A quick google search of Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg, will likely yield tough headlines of life living in South Africa’s largest township. Tshepiso Seleke (below), known by his Instagram handle TheDarkroomArtist, is a cinematographer and photographer born in Orlando, Soweto who is documenting another side of life there.
The district is also home to a vibrant arts community, boasting some of South Africa’s best-known actors, musicians, and artists. The district is also home to the Soweto derby, a football rivalry between the country’s two most storied clubs, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
Through his photo essays, Tshepiso has developed a massive social media following, but his art inspiration came as a child. “I used to see my uncle drawing while I was growing up, and that inspired me to want to express myself through art,” he says. The artist also had an early encounter with photography. “I was exposed to a darkroom as I was growing up, that is the earliest memory I have of photography,” he smiles, the memory still pretty much alive in his imagination. Having worked in the media industry for many years, Tshepiso has developed an eye and skills behind the lens, while at the same time forging a creative outlook and a fresh eye for content. Since rising to prominence in Johannesburg, Tshepiso has exhibited his images at some of South Africa’s best known art galleries, including Fotoza, Newtown, Rand Club, and Museum Afrika.
A recent photo series by Tshepiso documents the daily commute of those living in Soweto. A stone’s throw away from Johannesburg’s central business district, the morning commute can be incredibly chaotic. Being from the city I can attest to that myself. It is not just the chaotic commute that Tshepiso documents, it is what the commute represents. For many in Soweto, and surrounding areas of Johannesburg, the morning brings with it a fresh start, hope rises with the sun here, and that hope, desire, and will, to go again, each day, even when the day before may have not bee successful is what drives people here. It is also the passion that drove Tshepiso to document the commute. “I love documenting everyday people that commute, I am inspired by their everyday life, and the struggle to push beyond boundaries.”
“Documenting people commuting gives me a sense of hope and wisdom,” he adds, “it’s always enlightening to see people striving for a better life and pushing themselves to succeed even through the harsh conditions.”
Included in the commute photo series is a set of images that show old women and men in South Africa, who rise every morning and arrive outside the taxi stops, and train stations to sell vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Others sell clothing, sweets, or gadgets, basically, anything one needs for almost any situation the day may present to you.
Tshepiso is constantly singing the words, “There’s music in the air,” a lyric that has stuck with him. In these parts of South Africa, during the hustle and bustle of the morning commute, you can hear the music playing, while people go on with their lives. For as long as the music plays, hope will rise in people as the sun rises on Soweto, and people keep on keeping on with the same desire for success in the harsh climates of a Johannesburg township.