Salym Fayad: Your new book Like Stains of Red Dirt is different from your previous projects. After a number of photographic projects in different parts of Africa – like in Mozambique, where you took a reflective approach to the post-war period, or in the collaboration we did together in Guinea-Bissau, where we addressed the issue of memory and of the nostalgia embedded in dreams of independence – this new work seems to go in a different direction. This book takes an inward gaze; a very intimate and personal perspective composed by images of your house, your things and your family.
Juan Orrantia: In Like Stains of Red Dirt I approach my relationship with this particular place: with South Africa. And although the works in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique have another perspective, I feel that all these projects have something in common and that is the notion of representation. I want to talk about how to represent history in a post-war context, how to live out the memory of anti-colonial leaders and the effects of their struggle. And so my photography is guided by the question of how to capture that.
With respect to South Africa, I am talking about the place where I live my daily life and where I developed as a photographer. I have an intimate relationship with the place, which makes those questions more difficult to address. So I do it inside my own spaces; the book is filtered through my experience. This is not a book about a place, but from a place.
I perceive my relationship with South Africa as an accumulation of emotions, anxieties and frustrations crossed by historical and political currents. Consequently, the idea of how to represent this also implies the question of representation of the African continent. In my attempt to answer this question, I use color; as a reality, as a metaphor and as form. At the back of the book, I have titled miniatures of the photos with references. The point of this is not to dwell on formalities; rather, I want to indicate that the references – some clearer, others more abstract or personal – go beyond the photo itself.