Black and White Africa draws together Stuart Redler's recent photographs from South Africa, with images from excursions over the past two decades, through Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Compositionally bold and varied, Stuart's photographs are unified by a striking aesthetic, unusual perspectives and exquisite detail. From striking geometric architectural structures to tumultuous landscapes, engaging portraiture and witty still lives, Stuart approaches his subjects with perceptiveness and alacrity.
Not restricted to his photographs of Africa, but throughout his portfolio of work, Stuart moves nimbly between different subject matter. In Woodpile logs are piled several feet high, a tower removed from its context and surroundings, bathed in a bright white light, like a Richard Long-esque abstract sculpture in a white gallery. In another photograph a meerkat stands poised and alert. Plants are woven, folded, platted and crimped by children to sell to visitors. Stuart captures their unusual forms as they are tucked and twisted into alien-like figures, which become partially transparent when the leaves are placed in the shade against the sky. In Keep Left, tracks of vehicles veering left or right as the road forks, have a painterly quality as undulating clouds pass over the land. There is a sense of the open road and a great enjoyment of the land and the country.
In Market Street Stuart concentrates on textured and tactile structures; the photograph is divided horizontally into thirds between the striped awning, the coarsely rendered wall and the sky above. Tightly focused and compositionally dynamic, Stuart's photographs give importance to variegated leaves, or the way in which the light glances across a corrugated metal roof.
There is an overarching sense of humour in Stuart's photographs. Submerged hippos play staring games with the camera lens while witty titles lend another engaging element to Stuart's work.
With a highly distinctive photographic style, Stuart's striking and contemporary black and white images are accentuated by the bright African sunlight and the strong deep shadows. After shooting with Mamiya and Leica medium format cameras, Stuart edits and hand prints each series of images, a highly important part of the process which often takes more time than the trip itself.
The unmistakable African-ness of these photographs, stems from Stuart's affection for the continent, demonstrated by his repeated visits. On this recent trip, Stuart's route encircles the Kingdom of Lesotho a landlocked country surrounded by its only neighbouring country, the Republic of South Africa. The eastern part of the route is sub tropical, hot and wet in summer, whereas the western part, towards Kimberley, is hot and dry in summer. The two landscape photos were shot in the Eastern Cape, in Mountain Zebra National Park. Created in the 1930's the park is a conservational success story now protecting over seven hundred zebra as well as endangered black rhino and cheetah. Included in the exhibition are photographs of the Wagendrift damn in KwaZulu Natal on the Bushman's River, which feeds from the Drakensberg mountains. The traditional beehive huts were photographed in KwaZulu Natal and near Johannesburg.
While Africa may seem synonymous with colour - the deep reds of the sand and the unripe greens of the bush - Stuart's photographs make it is as if it has always existed in black and white.
Having completed his photography degree at LCP, Stuart has received awards from the Association of Photographers, Graphics, PDN New York and Communication Arts, amongst others. His work is included in the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery in London and has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Stuart has received a number of awards, including six from The Association of Photographers who awarded him Gold for his portfolio of architectural images.