. Yeah, it was a great time. It was a full-year experience with her and got very lucky that I was very passionate during that time, and I was posting my work on Facebook each time I would shoot on the side. I started picking up momentum, and clients started booking me. I felt like I knew nothing, but people were interested on what I was making. Yeah, it was very appreciative.

Martin: Well, there’s a number of things that really resonate there. The first thing that you mentioned about what you were taught was the business side, and that’s so important. And something that a lot of people getting into photography don’t– Especially, you knew that you wanted to do it as a business, not just as a passion or hobby. But the fact that you were taught the business side first with most importance is incredible. Because a lot of people start out, they’re more concerned about, “Can I get the exposure? Are the lights going to be in the right place? Do I have the right balance?”, all of the technical things. I tend to be a technical photographer in many ways. But to be successful as a photographer, if you’re doing it professionally, the main thing is the business set. It’s great that you were taught that first. 

But you also talked about the lighting and things like that. I think that confidence as a photographer, the confidence to ask for money comes more from the business side, the business education that you’ve had than the technical side. Because a lot of the time, as you said, you threw together lighting, you bumped into it. It’s difficult, but it’s not incredibly difficult. Another thing that you mentioned earlier that resonated with me was the figuring out how to go around an obstacle. And obstacles, as a photographer, it’s all about obstacles, right? 

Kudzai: Yeah.

Martin: Okay, so this side of the face is too bright, what do I do? I want this side darker, what do I do? You are forever solving little problems. I think that you’ve touched on all of those things just in the last few minutes of what you’re saying there. It’s all great stuff.

I think you also mentioned that, again, about the confidence. We’re going to look at some of your work shortly as well so the listeners or the viewers will understand that you’ve got what it takes to do what you’re doing. There’s no worries now about confidence. But going through that, I think it’s also really humble of you to be able to say that as a working photographer. Some people try to hide that stuff, but you’re very vulnerable and I think that’s a nice trait to bring with you into the industry. I guess the fact that I’m saying all of this, you can tell I’m enjoying our conversation.

Kudzai: Same here. But to speak on what you just said, I do realize– I think why I’m so open as well is at the age of 24, I just realized that there was a very different way of living life. Having been brought up in the fashion industry since from a young age, I think there were a lot of things that I could have done better. And then having my friends in entertainment, we were very confident about what we’re doing. Some of those things were probably not things that we should have focused on during that time.

But after a while, I think when I was 24, I met an amazing friend who I admire his way of life. It was a peaceful way of living life, and it was just so beautiful and glorious. I met him in Cape Town. And from then on, I just decided to switch away from the past life that I was living. I call it the death of ego. Because I do believe that ego serves no purpose in my life, it has never put food on the table, and it has never connected me to more people. So, that created a playground for me where I feel all the things that I know, they’re all things that I’ve learned from other human beings, I came screaming and wailing as a baby with no knowledge. I didn’t wake up speaking three, four languages, or doing arithmetic, or anything. All the information I know is through friends, my community, school, through the internet, through every source of information I could gather around me to learn from. The more I learn, the more I feel I know nothing. And it’s an amazing place to start.

Martin: Wow. Yeah, I love that way of thinking. The death of ego, I like that. I’ve always felt as though– My wife often says this about me that I really have no real ego as such. Obviously, I don’t want to be belittled. I want to save my own space to a degree. But everyone I meet, I treat them the same way. I always say like I’m a mirror. I start off with everyone, it’s like flat, completely. I’ll give you respect, and I get some back. If I get disrespected, then I get disrespectful as well. But if someone is positive towards me, I’m more positive towards them as well. But I always start off with everybody on a level playing field. I’ve never had any kind of discrimination against people or anything like that, and my wife always says that’s one of my best qualities. And I guess it’s very similar to the death of the ego. So, I’m happy about this stuff. It makes me feel better about myself too.

Kudzai: Yes, it sounds like you’re on the right path. 

Martin: Yeah. At that point, you became a photographer, you started to work. Via Facebook, you were getting job offers. What took you to New York? That’s a big change. So, what happened there? 

Kudzai: Oh, yeah. I was in Cape Town, and this is years later, I’d done well for myself. I had created a whole entire community around me, and I was busy. I was working with big fashion designers in South Africa or rather in Africa to be precise, because I was traveling around quite a lot. I took it upon myself to learn Africa because I didn’t know so many countries. So, whenever a job offer would come through and it’s from another country, I would instantly snatch it. I did Nigeria, I did Botswana, Zambia, I did Ghana, and then number of other countries.

At some point, I felt I had a really nice life, a really comfortable life, a really, really comfortable life from the work that I was getting. But then, I felt I tapped the scene too quick. I’ve always been a very ambitious person within everything that I do. When I think of doing the stuff that I do, I never look at my peers as competition. To me, whoever is at the top of the industry during that time is what I’m competing with even though some of those people didn’t know me then. Some of them are friends now but then then, they didn’t know I was just a kid from Africa who just had a crazy ambition. When I tipped my ceiling too quickly, I felt I needed a bigger challenge. 

I think I was about to work with the city of Johannesburg during that time with the mayor. There was this looming project hanging around, and I had to make a decision whether to stay in South Africa or to come to America. And so, how that decision even came through to choose New York was, I asked myself, “Where’s the highest ceiling in the world?” To me, within my industry of fashion, it’s definitely New York. Because just when you think you’re at the top, there’s a kid in a tiny dark apartment concocting ways to take over the industry. And now, it rattles you to come up with a new game plan. And so, the world keeps turning and you keep improving yourself. So, progression.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: That’s how I decided to end up here, and I didn’t know any single person as well.

Martin: What? You came again without any… That’s amazing. Was there any culture shock? It’s a very different culture, I imagine. Did that hit you in any way?

Kudzai: Honestly, one of the things my mother was able to do was expose me to things. I owe a lot of gratitude to my mum, because she grew up in poverty, like extreme poverty. And she picked herself from her bootstraps and had me on her back when she was working and built her entire life around us. At that point, we were living the middle to upper class life, and she always made sure that I remembered my roots. Sending me off to holiday where she grew up, so at least I’ll have a view of both worlds. She made me try a lot of things. Weekends, we would do picnic. We would do things that she didn’t grow up doing. She had a nice tasteful life and she made sure that I tried things. 

The other thing is, apparently, when I was a kid, I was very, very troublesome. The only way they could stop me from crying or being naughty was placing me in front of a TV. So, I guess my love for pictures tracks all the way back.

So, New York was ingrained in me from a young age. I’m talking about comic books, I’m talking about TV shows, I’m talking about Christmas movies, I’m talking about everything. Because in Zimbabwe, we’re quite a modern country and one of the languages that we speak so well is English. So, I never felt the culture shift. I never thought the culture changed. Perhaps, who I felt it was more personal things like romance and whatnot. Then, that became quite specific. But then, it wasn’t a culture shock because I’ve also exposed myself, and traveled, and then took time to learn things. And even before I came through, I did my research. I easily switched onto the news that people are watching here so that by the time it came through, I would be acquainted with what’s happening. So, I prepped up and I guess that’s the essence of why I do like to prep up.

