Our Interviews

Tao Farren-Heffer: Life in South Africa

Tao Farren-Heffer uses the photographic lens to explore life and beach culture in his native South Africa.
AG: How did you start taking photographs? What inspired you?
Farren-Heffer: My love affair with filmmaking and photography was a natural progression from my passion for fine art during my schooling years.
Looking back, I had always thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures, spending countless hours figuring out the post production techniques.
AG: How would you describe your photographic practice?
Farren-Heffer: My photographic practice is generally very loose and unplanned. I do my best to keep a camera on me at all times, and engage with my surroundings as much as possible, staying present in the moment without forcing or searching for anything in particular.
I then  only capture a frame when I feel truly compelled to. I think this natural state of awareness of the feeling and the moment, as opposed to forcing an image with careful planning and multiple shots, has developed from starting with analogue film cameras.
I feel that my best work is created when I am neutral and “listening”, the choices becoming intuitive as I shoot what pleases me, for myself.

In my later years, once I have become more comfortable with the technicalities of capturing images, I have really started to question the content of my imagery, and the responsibility I have as someone lucky enough to be working with these incredibly powerful mediums.I’m shifting the focus of my work to explore different themes and ideas within my own life, and those around me. It’s a challenge in this current world full of distractions, but I am constantly reminding myself to focus on stories that create a feeling within me, instead of simply sharing another pretty picture.


AG: You create a lot of street photography. How do you choose your subject matter?
Farren-Heffer:  I wish to make a positive impact with my work, relaying the way I feel the world around us should be viewed.
I’ve come to realise how easy it is to create negative habits and perceptions of our surroundings in our mind, and have been working hard internally to replace these habits with a positive outlook. I would like my photography to be an extension of this view.
It’s just my personal opinion, but if I can give someone an alternative way of looking at something that is usually viewed negatively, then this shift in perception has achieved my goal. This enormous opportunity for change is especially relevant within our beautiful continent.
Growing up in Cape Town surrounded by two different oceans, my subject matter mostly involves the ocean. I have always lived near it, and am pulled towards it every day. It’s a natural in born-longing. Because of this, a lot of my work has centered around the interactions and dependency on the sea by many contrasting cultures and people. This shared love for the sea brings me a lot of inspiration and happiness.
AG: How do you think your work reflects your home? What would you like people to know about South Africa?
Farren-Heffer: I do my best to keep my work a neutral representation of my home and surroundings. If there is a positive slant to it, it is because that is my general mindset. I love this country and it’s diverse range of people. Some people like to complain about what they don’t have, or what doesn’t work here, but there are others who are open to the uncountable positive characteristics. You will always find what you are looking for, and there is a lot of everything in South Africa.

Just one of the reasons that makes this place so unique, is the amazing beauty is contrasted by raw danger. Everything is not always as it seems, and this balance is what keeps me madly in love with it. Trying to describe South Africa in words (and all African countries for that matter), is impossible, it is something you have to experience for yourself, and I would obviously recommend this to everyone.

With regards to work and inspiration, when traveling around most other countries, I often feel uninspired to take photographs. Anywhere within Africa, I struggle to put my camera down.
AG: What words of advice do you have for budding photographers?
Farren-Heffer: To any budding photographers, I would advise that they find a camera that they are comfortable with keeping on their body at all times, and shoot every day, wherever possible.
A big thank you to Tao for sharing his incredible work with us!

One comment

  1. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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