The many faces of Cape Town

Western Cape

Cape Town - Everyone has a story, and all stories matter.

A quick click around the Humans of Cape Town Facebook page proves as much.

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"I'm a single father. I've been raising my son alone since he was 1 year old, now he is almost 5 and I can tell you it is not easy. I have to pay triple, the fees for crèche, then for the day mother and the nanny who takes care of him afterwards while I am working. I have a lot of respect for women and what they do for our communities, many on their own.""Please come to our tree house for tea."

"Do you live in a tree house?"

"Yes its in Bo Kaap in the mountains, its where the Zimbabweans are. I've been living there with my boyfriend for 1 1/2 years.""Wow! Did you fix it?"

"Yes I did."

"How long did it take you?"

"Ummm, from the shop to here."

The page features portraits of everyday people in the places they frequent, and a short quote offering a peephole into their lives.

It is based on the wildly popular Humans of New York photography blog, started by Brandon Stanton in 2010. His Facebook page has 7.8 million followers and has been turned into a bestselling book.

Cape Town’s effort has a fraction of the following, but no less personality. The woman behind the portraits is Christina Primke, who began snapping strangers on the street about a year ago.

She doesn’t approach them with a set of questions – rather, she lets the conversation flow and takes notes in her head.

“I’m into photography so I just decided I’m going to start this,” Primke said. “It was a bit awkward at first to approach strangers and make them share their stories. I was very nervous.”

She started in Woodstock, with a friend to do the talking while she took photographs.

“I’m very much an observant photographer – I don’t want people to notice the camera,” Primke said.

But she thrives on communication, and now has an excuse to delve deeper into the lives of the people she meets around the city.

Primke is originally from Germany, and moved to Cape Town in 1997. Her posts are peppered with South African slang.

“I’m telling local narratives. I see myself as a carrier, a connecting point. It’s like storytelling as a tool to heal and to share stories.”

She has never been turned away by a subject. “It’s such a win-win situation,” she said. “People love to share, they love being asked what they think.”

Primke said she often felt as though her subjects had been waiting for somebody to talk to. “It feels like people carry their stories under the skin, waiting to be told. It’s a natural thing to want that, but often nobody’s really listening.”

The stories and pictures she has collected so far are nameless but full of rich personality and eclectic experience.

A young man working at a bistro is pictured saying: “I was supposed to study IT this year but then someone broke into my house in Rondebosch and stole my school fees. Without the fees I got stuck and was like, ‘well then I’m going to work this year and make the money back’. That’s life. We win some, we lose some.”

A girl with curiously coloured eyebrows says: “I like to tint my eyebrows green. It makes me feel like a piece of delicious mint chocolate”.

Meanwhile, a man Wearing a tailcoat in town said: “I’m a single father. I’ve been raising my son alone since he was one year old, now he is almost five and I can tell you it is not easy. I have a lot of respect for women and what they do for our communities, many on their own.”

Another stylish older man told Primke: “I’m from Langa. I’m the first black hippie. I was first and then it became a movement. Life is rough, it needs good people. Take your time, don’t rush anything.”

A portrait of three white men at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu prompted this response: “We are all from Durbanville. Our boss took us here for our work function. It’s a bit weird still, a bit of a culture shock but we love it here.” The boss explained: “I chose this place to bring people closer together. You see, these guys like to drink, they like music and meat, so we fit right in.”

Primke may have no shortage of subjects with stories, but while working a full-time job, she simply tries to be consistent with her posts and hopes to expand the project’s following further.

“I want it to be authentic, I want it to be natural,” she said. “Everyone has a story. All stories matter.”

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Cape Argus

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