Martin: Yeah, that’s interesting. I guess my only thing that I can relate to that is that growing up in England, similarly, we watched a lot of American movies. And yeah, a lot of influence. The comedy shows, and all of the series and things that we get on the TV, a lot of it was from America. So, we learned not only a little bit about the culture, but also the language and the differences between English English and American English. And so, when I started working, before I started doing photography full time, which was 12 years ago, I worked for 10 years for a US-based company, and a lot of the people that I worked with were from America.

Whenever they visited– The first three years or two– No, the first year I worked in England for that company and then I moved to Tokyo. But we would have visits from the people from America. They would say– Especially when you go to a pub or something and all of the English people are speaking in their own local dialects and they’re using very condensed phrases, the Americans would say, “I can only understand about 30% of what you’re saying.” We’re speaking the same language, but the Americans couldn’t understand what English people were saying when they were speaking relaxed. If you’re in a business environment, it is slightly different. But we didn’t have that problem, because we grew up listening to the American dialect and various ways of speaking just through the TV. For us, it was really no problems. I guess, I can relate to the fact that you’d slotted right in there without having too much of a problem. That’s very cool. 

Kudzai: Thank you. I just wanted to add to that. There is a difference between English English and then US English. Certainly, I think there are a couple of words that I had to change. Probably, the one moment of a culture shift that I felt was, when I went into a bodega, which is a corner store where they sell these express goods. I got in there, because my English is quite English from having experienced England and then having lived in Zimbabwe as well, we’re subscribed to the education in England. I went into the bodega trying to buy water.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: I’m trying to order water, and no one can understand me. I’m saying, “Water, water.” And then, something clicked in my head, I’m like, “Oh, right there. I know what’s wrong here.” I instantly switched it to ‘water’. And they’re like, “Oh, water.” If there’s one moment I recall as being a culture shift, it’s probably that. Then maybe overtime, a couple of words that have had to change, so that it would sound a little more American but as you can hear, my accent is quite still strong.

Martin: Yeah. You’ve got very nice accent. Let’s take a look at some of the images that you’ve sent me. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to share my screen. I will share this video with the audience as well but I’ll also put these into the blog post so people can come along. If you are just listening and want to follow along with the images, the blog posts for this will be at https://mbp.ac/787. So, the 787th podcast. I’m going to share my screen and I’ll put your images up onto here. Let’s see. For some reason, that’s very low on the screen. Let’s see if I can move that. There we go. I’m going to just open these in the order that– They’re in an order just in the folder, and I’ll just open them up. Can you see that over there, Kudzai? 

Kudzai: Yes, I can.

Martin: Okay. Tell us a little bit about this photo. What’s the story behind it? What were you doing here and things like that?

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: One of the most fascinating places that I got to experience when I came to New York, the outdoor spaces, was the Hamptons. I’d always heard about the Hamptons, and I didn’t know what the fuss was about. I went there for a photoshoot for a friend of mine who owns a swimwear brand. I fell in love with the place. I always make sure that I go there from time to time. It’s my summer little getaway. But then in this particular image, I worked with this girl named Katja. Katja is such an incredible human being and an incredible model as well. I was actually dying to create something that I had not done– or rather a version of a creation that I’ve not done in a while. 

I’ve gotten very lucky that in my career that when I kickstarted, there was just so many people that were very kind, and they wanted to work with me, and they believed in my vision. And so, it had been eight years since I LAST shot without a team, basically. Every one of my shoots always has– there’s a makeup artist, and they have their assistants, and then there’s hair stylists, assistants. And I also have digitech and then there’s me and my probably two assistants during an image shoot. I just wanted to declutter all of that and just focus on the fact that I wanted to capture something beautiful.

So, what I do from time to time is I create content that is used for marketing purposes. Sometimes, a piece of work that I’m creating might not have a particular client. But in my head, I’m shooting for a particular client, because there’s someone that I’m trying to aim to work with basically. And so, in this particular case, I did very much that. There was a particular swimwear brand that I was targeting. I visited my friend, Katja. She lives in the Hamptons full time with her husband. I just grabbed my camera, we rode out on a bike, and we started photographing. To me, it was the most joyous thing that I could do, because for the first time in a while, I didn’t have anything around. It was just me, the model, and the camera, how I started exactly. 

Martin: Yeah. That’s pretty cool in that I pretty much always work alone. I only do portrait work professionally, very, very seldomly. And when I do, my wife is my assistant. She’s great at handling my lights and things like that, but I’ve never worked with a big team like that. I can imagine that it’s so liberating to just get back to just you, and the camera, and the model. So, yeah, that’s pretty cool to think about that, just from my own perspective. So, she’s got the life– What do you call it? A buoy? 

Kudzai: Yeah, the buoy that they use, I guess, for lifeguards. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: The story behind this particular image is, it was around 1 PM and I never shoot at that time, ever. But I realized that I wanted to have something quite dramatic, something that felt very high velocity, something that was unique. And so, I looked at the angle of the lighting, and then I had a conversation with Katja, and then I told her like, “Okay, this is the way you need to pose, because if you look down, you’re going to have shadows on your eyes. And if you look this way, this way.” When we’re doing that, I observed a couple of lifeguards close by and basically, I walked up there, and I had a conversation with them. They were so cordial with me. They allowed me to utilize everything in their possession.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: We ended up having a full-on editorial shoot, people surrounded us. It was a beautiful moment. But yeah, I looked at the colors of everything that we had and obviously, the garments that were specifically chosen for her to wear. Because I was looking for– If you look at my work, my work revolves around certain colors. It’s your yellows, your oranges, your greens, your blues, basically. I’ve decided to keep that as a theme in my work, because I do tend to shoot outdoors and in the studio. And so, I always love a good connection between all of them in order for people to instantly recognize that, “Oh, this is Kudzai King’s work.”

Martin: Wow, that’s great that you’re conscious of that. I’m very interested in colors myself. I often take a color wheel, or I use a few applications where you can map the colors in photos and just find out why they work together. I don’t necessarily stick to specific colors as a way of branding. But I do enjoy looking at the relationship between colors and that’s great that you’re doing that and that you’re aware of all of that.

Kudzai: Absolutely. Actually, when I kickstart a year, I choose the theme for the year for myself.

Martin: Oh, brilliant.

Kudzai: It might not be the trend, but it will be something that I feel so strongly about. So, color is a great way to start. Yeah, I set up all the colors. When I’m working with stylists, I let them have a free reign of what kind of garments can work within the theme of a story that I’ve come up with. Then, they build a juggernaut around the structure that I’ve basically primed up.

