A Conversation With South African Photographer Krisjan Rossouw

A Conversation With South African Photographer Krisjan Rossouw

Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Krisjan Rossouw is a self-taught fine art photographer whose work transcends the ordinary to the extraordinary; his images are riveting, inspiring and overwhelmingly enchanting. What makes Krisjan’s signature style so special is his play on darkness and light, as well as the powerful elements of African beauty and botany.

Before becoming a professional photographer in 2009, he worked a series of fashion and commercial industry-related jobs–first, as a model driver and chaperone, and later, as a model booker. During that time, he became friends with the stunning models whom now grace the photographs that have become so widely recognized and sought out by international collectors, and praised by the likes of CNN and Marie Claire.

We’re thrilled to introduce some of Krisjan’s most coveted limited-edition works, including photographs from his critically acclaimed series, “Dark Paradise”, which were shot in an underground bomb shelter built for lieutenants during World War I. Find out more about his creative journey, his love for Africa and more, in an exclusive new interview!

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What’s your story, Krisjan Rossouw?

I’m a self-taught South African photographer with no formal training. Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue any kind of art or creative study. My mom actually bought me my first camera in 2009–a Nikon D5000 with a basic lens. No tripods, no photographic lighting… from there, it was a matter of trial and error. Since I had no equipment, my style developed from using everyday light, like bedside lamps and fluorescent tubes, and working out a way to layer different light qualities to make something original. It took me three years to complete my 1st exhibit, “Dark Paradise”.

Your photographs capture the beauty and strength of a woman. What inspired you to work with these elements?

Exploring the intrinsic beauty and fragility of nature. My photographic studies fuse a reflection of African beauty and botany in a gentle play of darkness and light. Painters like Vladimir Tretchikoff and Caravaggio had an effect on me–the way Caravaggio painted light and shadow, and Tretchikoff’s unusual sense of color in some of his portraits. I’m constantly being inspired by everything around me.

How would you describe your creative process?

I don’t have proper photographic lighting, and prefer not to use it since it “kills” colour. When it comes to my models, I don’t merely pose them; I see my work as a collaborative effort between all involved in an organic process. Whereas photography captures a single moment, I look for a painterly interpretation.


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What role do you think art plays in a home?

I see art as a luxury. I grew up in a very poor household, so there was absolutely no art. The first form of beauty that I experienced was the beauty right outside of my house–nature and the ocean. I would bring in dried kelp, seaweed or burned or painted dead trees. That was my art, and it made me feel rich and happy. Art doesn’t have to be bought; it’s all around you! You just have to open your eyes and your heart.

What message do you want to convey through your art?

My main purpose is to create beauty. People can draw their own conclusions as to what each photograph means to them. My hope is that when people look at my images, they feel a sense of happiness…even a little smile means that I’ve succeeded in my job.

As an artist, what legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Beauty is in everything. Pertaining to Africa, there is so much beauty to give. If everyone just gives a little positivity and lends a helping hand everyday, the world will be a completely different place. With empowering images from Africa, I hope to cast it in a more positive light.

Explore Krisjan’s coveted work here on Citizen Atelier.

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(This interview has been edited and condensed for length)