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Written byTorsten du Toit

Exploring the beauty of everything around us with photography.

“Every single person is going to take something different from the same image” – Lucia Nel, a talented young photographer from Cape Town. Recently, Lucia held her first-ever public exhibition of her photography, showcasing over a hundred developed prints gathered over her years of collecting memories with her loved ones and the places she‘s been.

Walking into the display, inside of the Heritage Square on Bree St, earlier this week, I was immediately flooded with a sense of familiarity and interconnectivity between myself, the photography, and ergo the artist.

The display of her printed work wonderfully captures Lucia’s experiences and her aptitude to see the beauty in everything around us, whether it be something as mundane as a wall, or as intriguing as another soul.

Every picture helped build a narrative, detailing travels, faces we will always see, and people we will never meet again. The narrative spoke out to me in its simplest form: the writing on the wall:

“I’m always looking for those moments that ooze love and appreciation
– Lucia Nel

Seeing years of memories spread across a 7-metre wall felt like flipping through the channels of a stranger’s psyche, with memories ranging from afternoons in a veld to international holidays with friends. The piece that stuck out to me the most was an image of the Rhaetian Railway in Switzerland, a  bright red train that created a juxtaposition with the overcast sky and natural deep greens of the forestry. I had also stumbled across a print of an abandoned house covered with graffiti, which served to streamline the stories of everyone who lived in – and painted on – the building, which formed a completely new narrative in and of itself. Following this, I noticed a picture of a study desk, complete with a low-hanging light and stunning diamond Tudor windows. The colour bright palette added to create a nostalgic feeling, most notably with the contrasting colours on the light covering.

I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Lucia on her craft after I viewed the presentation, to find greater knowledge on what I was looking at. Around the age of 13 or 14, 

Lucia’s older brother began developing photographs to capture his memories with people. Seeing the photos developed months later bloomed into a passion for analog photography. Being in the moment while she takes these photos, she remembers the entirety of the day surrounding it, which drove her to spend entire days with the only goal in mind being to encapsulate memories forever. As of right now, she has plans to visit South America for 2 months to capture the beauty, essence, and culture of the people who live there, and to further her knowledge of the world outside of South Africa.

Lucia holds the philosophy that the way someone is perceived differs from person to person – and even themselves. This belief is shown in her work, where the meaning and emotion you derive from a still is completely different from the person standing next to you. Lucia’s craft has formed a bridge for others to appreciate life in all of its facets through her experiences, and I am delighted to see where her passion for photography goes from here.

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