Martin: Wow. I have a large body of work on a stock agency called Offset, which is a sister company of Shutterstock. And every year, they send out an email saying, “These are the colors for this year.” It’s like they decide what the colors for the year are. I don’t think it’s them deciding but it’s pretty cool how they do that. If you were really into stock photography, which I’m not, but if you were, trying to involve those colors in your work for that year, it’s an important thing, and I imagine it’s very important for fashion as well. I changed the photograph. Tell us a little about this next one.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: This is still part of a series that I shot in the Hamptons. One of the things that I really love is movement. I feel creating work that is beautiful is important but also creating work that is unique is even more important. Because in this world that we live in where everything is kind of fast paced– Not everything’s kind of fast paced, everything is fast paced. It’s very hard to hold someone’s attention. With the work that we do as photographers, to grab someone’s attention for whatever fraction of time that you’ve grabbed it for, it’s highly important because if you’re doing it professionally, that’s the difference between you and a meal on the table. So, I’m constantly thinking about those things in the back of my head like, “Okay, so, I want to create something beautiful that feels like me, but I also have to create something that’s unique.”

I feel movement is very hard to replicate. You can try your best and then come close. But I feel movement, it’s quite unique in its own manner. Even if you take inspiration from a painting, from whatever the case it may be, and then you add some movement to it, I feel it instantly changes the image itself, the language of the image. With this image, we’re going through sunset time and the light was just purely beautiful. This is us having spent the whole entire day at the beach at this point. We’re shooting, and then we’re taking a break, and then I started to swim into the ocean, come back. We go grab lunch or coffee, and then we’ll come back to the beach. This was now at night and with this garment that I’ve been waiting to shoot. This garment was actually a great loan from, I think I maybe chopping the name of this designer, which is terrible, and he’s a big designer. They allowed us to have this garment in our shots. And so, I partnered it up with these– If you can see…

Martin: Yeah, beach sandals.

Kudzai: Yeah, exactly. But I felt I needed something to draw back the image. I didn’t want it to feel like fairy light. I wanted to keep it in within the realm of edgy fashion. I had one reflector to one side mounted on an impromptu rock situation that was happening, just bounce back light onto the model. And then on the very left, you can see sun peeping through. I was illuminating the face and then separating it from the background. This is how I created the image.

Martin: Yeah. The sun also, it’s got a really nice highlight on the chin, hasn’t it? To separate the chin from the neck, that’s a nice splash of light there as well.

Kudzai: Thank you. I never used to be a fan of lighting on the side as a way to separate someone from a background. But then, the more I’ve observed light– To me, observing light is within its simplest form. I simply look at a human being. Whenever I see something that’s beautiful in a human being, I always ask myself, “What is it about this particular moment that makes this particular human being appear beautiful to me?” Then, I start looking at the elements of color, and light, and whatnot, and I just observe where the sun is sitting. And so, wherever I am, I’m constantly trying to replicate natural light. Even if I’m using strobe lights or studio lights, I’m always trying to replicate that lighting that I’ve observed in real life. And in this case, I wanted that light, because I’d seen it somewhere. So, I wanted the face like that, and this is…

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Wow, yeah. Beautiful. Okay, so, this is you. We’re going to use that in the blog post to show who you are. But the next one. Do you have anything to say about your own bio photo or shall we just skip to this one?

Kudzai: Sure. All my bio photos, they’re taken by me.

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: Each and every year, I’ve got a new photo that I take.

Martin: Okay.

Kudzai: I didn’t know it would be a thing, but I’ve done it the last five years now. Yeah, it’s a way to– I think it’s important for people to know who you are if you’re working. If you’re working as a photographer or any artist of any form, because yes, people love the work. But then, people want to know the person behind the work like, “Is this a person that can be trusted? Is it a person that fits the visual language that we’re trying to create? Do they represent their work, they look like they work?” basically.

Martin: Obviously, you’ve still got it as a model. You could probably go back to the catwalk or whatever it is that they call it. Do you find that your history as a model helps you in the fashion industry? People say, “Oh, yeah, that guy used to be a model and now, he’s a photographer.” Is that story something that you feel has helped you?

Kudzai: I think so. For a long time, I think, when I was starting out my career, a lot of the people that I was photographing were perhaps at the beginning of their careers, whether that’s in fashion or that’s in music, because I was also photographing a lot of musical artists. A lot of them really didn’t know how to move in front of a camera. And so, having been on other side of the lens, I felt that I knew exactly what angle to use for a particular subject to make them look great. And so, tell them, “Turn this way. Chin up, chin down. Hands out, one hand in pocket,” and all of that. 

It helped shaped the way my work actually looked as well but certainly, it helped that I’ve been on the other side. And even up to this day, I do tend to work with celebrities for various projects that they’re doing. Some of them are great in front of a TV or rather within the cinematic version. But then sometimes, still photos are quite a unique language to learn. And sometimes, they don’t know what to do. Or they’ve done something so much that they want something fresh. And so, this is where I come in with knowledge of being able to direct a shot to find the beauty within that particular being’s expression.

Martin: Mm. That’s something that I had not thought of until you mentioned that. But having been instructed yourself as how to behave as a model, that’s instant knowledge for you to tell people how to behave as a model. “Hand in pocket. Turn this way. Do that,” I hadn’t thought about that until you mentioned that. That’s a very valuable skill that you learned while getting paid for being a model that’s helping you as a photographer. Yeah.

Kudzai: Absolutely.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: So, the next one, let’s see. Tell us a little bit about this one.

Kudzai: Most of the people that I work with end up being friends. I do take it upon myself to learn my subjects. Sometimes, even before I work with a model, I try and meet them, or call them, or text them, or at least just get the essence of who they are. This particular friend of mine, actually, I met in Cape Town.

Martin: Yeah, well.

Kudzai: I met in Cape Town once where we were both invited to a Christmas dinner. It was a fashion sort of Christmas dinner. When I moved, I didn’t actually know that she was here. And so, gradually, I discovered that she was here, and then we got in touch, and then we became quite close friends. She’s a really successful model here. She was born in Uganda, and she’s done a whole bunch internationally. She’s been in Paris, she’s been in London. She has worked for Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren’s, and whatnot. She’s done work for herself.

In this case, we were doing– It was a jewelry shoot. And so, I knew exactly who to choose for that particular jewelry shooting. It’s her. Her name is Akello. And I knew that she has a very amazing skin tone. When I set out to shoot, I didn’t know whether I wanted black and white or not, because clients with jewelry normally would request color. But when it’s a beautiful shot, there’s no resisting a beautiful shot. And so, I knew that I wanted strong highlights and then I also wanted very dark edges. I brought in a beauty dish from above and then I brought on two negative fills on either side, and we created that shot. 

Martin: Wow. Are you illuminating the background as well? Because it’s pretty white. Like you say, you wanted to contrast. Did you do something with the background?

Kudzai: One of the tricks with that is not to have the model far away from the backdrop. In this case, I didn’t have any backdrop lights. I knew that I wanted it white, but then I didn’t want it super white. That’s why you see her first before you see the background. It’s illuminated way much more than the background is.

Martin: Sorry. Basically, it spilled from your main lights than just going on to the background.

Kudzai: Precisely. And then, I angled it in such a way where there are no shadows on the background as well. 

