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Simon de Haast’s exhibition ‘Vujà Dé - The stories we tell ourselves’ evoke feelings of wonder

She's a Rainbow by Simon de Haast. Picture: Supplied

She's a Rainbow by Simon de Haast. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 29, 2022

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Simon de Haast says his latest thought-provoking exhibition "Vujà Dé - The stories we tell ourselves" is more than just simply putting art on a wall.

“It’s about taming the inner critic and having creative confidence. Where this exhibition takes me is uncertain but after many years, I’m ready,” says De Haast.

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“Vujà Dé - The stories: A colour field photographic” is set to take place at Ground Art Caffe in Cape Town from April 7 to May 31.

His photography is of everyday objects and scenes where he plays with motion, curiosity, light, and colour, in a way that triggers an exploration of one’s own story, using pixels, computational photography, and rule-breaking.

“A few months ago I did some large test prints of some of my favourite digital images, and seeing them manifest in physical form was simply mind-blowing - to see the colour explosions a metre wide made me realise that I needed to share these images with the wider world. It may have been the emotional charge of the colours that shifted something in me,“ says De Haast.

“Each image has little resemblance to the original object I shot, so I hope that at the very least visitors will walk away with a highly imaginative storyline as to what they think they were. Hence the exhibition sub-title: The stories we tell ourselves.

“And I hope that the blends and colours evoke feelings of wonder and curiosity, that they (visitors) can swap with strangers their own stories and perceptions of what’s in front of them. And maybe even awaken a long-denied creative spark to start creating,” he says.

The Cape Town-based photographer has been using a camera in one form or another for over 40 years, including shooting rock bands for Rolling Stone SA magazine.

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“I was always surrounded by camera equipment when I was growing up, so I had the opportunity to be very competent in the basics early on.

“As I stumbled through my 20s and 30s’ various life events, photography had lost its appeal to me.

“It was only many years later though, looking through binoculars at a Metallica concert in Green Point that something sparked inside me and reminded me that this was a way of combining two things I loved, music and looking through a lens and capturing epic images.

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“That kick-started a long period of shooting rock bands, something I’m deeply grateful to those bands that let me be part of their performances, and feel privileged to have been a part of. That is also why in the exhibition there is a music thread in the artworks and their titles,” he says.

Nightclubbing by Simon de Haast. Picture: Supplied

De Haast believes in the idea of a portfolio life and it is expressed in other work that he does for an advertising agency as their innovation lead, where he helps clients with vujà dé, seeing old things in new ways.

De Haast is self-taught and he learnt to master the art of photography by working with a “fixer in the darkroom”.

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Reflecting on some of the highlights of his career, De Haast says: “Having access to backstage moments, being invited to photograph famous musicians in their recording studios, exploring new techniques and happy accidents that led me to this new abstract path.

“For the first five years of shooting bands, I didn’t own a camera. I rented or borrowed from trusting friends.

“So the clear lesson to me was, there are ways around a lack of resources, and if the creative urge is strong enough, there will always be a way. It really helps if one is humble and polite - a lot more doors open when you have an unentitled attitude.

“One of the quotes I live by is from Ansel Adams, one of the world’s most famous photographers: ’A good photograph is knowing where to stand’.

“At face value, this can be taken to mean that moving around to a great angle or composition is critical.

“However, I also relate to it having a deeper meaning: “stand” for me means finding a way to get into a situation, to get a shot in the first place, that no one else can, for example, being on an early morning mountain climb to capture the sunrise over the fog, diving with sharks, or being backstage in a theatre shooting ballet,” he says.

Don’t miss “Vujà Dé - The stories: A colour field photographic” at the Ground Art Caffe in Cape Town from April 7 to May 31.

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