Obie Oberholzer is much more than a brilliant photographer with a keen eye. He has a story to tell which he does in a beguiling manner combining in your face colour photographs with his characteristic accompanying "happy-sad" words. My first encounter with his work was reading his book " Ariesfontein to Zuurfontein" which our local Bethlehem library fortunately possessed. Then I heard him speak at the Johannesburg's Photographic Society's national conference in 2000. The first session was very happy and the second was a tad sad, almost a paradoxical parallel of his work. Ever since I have keenly sought his books and his latest work "Diesel and Dust" is another masterpiece even though he no longer scrawls his entertaining stories .http://obieoberholzer.net/
|Mamiya RZ, 50mm, Kodak TMAX100, PMK|
This Chevrolet Fleetmaster was photographed in 2007 on a trip to Namaqualand and was found on a deserted road between Niewoudtville and Calvinia. I was rather surprised when I saw the cover of Obie's new book on his website and thought that looked familiar. It was the same car and Obie has given it the respect it so rightfully deserves by not showing it's ugly side. Strangely a few years earlier an image of mine bore an uncanny resemblance to a photograph of Obie's in his "Raconteur Road" book, Early Morning, Golden Gate National Park, Eastern Free State on page 77. Living in the area I had stumbled across this scene one afternoon with the burnt grass, green tree, ring of yellow grass and some storm clouds looming. With the help of a Cokin Yellow Blue Polariser and Velvia, the colours were enhanced however the fact that my photograph was similar in some respects to Obie's was hugely satisfying.
|Nikon F90x, 24mm, Fuji Velvia, Cokin Yellow Blue Polariser|
|Mamiya RZ, 50mm|
Kolmanskop has been photographed by many and there are many beautiful images of the abandoned place out there. The old hospital with the first X-ray machine in the Southern Hemisphere had a eerie feel to it. Surfing through Obie's website I checked out his photograph taken down that long hospital corridor. I had something similar taken in 2002 however the colour, perspective and angle make them rather different. It is understandable that similarities will occur in images taken by different photographers in such places as Kolmanskop, Sossusvlei and other famous landmarks. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and with such a host of photographic websites including Flickr around it is inevitable that photographic plagiarism will exist.
These random photographs of similar scenes remind me how differently each one sees things. Thankfully there is only one Obie Oberholzer and though it would be wrong to try and emulate his distinct photographic style we certainly could do with many more imitating his individualistic approach and his love for people and this crazy continent of Africa.