Martin: Yeah, wow. Beautiful work.

Kudzai: This is a one-light setup. 

Martin: Really? Okay. So, the beauty dish is the single light.

Kudzai: It is the single light. Yes. 

Martin: Oh, wow. That’s so cool. 

Kudzai: I did have a reflector below her just to– or rather, a bounce board. I had a bounce board right in front of her just to fill in the shadows on the neckline. But this is purely a one-light setup.

Martin: Wow. That’s impressive. 

Kudzai: Hey, you can do a lot with one light.

Martin: Yeah. I’ve got a one-light t-shirt from– Zack Arias did the one-light course, the one-light video tutorial. It came wrapped up in a one-light t-shirt, which I still wear quite a lot. It’s a good philosophy.

Kudzai: Yeah. Sometimes, simplicity is beauty. 

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, let’s see– Tell us about this next one. This is very dramatic. I love the shadow and everything. But tell us about this.

Kudzai: Oh, thank you. This particular image was, I created it for Vogue Italia. Vogue Italia is very on the edge of creating images that feel a bit different from the rest of fashion. They focus on very dark images. Sometimes, light images that tell a story that you can instantly connect to nostalgia. Actually, just to track back a bit. One of the intentions that I had this year was to create images that felt a little moody, something that had shadows. Because the previous work that I created before that, it was very illuminated. You could see everything quite clearly. So, I wanted to experiment with shadows, and darkness, and highlights, and whatnot in different colors as well. 

So, when I got the opportunity to shoot for Vogue Italia, I thought out the concept pretty well. I knew exactly what I wanted out of the image, but I did not know how to get there. But then, when you have experience over the years with lighting, the same thing that you spoke about where you have one side illuminated and you’re trying to figure out how to illuminate the other side, you start getting all of that information in your head quite easily when you look at something or rather when you think of a concept or an idea. I didn’t know how to accomplish this lighting at all. But then, I started just planning it and experimenting with it. And I’m very lucky that whenever I have an idea and I have a big opportunity, I’ve got time to prepare. 

I worked with a model that needed pictures for her portfolio, and I basically experimented with the light. By the time I got to the stage of this image, I knew exactly how to execute it. What’s happening here is that this is a cove and there are two different lights. The spill is protected by two V flats that are blocking the light from spilling onto everything else. I had one light that had a yellow gel, and then I had one light that had a green gel, and they were all facing up. They were all facing up to the ceiling. And so, you can clearly see on the foreground that some parts of that background are a little white.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: So, I basically illuminated the background that way and the color merged in a very amazing way. And then for the front, what I did was I used a bare bulb, because I knew that I wanted harsh shadows. Where those shadows come from is from the body itself elevated. But then some of them I created using a second light, it was also a bare bulb. And the second light had black foil paper, basically and I crumbled it up in several ways, attached it with clamps, and step away from the light itself and so, it’s projecting the shadows onto the background. 

Martin: Wow. 

Kudzai: This is a very complex lighting system. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But this is the way I figured it out and it worked beautifully.

Martin: Yeah, absolutely, it’s beautiful. The first thing that that came to me, but earlier, we talked about colors. And you may have noticed me looking over to the side here as we spoke a little there. But I’m going to just bring something onto the screen here. I don’t know if I can do this quickly, but if I go in and– Let’s see. If we get the colors from this image, I’m going to just quickly put these up. But if we open this palette, we should be able to see that, at least part of it, the colors that we’ve picked there are not so important. But if we look at the colors in your background here, these greens, if we look across to the opposite colors, it’s the purples in the dress.

Kudzai: Yes.

Martin: I don’t know if it was conscious, but you’ve actually got the exact opposite colors in the background and the dress. Was that something that you were thinking of? Because that of course becomes a complementary color. An opposite color on the wheel is always going to be complementary, but it’s through direct contrast. Were you aware of that or conscious of that when you designed this?

Kudzai: I’ve got a huge respect for people who make clothes, because I feel they do shape who we are or how we express ourselves. Whether you’re a simple guy or your fashion choice is quite extreme, fashion tends to lead to an identity of sorts. And so, within this respect is probably why I also learned color. I made sure that I knew my color so well that I never have to think about it, I never have to plan it so intently because it might just make sense. I’m like, “Okay, so, I have this background in and then I have this model. What kind of garments would work for this?”

Martin: It’s coming natural to you.

Kudzai: Yeah. At this point, it comes quite natural to me.

Martin: I see.

Kudzai: In the past, I would think about it more. But then these days, it’s become so natural and easy. When I chose that particular garment– because we had a selection of different garments. And normally, before we proceed on to shoot, when we’re doing prep up, the stylist always brings in the garments that we’ve spoken about that support the concept and then, they also bring in extra garments. Me and her have a final say on the day of the shoot itself. We go through the wardrobe and I’m like, “Maybe that actually wouldn’t work. I thought it would work, but maybe let’s check it out.” And then, I saw this garment and it wasn’t part of the pattern. I immediately fell in love with it, because I knew what I could do with it. I knew that I wanted volume, and we had a lot of garments that had volume, but then this one stood out to me the most compared to what we had planned. And then, it worked so well, because I planned the lighting in this particular way, and I saw that purple and I was like, “Okay, yeah. This will be great.” 

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Wow. Beautiful. Okay. Tell us about this next one. This is another very striking photo. Tell us about it. 

Kudzai: Oh, this image. It’s terrible to have– I don’t have any kids, but I feel to choose an image and say, “It’s your favorite,” to me, it feels like having to choose your favorite children. It’s terrible, but I accept this image. This one-time shoot is probably– A lot of shoots take more time. Sometimes, half a day. And it’s probably the quickest shoot that I’ve ever had, this one. This was two hours of shooting entirely and with different looks.

One of the things that fascinates me about New York is the infrastructure. I’m definitely fascinated by the people. When I think of New York now, I think more of people than the infrastructure. But then, the infrastructure reminds me off a dream. It reminds me of the promise of what New York City has to offer. One of the things that we do as creatives when we move to New York City, a lot of us is that we’re so inspired by the city and what it has to offer. And then, we come into the city and then we go directly back to the studio. So, I fell into that trap as well where I went directly into the studio. When I was thinking about my New York work, in my work, I couldn’t find New York itself. I could find that yes, I’ve shot a lot of New York artists, New York models, New York designers’ work. But then, I didn’t actually have New York itself.

And so, it reminded me to also start looking up, because when you live in New York for quite a while, you become desensitized. In any particular place that is so incredible, whether you’re talking about London, or Milan, or Paris, or Dubai, everything becomes normal after a while. So, it was a wakeup call to open my eyes again and look around me and look up above me.

