Cape Town through a lens of compassion

One of the images captured during the 2023 edition of “Boeka Under the Bridge”. Picture: Quaniet Richards

One of the images captured during the 2023 edition of “Boeka Under the Bridge”. Picture: Quaniet Richards

Published Sep 27, 2023


For many, Cape Town is synonymous with the majestic Table Mountain, shimmering waters, and the lively V&A Waterfront. But for some, like Quaniet Richards, the city has many more stories hidden amidst its bustling streets and quiet alleys. As a photographer, Richards not only captures these stories but breathes life into them, revealing the raw, unspoken narratives of Cape Town.

Dive deep into the urban heart of this coastal city, and one discovers an intricately woven tapestry of lives, dreams, struggles, and hopes.

Richards’ series, #humansofcapetown, is an embodiment of this intricate tapestry. Where most photographs become a mere visual delight, Richards’ frames encapsulate emotions and tales, drawing the viewer into a deeply immersive experience. Every click of his camera is an act of revealing - be it joy, despair, resilience, or the heartbreaking instances of Gender-Based Violence that surged during the pandemic.

But why black and white? This choice of monochromatism is not just an aesthetic one. In the absence of colour, each expression, shadow, and nuance is accentuated. It becomes less about the spectacle and more about the story. This poignant decision further underscores Richards' intent: to draw attention to the subject, to the soul of Cape Town, and to the myriad of emotions that colour cannot capture.

Understanding the power of collective effort, Richards joined forces with esteemed photographers Nawawie Mathews and Shamiel Albertyn. Their joint expertise birthed the #shoot4purpose initiative, a transformative street photography program dedicated to equipping women who have faced trauma with the skills to narrate their stories and those of their communities. Guiding their efforts is an advisory council, integral to the program’s triumphs. This council, featuring past participants Mishrah Sonday, Nabeela Essa, Nuraan Jacobs, Raygaan Jacobs, and Zaida Dollie, provides invaluable insights and direction.

Feedback from a recent participant of #shoot4purpose Cohort 7 beautifully encapsulates the transformative power of the program: “Being a part of #shoot4purpose Cohort 7 has been an elixir to my often-burdened soul. Not only has the experience been transformative and an alchemy to my traumas, but it has also brought in a new chapter of joy, friendships and a spirit of community to an often-lonely existence in the Cape.”

The achievements of #shoot4purpose in just two years are nothing short of remarkable. It has not only cultivated raw talent but has also fostered a community where like-minded individuals share, learn, and grow. Their upcoming events — the Cohort 8 workshop and the grand fifth exhibition — are highly anticipated by photography enthusiasts. But it isn't just the passion of these three photographers that drives this initiative; collaborations with iconic photography brands like Fujifilm South Africa and the Orms CT School of Photography provide the backbone and support that have been essential to its success.

Yet, why is photography, especially film photography, seeing a revival in an age dominated by digital images? The tangible, the physicality of film, the unpredictability, and the meticulous process it involves, offers a respite from the immediacy of the digital. It is this allure of the tangible, combined with the deep-rooted passion of photographers like Richards, that is breaking the stereotype of photography as an elitist hobby. It’s becoming more accessible, more democratic, and more reflective of the diverse society we live in.

But for Richards, the camera isn’t just an instrument to create art; it’s a tool for transformation. He believes in the profound power of images to communicate — to speak volumes where words might falter. And his mission is clear: to usher in a new era where photographers are not just passive observers but active participants in societal change.

Balancing dual roles, Richards navigates the financial corridors of Nedgroup Investments during the week. Yet, come the weekend, he trades his suit for his camera, traversing Cape Town’s myriad lanes and by-lanes. Every photograph he takes is a tribute to the city he calls home and the people who form its beating heart.

In this fast-paced digital age, where content is ephemeral and attention spans are dwindling, Richards stands out as a beacon of authenticity. He doesn't just capture moments; he preserves them, making them timeless. His work serves as a poignant reminder of the beauty that lies in authenticity, the stories that are often overlooked, and the undeniable power of empathy and compassion.

As Cape Town continues to evolve, Richards will undoubtedly be there, camera in hand, chronicling its journey. Through his empathetic lens, we get a chance to see, to understand, and to appreciate the city in all its complexity. His work is more than just photography; it's a love letter to Cape Town and its indomitable spirit.

For inquiries and more information, email: [email protected] or follow him on Instagram.