By Audrey T. Nyamucherera
Jesse Barnes aka Jessejewelzzz is one of Cape Town’s prominent photographers, a rising star and powerhouse in the mother city’s creative community. He’s worked with the likes of BROKE, Lemkus, Complex, Reebok, K Keed, whilst stealing some of the best shots at festivals like Rocking The Daisies and more. Building a name for himself and putting his people on the map while travelling the globe at the same time. This contemporary documentarian tells stories through his lens and is just getting started. We present JesseJewelzzz a jewel of CPT.
I don’t know to be honest. There have been so many sparks of inspiration from magazine cover shoots in need for speed underground 2, to the early Instagram era when everybody was taking pictures of the same stuff and putting IG filters on them. However I actually decided to start taking and producing photographic work post covid, it was the push of just being outside again and learning to document memories because everything can be taken away from us so quickly.
Most of all, I love photographing connections. connections between people, between people and environments, people and things, people and themselves. I want to get as close to the soul of a person or environment as possible.
I think most people know me for my concert and event work, along with music videos, documentaries and portraits.
How would you describe your style/your signature?
I don’t know if I’ve found my style or signature yet, and I’m not in a rush to find it to be honest. I’m taking my time to explore my own artistry while exploring different
environments. One thing that does run through all my work is cultural authenticity. No matter the environment. I try to fully immerse myself in it before even thinking about taking out my camera.
What’s your favourite camera/lens?
I prefer different set ups for different reasons. as of now, my favourite camera and
lens for portraits is my Mamiya rb67 with the 90mm f3.8. For more on the go street
stuff and quick portraits I prefer my Contax 167 with the zeiss 50mm T* (I think it’s the most realistic lens I’ve ever shot on). I also love the idea of just having a camera in my phone whenever I need it, it’s currently the most developed version of the point and shoot concept, until we get cameras installed into our eyes that are directly connected to the memory cells in our brain.
Why did you choose the pictures you’ve shared with BROKE??
I have a special relationship with most of my work, and the ones I chose are some of my favourite work I’ve ever made. 3 of the photos are from this year, the BROKE
tracksuit mafia shoot really came out in such a unique way to our stories and didn’t have much outside influence, mainly just ideas that Ace and I had that were in line. the other is from the smibxtnofest i shot in Amsterdam in August. I’ve been trying to get into more festival stuff because I really enjoyed shooting some festivals in South Africa, but they’re so few and far between and the media access is so tricky to access. So when I got the opportunity to shoot a rap festival in a whole other country it was so fulfilling. The photo I chose was taken from my favourite place to shoot at a festival, the crowd haha. Lastly the 3rd is of my brother insertcoinz after he destroyed his set at Rocking The Daisies, he had just performed and we thought lets capture this moment of stardom and a genuine milestone. We had to capture the magic! The other photos i selected are among my favourite work thus far.
What type of photography do you want to be known for?
I want to be known for a very pure experience of cultural photography, specifically
within the coloured community and other communities like sport, cars and music.
Do you think photography is an art or should be recognised as one?
I think photography is art, I think it’s the most realistic form of art because it has the
closest connection to the human eye. This causes it to be overlooked as an art form, but the same way drawing stokkie mannetjies (stick people) can be considered as art, even a photo on your phone should be considered art if it’s intentionally done.
If someone wanted to start photography what camera would you suggest?
Your phone! You already have it, practice composition. when you want to explore
more you can just find something on marketplace for a good price and just buy and
sell as you learn along the way.
Finally where would you like to see your work shown?
A dream I have is to have an exhibition in Gatesville, a place that has shaped a lot of the person I’ve become. I hope to have a group showing with some artists and friends from the 7764.