Before I shot this image, I knew that I wanted to shoot it, but then I went on a journey to discover the city again in a new way. So, I started looking around the very same process that I described. I was fascinated by meeting points of buildings and lines. My Instagram during those days, people were probably either annoyed or celebrating it by my Instagram stories. I was posting a lot of building shots, just very interesting angles on buildings. Because for the first time, I was now looking at New York as fresh as I saw it when I arrived. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: So, when he finally came to this image, I had a bank of images where I’d selected a couple of locations in New York. I knew I wanted to shoot on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue because of a building that’s behind there. On this shoot, there are about five people surrounding me, my team. I was literally laying on the streets and traffic was passing. Sometimes, when I do my work, I forget anything. I forget to eat, I forget to drink water. I always have to tell my assistant before I start working like, “Hey, please make sure I eat, please make sure I drink, and please make sure I don’t die.” Because to me, the shot is what matters the most.

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: When I was shooting the shots, I was laying on the ground and I was just looking for a particular moment in the people that are walking, because I had five people surrounding me. There was one light to one side. One light at a 90-degree angle, because I didn’t want the light to be in 45. I didn’t want the one site to be flat. I just wanted that kiss of light separates her from both sides. Because what’s to the left of her is the sun and then to the right is the light that I intended to put there.

Everyone’s waiting, traffic is passing, and then eventually, people start ignoring the fact that I’m there, which was what I wanted. People start walking past by and I’m just looking for that one particular moment where she’s the center of the frame, and then the people are walking by as supporting characters.

Martin: Ah, yeah. 

Kudzai: And then, when that moment finally came, I snapped it, and I knew I had the shot. Yeah, this is how this image was created.

Martin: Yeah. Wow. 

Kudzai: I love it, and it is my most viral image. On my social media, it has accounted to about 2.8 million views from LinkedIn, to Instagram, to Facebook.

Martin: Yeah. Wow. 

Kudzai: Right now, actually, it has resurfaced again.

Martin: Why is that?

Kudzai: It had another viral moment of itself.

Martin: Oh, okay. It’s just based on the merits of the photo.

Kudzai: Sorry?

Martin: Just based on the merits. There’s no external reason why it’s resurfaced, just because it’s a good photo. Is that what’s happening?

Kudzai: Well, this time, I’ve remarketed it. Before when I posted it, at some point, I was getting thousands of followers and clients who started– I’ve got a lot of clients just from this particular image going viral. But at some point, I just have to let it go. I was like, “Okay, I can’t explain this image. People just love it.” But then, I didn’t realize what it is people loved about it until much later. Well, people love New York.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: Everyone across the world is familiar with what New York represents or what it gives. And so, this is selling nostalgia, basically.

Martin: Wow. You mentioned the building behind. Is that the Trump Tower?

Kudzai: No, that is not Trump Tower. 

Martin: The bluish one, I thought it was, but that’s not– Okay. I remember walking around there. I was in New York a couple of times in 2012. I remember walking around that area. You look up and there’s always buildings. Use a wide-angle lens and all the buildings taper in. It’s an amazing city to photograph. 

Kudzai: Absolutely.

Martin: It’s great that you’ve got it so prominent in this photo. Beautiful work.

Kudzai: Thank you.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: We’ve got a couple of last ones. So, this is your photo on the cover of a magazine, I imagine? Yeah?

Kudzai: Yes. That’s L’Officiel Lithuania. In my work, I tend to be cheeky from time to time. Pun intended. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But I love the human form. I love the human form so much. I think before, I respected clothes a lot. But then, the more I shot, the more I started working with people that really understood their bodies. And so, separate to this conversation, I’ve had an art project that’s just centered around how we all connected through our bodies, basically. How we’re all a human, first of all. When it came to this image, I knew that I wanted form, but I didn’t know what image, where I wanted it. I was working with this amazing model whose name I can’t think of right now. But she works hard on herself, and I knew that. I wanted to celebrate the human form, the human body, and I wanted to shape around it. 

When I initially told my team, they were quite surprised, because they’ve not seen anything of that form in my work. But then, I’ve always been lucky that whatever vision I have, my team trusts me. And I told them exactly how I wanted to do the shot and it was all in studio and we captured it.

Martin: Wow. Yeah, the balance is beautiful. One of the things that strikes me, apart from the cheekiness as you mentioned, you’ve got the little, tiny triangle of arm in the top right. I think, without that, this to me, the eye would go straight out that top corner, because there’s a line of light leading you up there. But you seem to have everything, just a perfect place, to really keep the eye in the frame and the lines and everything. You have done a beautiful job of it.

Kudzai: Thank you.

Martin: Yeah, sorry, go ahead.

Kudzai: All right. I’m a former OCD. I wasn’t diagnosed properly, but I like things in a particular way. If I didn’t have that in a particular way, then I would lose it, basically. But over time, I’ve always been great at self-diagnosing and realizing I’ve got an obstacle. And so, I decided to get rid of that obstacle, and that got accelerated by having in the past, a roommate that was the opposite of me. But that worked out well. But parts of that me being quite particular still exists in my work. So, I’m very, very– 

I’m very terrible at shooting with an LCD screen. Right now, I don’t use that screen as the way I see an image. To me, looking through a viewfinder, and that might just me being old school, but looking through the viewfinder, I feel I’m observing every single thing within that frame. So, I’m adjusting as I’m shooting and I’m looking for that particular angle and those particular shapes that make sense and that gravitate towards you. And that’s exactly what happened here. I was looking for balance and I found it within this particular angle and that’s what you see.

Martin: Wow. Yeah. You just proved that you’re not old school by calling the R5 viewfinder a viewfinder, because it’s still an electronic viewfinder, right?

Kudzai: That’s true.

Martin: Many years ago, I use the R5 as well. I believe it’s probably still the best camera that Canon have made. But until this, my previous camera was the EOS R and that had a slightly clunkier electronic viewfinder. The R5, it’s so good. It makes you feel like you are looking through a real viewfinder. But the fact that you didn’t really think about that as you said that proves that you’re not old school. You’re in the middle of this.

Kudzai: You’d be quite shocked actually, because I didn’t advance my camera system not too long ago. I’m talking about two weeks ago. All this time, I’d been using a Canon 5D Mark III.

Martin: Oh, yeah.

Kudzai: And then, before that, I was using a Canon 50D, which was my first digital camera. 

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: And then before that, I was using a film camera, which is what I learned on. 

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: So, I learned the very hard way.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: If you messed up, you would find out next week. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But I guess, is that a proper term to call it a viewfinder?

Martin: It is. Yeah, it’s 100% correct. You said that you don’t like the LCD and you prefer the viewfinder. I understand exactly what you’re saying. But they’re essentially now– with the R5, they’re essentially the same thing. It’s just like you’re looking at it through a viewfinder rather than looking at it on the back of the camera, and I understand that that’s what you meant. 

One of the things that I love about the R5 is that you do get the– Because you’re essentially looking at a two-dimensional version of the scene, it’s flat on LCD, but it’s much closer and the experience is very different. It’s just that you didn’t really differentiate between that and a physical viewfinder, where you’re looking through the lens. It just proves that you’re completely comfortable with the equipment that you’re using it rather than thinking too much about the past. I am intrigued though, which camera were you using when you were shooting film?

Kudzai: I was using a Canon T1, I believe. 

Martin: Oh, wow, yeah. 

Kudzai: Yeah, I was using a Canon T1. Yeah. 

Martin: And you cut your teeth on that?

Kudzai: Sorry. 

Martin: Oh, sorry. Yeah. So, you cut your teeth on that?

Kudzai: Yeah. That’s how I learned how to capture images before the Canon 50D, which I used actually, for a lot of campaigns and a lot of people don’t know. The only way I advance is when I have the need to. Otherwise for me, the tool is actually not the biggest thing. The tool is an instrument.

Martin: Yeah. I think that the just speaking today, that comes across a lot. We haven’t even mentioned the gear until now. That comes across in how we’re speaking about this. But at the same time, I think it’s also interesting to hear. Obviously, I’m probably a bit older than you, quite a lot older than you. And so, I myself for many years shot film. I used to shoot slide film, mainly slide film. And I’ve recently come back to that. I’ve got an old Rolly, a Rolleiflex camera that shoots big, square medium format film. I’m enjoying that immensely.

But it is interesting that someone that has– You were talking earlier, I got a hint as to your age, when you were talking about that in Cape Town, and you were using Facebook, and all of that. When I was first doing photography, there was no internet. There was no Facebook. There was no internet or not one that public people could use. And so, I’m aging myself at the same time here. In the years that you’ve worked, it’s refreshing to see how you’ve really used the social media pretty much, it seems very naturally. You’ve got your Instagram with the followers and all of the likes and things, and it all comes very, very naturally to you. I’m envious of that. Because for me, although I use social media, it came along so late in my life as a professional, but also as a photographer, I really don’t use it as naturally. I put out posts saying, “Okay, I’ve just released a new blog post,” and that’s really a lot. Just pretty much all I do each week. So, I’m envious that it’s so natural for you.

But also, again, it comes back to the viewfinder comment. It all seems so natural to you. I think that is probably one of the reasons why your work is so beautiful, because you’re not overthinking it. And yet, you’re coming up there with the results that are really powerful and dramatic. And so, it’s been an absolute pleasure looking through these images with you. We do have one more. Tell us a little about this final image that I’ve got on the screen at the moment.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: Oh, God, this is very latest. This is one of my latest works. Actually, maybe not the latest, because I’m doing a portrait series right now. But speaking about this work, looking at the fact that I feel the worst anyone can say is no, I did a massive reach-out to a couple of people on my dream list, basically. One of the people on my dream list was Tom Ford. I’ve been observing Tom Ford since I was a kid, since I was all the way back in Africa, in Zimbabwe. It’s a brand that just captures the way I visualize life, because of its intensity, because of its creativity. Because it is quite a commercial brand, but then being commercial, there also quite edgy. They present themselves in that way.

I reached out to one of the creative directors of Tom Ford. And then, they wanted to see my work. They wanted to see my portfolio. I quickly realized that I did not have work that quite felt like Tom Ford. And so, I gathered my team together, they were so excited. And then, I’ve been dying to work with this particular model, because she just has the most amazing look. She’s probably one of the best models that I’ve shot thus far. Her name is Anna Koval. And my stylist overperformed, just amazing work. And so, I created a different range of works, basically. I created beauty work, and then I created editorial work, and then I created commercial work, all under the taste level of what Tom Ford represents. And this is one of the images.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: It’s work that I’m really excited about. And it looks like my audience really welcomed it quite well as well.

Martin: Yeah. Brilliant. Actually, I’ve just looked at my clock for the first time in an hour and 30 minutes. We’ve gone way– Are you okay to do another few minutes?

Kudzai: Sure. Let’s do it.

Martin: Yeah? Okay.

Kudzai: I’m enjoying it.

Martin: I’m going to stop sharing my screen for now. Obviously, you’ve made many bold moves. You’ve moved yourself around the globe. You’ve moved from in front of the camera to behind the camera. Lots of things in your life that you’ve made very bold moves. If you have one piece of major advice to give anyone that wants to do something similar to what you’ve done, what would you tell them?

Kudzai: Hmm, that’s a very good question. I think I would say pick what you love. Pick what you love, but not– I know people use this statement quite in a very frivolous way, but it’s important to have purpose. Because without purpose as human beings, we’re close to as good as dead. Purpose is what wakes you up in the morning. Purpose is what gets you out of bed when you’re like, “Ugh, not today, I’m tired. things to do and they have to get done.”

So, pick what you do and learn what you can do through any given source around you. There’s no excuse, especially during these days. We are quite privileged there. We live in a world that information is now all around us. You can open a book, you can open YouTube, you can open Instagram, you can open TikTok, you can open any platform, you can go to someone’s website and just observe what they’re doing. And so, pick what you do and then set out a clear goal for yourself. Sometimes, goals change. But without a goal, you don’t have a purpose. You’re not progressing towards something. So, pick out a goal, and that goal could be quite simple. It could even be a very complicated goal. But it gives you a map and a direction on how to move as you go about in your work career or even in passion that you’ve chosen. So, I think that’s probably the biggest one.

Martin: [chuckles] Absolutely golden advice. Sorry, you were going to say?

Kudzai: And then the very last is what I’ve been repeating all along. The worst anyone can say is no.

Martin: Beautiful. Absolutely amazing advice. I have had an amazing time for, sorry, an hour and a half, way over time. Kudzai, where can people find you if they want to come and check out your work or hire you? I know that your main website is kudzaiking.com. And so, that’s K-U-D-Z-A-I King, K-I-N-G dotcom. And is there anywhere else that you’d like– I guess, you have your social media links and everything on your website. Is there anywhere else that you’d like to send people?

Kudzai: At the moment, I just started with a new agency that I feel can take me to the next step of within the work. I’m constantly making sure that I’m progressing as much as possible. I feel at the moment– Not at the moment. They’re just amazing at what they do, and I feel together, we could do something, create some magic together. This agency is called Cake Factory. It’s cakefactory.com and if you want to reach out for press or to inquire about rates, normally that conversation filters through my agency. So, cakefactory.com.

Martin: Is that C-A-K-E, cake?

Kudzai: Yeah. Cake. 

Martin: Okay.

Kudzai: Like pudding cake.

Martin: Yeah. Okay. Excellent. Well, I’ll include a link to that in the post as well. And any closing thoughts? I think we’ve pretty much exhausted the conversation. But any closing thoughts from you, Kudzai?

Kudzai: Any closing thoughts? This is probably one statement that I live by since I was young that my mother taught me. It says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I keep that in mind. I realize that I am great at a lot of things, but I need people around me who are also great at what they particularly do in order to support this juggernaut that we’re trying to build and to progress forward. I think that those are my closing words.

Martin: Okay, excellent. Well, thank you very much. And thank you again for your time, for your wisdom, and for sharing your past, and a little glimpse into the future of Kudzai King. So, thank you very much and I hope to speak again at some point.

Kudzai: It’s been a delight being here and thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Martin: Not at all.

See Kudzai’s work here: https://kudzaiking.com/

And Kudzai is also now working through https://cakefactory.com/


Show Notes

See Kudzai’s work here: https://kudzaiking.com/

And Kudzai is also now working through https://cakefactory.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Why I Have to Dump the Adobe Creative Cloud!

Why I Have to Dump the Adobe Creative Cloud!

Excited by the release of Adobe Creative Suite 6 and the prospect of instant access to new versions of the products it contains as they are released, I jumped on the Creative Cloud subscription soon after it was possible to sign-up. I own a full CS5.5 Master Collection license, so I had the option to upgrade to a normal license for ¥64,500 ($825 as from Japan I am not able to buy from the US store for just $525). With the Creative Cloud discounted down to $30/month for the first year though, it made financial sense to use the subscription model, despite my knee-jerk reaction to want to own a license, and not rent one.

Today, I was looking at my plans for the rest of the year, and noticed that I sail for Antarctica on Nov 10, for the first of three trips that will take me out of Internet reach for a total of six weeks. I wondered what would happen if I could not get online during the first month, and called Adobe Support here in Japan to ask them.

Creative Cloud Web Interface

Creative Cloud Web Interface

It turns out that because I sail on the 10th of November, even if I have internet access on the morning that I leave Ushuaia, if the authentication check to see if I’ve paid my subscription fee is not automatically processed while I’m online, the next time I start Photoshop, or any other Creative Suite application, they will stop working. [UPDATE: I have since received confirmation from Adobe that there is indeed a 7 day grace period before the software stops working.]

Even if I am able to authentic on that morning, I’m actually in Antarctica on Dec 10, when the next renewal will be due, so it the CS6 apps will stop working for the last week of my third expedition. After my chat with Adobe, I read online that some people believe there is a 7 day grace period if you don’t have an Internet connection, which would get me back to dry land on Dec 14, but only if I am able to authenticate on Nov 10. And, that assumes that the Adobe person I spoke with today is wrong, in that he clearly stated that there is no 7 day grace period.

I am the resident photographer on these three expeditions, giving presentations to the group on Color Management, Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik Software, and of course I will be processing some of my own images in Photoshop too. Thankfully I own my license of LR and Nik Software’s plugins, so I’m OK there, but without Photoshop, I’m basically screwed.

Hurumph!

Hurumph!

I did wonder about this when I signed up, but honestly thought that Adobe would build in some way to pre-authenticate before longer trips, but I was wrong, foolish, a total idiot, to sign up without confirming this. Why can’t I just call Adobe and say “Hey, I’m going away for six weeks — bill me now for the next two months, and push a longer license to my computer before I leave”?

Hell, there isn’t even a way to force the authentication process on that morning before I leave Ushuaia to ensure that I get that month’s use of the software that I would have automatically paid for!

The support engineer’s advice was to buy a full license of Photoshop, the part of the Suite that I cannot live without, and cancel my Creative Cloud subscription. I told him that I also use most of the other suite products too on a regular basis and own a CS5.5 Master Collection license, so we came to the conclusion that my only realistic choice was to cancel my Creative Cloud subscription and upgrade my Master Collection to CS6.

Of course the other option is cancel my Creative Cloud subscription and NOT upgrade to the CS6 Master Collection. My CS5.5 license is still valid after all! The only problem with this, is that as an educator as well as photographer, I really have to present using the current version of the software.

I’m a bit quick of the mark sometimes, but I’m generally a prudent business owner when it comes to finances. I calculated that based on an 18 month upgrade schedule, which is what Adobe seems to be on, I would pay the discounted ¥3,000 for 12 months (¥36,000) and the full price of ¥5,000 for a further six months (¥30,000), a total of ¥66,000, by the time a CS7 or whatever was released. This is like $25 more than the price to upgrade my Master Collection, and I’d have the benefit of rolling upgrades, so it was going to be a win/win situation.

Lose/Lose

So far I’ve paid three installments of ¥3,000 in subscription fees. If I cancel that subscription right now and upgrade, I’ll have paid ¥73,500 to be essentially where I would have been three months ago had I simply upgraded and bought my license, not the subscription. This isn’t a huge amount of money but I resent paying that difference for such a stupid reason as a flawed subscription model.

My other options are to hope that the request I made today to ensure that this functionality get’s built into the system before I leave for Antarctica, but while waiting I’ll pay another ¥9,000 in subscription fees, and I honestly don’t think that will happen, at least not in the next three months, so I’ll end up upgrading my CS5.5 license anyway, taking the final price of the CS6 Master Collection to ¥82,500. Sheesh!

I have to make up my mind over the next couple of weeks before my next subscription payment, but I’m pretty sure my only realistic option is to cut my losses, dump the cloud, and go back to the original license model. Of course then what will happen is Adobe will fix the subscription model, and I’ll be stuck with my full license, and no rolling updates, cursing Adobe again until CS7 comes out. 🙁

Don’t get me wrong, I love Adobe products, and don’t like to feel this way, let alone air these negative views publicly, but Adobe’s handling of this relatively foreseeable and not uncommon use case is just not right. I hope someone from Adobe reads this and puts the gears in motion to fix this. Unfortunately, unless I get an email in the next week or so with good news, it will probably be too late for me.

June 20, 2013 – UPDATE: Adobe have just released their Creative Cloud, the next generation of the Creative Suite, and they have built in a grace period of up to 99 days before you need an Internet connect! Read more about this in my follow up post – Why I’m Back in Love with Adobe and the Creative Cloud!

Tilt-Shift Lens Uses (Podcast 13)

Tilt-Shift Lens Uses (Podcast 13)

Welcome to this week’s episode which is number 13. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be unlucky. Last week was definitely a lucky week for me. If you didn’t catch Chris Marquardt’s Tips from the Top Floor show 74, then take a listen. I was interviewed by Christ, and it was released on Friday the 25th of November.

The interview came about because a member on both mine and Chris’s forum, called Prism posted a link to my show on Chris’s forum and I found the link and the conversation that followed it and jumped in to answer a few questions and Chris read the post and we got together. I must say, Chris is every bit the nice guy that comes across in his Podcasts.

Of course, none of this was planned, and I certainly didn’t put Prism up to this. But as a thank you anyway, today’s show is going to be about something that Prism posted a request for information about in my forum, which is how I made a shot in my gallery with my Tilt/Shift lens, which is a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L lens. We’ll get to the shot which Prism mentioned in a short while, but first I’ll explain about the lens and work my way to it.

Anyway, today’s show is for Prism. Thanks mate.

Tilt/Shift lenses are most commonly known for their application in architecture photography. Tilt refers to the action of angling the lens relative to the film plane so that they are no longer in their normal positions and the optical axis of the lens is no longer at right angles to the film plane. With a tilt angle of zero, the image is focused on a subject plane that is parallel to the film plane, and the nearest and furthest focal points are determined by the depth of field. This means the camera cannot focus on a subject that is outside the depth of field provided by the aperture setting.

If you want to make an image containing objects that are say at an angle to the film plane, but you don’t want to, or you simply can’t achieve a wide enough depth of field to get all the subjects in focus, you can tilt the lens so that the focus plane is the same as that of the angle of the subjects. You can tilt the focus plane so that it is closer to the camera on the left and further away on the right, or visa versa. By rotating the lens by 90 degrees clockwise or anti-clockwise, you can tilt up or down in stead of to the left or right, and that allows you to lay the focus plane down, so that it is closer to the camera at the bottom of the frame and further away at the top too. And again, the opposite is possible by tilting the other way.

Poppies 2005

Poppies 2005

First, let’s take a look at photo number 638, which illustrates what happens when the lens is tilted downwards. I’m not going to continue to explain this every week, but for listeners new to this show, if you are listening in iTunes, you can view the photo by clicking on the thumbnail in the bottom left hand corner. To view the next images just click the right arrow above the thumbnail to move through them, clicking on the thumbnail each time to view the image. If you are listening on an iPod, for now you will only be able to see the first shot until Apple or someone releases a chapter tool for the Windows OS. If you have access to the Internet while listening, you can view the images on my Web site at martinbaileyphotography.com, by entering the number I just gave you into the little box under the Podcast section on the top page, or in a similar box on the Podcast page. Another way to view is to jump to the Podcast page and find the episode in the table, then click on the thumbnails. If you view the shots in my online gallery you can also see all the other shooting data below the image.

Anyway, once again, this shot is number 638, and was made with an aperture of F5.6 at 1/125 of a second. It is easy to see that all the flower heads are in focus, which would simply not be possible without laying the focus plane across the head of the flowers. You can also possible see if you look closely, that the shorter flowers at the front of the frame, the ones lower than the white poppy and the higher red poppies, are out of focus. These are too low in the shot and out of the depth of field given by the F5.6 aperture.

Let me read to you a brief explanation of Scheimpflug’s Law – When the extended line from the lens plane and the extended lines from the subject plane and the film plane intersect at the same point, the entire subject plane is in focus. Sounds cool doesn’t it?

Moving on… The other feature of this lens is called Shift. Shift refers to the action of moving the lens sideways parallel to the film plane so they are no longer in their normal positions and the optical axis of the lens no longer passes through the center of the film plane.

Model or Real?

Model or Real?

Shift is used to straighten up converging lines, such as those you’ll see when you photograph a building looking up at it. The base of the building is larger because it’s closer to you and the top of the building looks smaller because it’s further away. When you shift the lens you make the top of the building look larger, and can effectively straighten it up.

I’m not sure about Tilt/Shift lenses from other manufacturers, but with the Canon TS-E lenses, you can use Tilt and Shift together by say first shifting the lens to straighten a building and then also ensure the entire face of the building is in focus by tilting the lens, moving the focus plane to that of the building face.

In this photo I used both the Tilt and Shift functions together but not in the conventional way. In this shot of the lobby of a building in Shinagawa here in Tokyo, I tilted almost the whole way to the right to make the focus plane run from just right of the center of the frame to the center back.

I also used the shift function to straighten up the pillars of the building. Without doing this the pillars would have been converging in at the bottom of the frame as they moved further away from me looking down on them. I set the aperture to wide open, which is f/3.5 for this lens, to get the shallowest depth of field possible. The resulting image looks pretty surreal with both sides of the image out of focus. For some reason I feel it’s almost like looking at a model photographed with a macro lens or something.

It was mainly to make shots like this that I invested in a TS-E lens. I may take some architecture shots given the chance, but I’m not running around looking for these chances. I will also at some point find this lens useful for straightening up say a rock face or a waterfall or something in Landscape photography, but as of yet have not used it to do so.

Shinjuku Times Square Illuminations

Shinjuku Times Square Illuminations

I should mention that I recently replaced the focusing screen in my EOS 5D for the Precision Matte focusing screen Ee-D, which is the one with the grid lines. This makes using the TS-E lenses much easier, as I found last weekend when I visited Shinjuku here in Tokyo and shot the next two photos for today, the first of which is number (right). I planned this shot before leaving the house, and in fact only took the 24mm TS-E lens and my 24-105mm F4 L lens.

The reason for this is that I knew that the illuminations in the two shots were going to require a lot of depth of field, but it would be dark when I made my exposures. I also thought it might make a nice effect, and I’m relatively pleased with the results. This first shot with the orange lights allows you to see that both sides of the shot are out of focus, but the center is in focus right to the back of the frame. I shot this at F5.6 at 1/10 of a second at ISO 400. Needless to say an aperture of F5.6 would not have produced a depth of field deep enough to keep the illuminations at the back of the shot in focus.

Note also that I probably could have shut the aperture down to around F8 or maybe even F11 and although it would have resulted in more of the people in the shot being blurred, I probably would have achieved pan-focus, which is where the entire image from the foreground to the background is in focus.

Anyway, I hope these shots illustrate the point that the focus can be tilted from being in line with the film or sensor plane, to being almost 90 degrees from it into the back of the frame.

The last shot today doesn’t really illustrate this effect that well, but I’m going to include it anyway. With the blue lights on the trees, I used the TS-E lens to keep only the blue lights on the trees at the back left in focus, and the trees to the right, including the orange trees across the path, are out of focus, adding to the slightly dreamy effect of the image. To increase the effect a little I opened the aperture to F5.0.

Blue Trees

Blue Trees

Other uses for TS-E lenses include being able to recompose the shot, such as it looks as though you were standing further to one side than you actually are. This is useful for example of taking a shot of an object with a shiny surface in which you might catch your reflection if you stand in front of it to take the shot. You can stand to the side slightly but then shift the lens so that it appears as though you are standing directly in front of the lens. You can also do this to create panorama shots. To do this, mount the camera on a tripod and take one shot shifted to the right, one in the center, then one to the right without moving the camera. The result is three shots that can be stitched together to make one wide panorama shot, but you won’t get the usual perspective distortion that you get by doing this by panning your camera with a normal lens. I’ve not used my lens for these last two uses, but it’s worth bearing them in mind if you have a TS-E lens.

Canon does three TS lenses for the EOS camera range. The one I have is the 24mm, and there is also a 45mm and 90mm lens, both with an aperture of f/2.8. Nikon also do a range of TS lenses, but I’m not sure about other manufacturers. If you are interested in a TS lens for your camera I’m sure a quick search on the Internet will turn up a supplier you can work with.

If you already have a TS lens and weren’t doing so already, I hope this will give you some ideas on how to get a little creative with it.

So, that’s about it for this week. Don’t forget that there are just two days left to the end of November, so if you want to be in with a chance of winning an original print at A3+ of the shot of your choice from my online gallery, all you have to do is make one post or more in the Forum at martinbaileyphotography.com. Registration is free if you are not already a member. See you there. Even if you don’t want an original print, your feedback is very welcome and can be done either in the forum, by private message from the forum, or via the Contact Form on the Podcasts page at my site.

Happy shooting! And I’ll see you next week.


Show Notes

The Music in the first 28 Podcasts is copyright of William Cushman © 2005, used with kind permission.

Audio

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