Xavier Vahed

Durban has a lot of photographic talent. It’s impossible to deny it, and in a small city, with so much talent, it can be hard to stand out. Xavier Vahed has taken the challenge to rise above and make a name for himself. Stathi Kougianos chats to him after the jump.

DIY: How have you been coping juggling your professional and personal photography?

Xavier: Up until recently, I had neglected my own photography. Having just moved out, I had to focus on making money which meant doing some mind-numbingly boring shoots. I must admit, it seriously mamed my love for photography. I realised that I wasn’t doing work that I enjoyed but rather that which paid the bills. I feel like I’ve reached a better balance now. Planning is crucial and in order to create the photographs that make me sweat with excitement while I look through the viewfinder, I have to set aside the time.

 I want my photography to be memorable.

DIY: Best and worst thing about working with another photographer on a shoot?

Xavier: I prefer working alone but when I do work with others, it’s great to have someone on the set who is as excited as I am about the process of constructing the perfect image. The worst part? Having to rely on someone else. There’s less likely to be a fuck up and if there is one, I’d prefer to be solely accountable.



DIY: How do you deal with people who don’t want to be photographed or are unaware that you’re shooting them?

Xavier: I hate event photography. Mass produced photographs aren’t my thing. There’s always a group of drunk teeny boppers wanting new profile pictures and equally drunk boitchies in skinnies spilling beer on my lens, demanding to see the photograph as soon as I’ve taken it. Protest photography is far more exciting. There is something elicit and dangerous about it which thrills me. In such cases, if people don’t want me to take their picture, it usually doesn’t deter me, especially if I’m legally protected.


DIY: People. They seem to be the focus of your work, how do you choose your subjects?

Xavier: It’s completely subjective to the theme of the shoot. Once I know the theme and direction, I choose and style the models. The vast majority of the my shoots are contract shoots, so my models choose me, not the other way round.


DIY: If I forced you to choose, what category would you say your photography explores in terms of political, social or emotional portrayal?

Xavier: Jesus, what a question. Well, it would depend on what I was doing. I thoroughly enjoy protests and riot photography and in such cases, my photography is politically charged. I’d like to think I express a certain energy through my fashion work that compliments the designers original inspirations, which is best displayed through a recent shoot with Joel Janse van Vuuren. At the end of the day, I’m not too concerned about what my photography says to someone else. I’m not trying to convey any message in the personal work that I do – all I really want to do is create something pretty and that’s one of the reasons I love photography so very much. I like pretty things.



DIY: Have you ever offended anyone?

Xavier: Yes. I once did a shoot for a group of “voluptuous” women. Apparently I made them look fat.
They won’t be hiring me again.

DIY: What direction do you think photography will go in the future?

Xavier: Hyper realism seems to be losing its touch as is photoshopping the shit out of every pixel. For a lot of photographers, their specific editing techniques have become their personal signature. Dave Hill is a prime example – you can recognise one of his shots immediately. Photoshop has changed photography, but the degree to which it is used is determined by the style of the photographer and/or the desires of the client. As for the future, I think there will always be space for hyper realism.



DIY: What kind of impression do you hope to leave upon other’s who see your photographs?

Xavier: I’m excited by own photography and meeting people who share this emotion about my work is a rewarding feeling. I want my photography to be memorable. I don’t know if it is, but that’s certainly what I am aim to achieve. If people see my photos in a couple years time and still enjoy the image, I’d be stoked.


DIY: Are there any recent developments or conflicts happening in Durban that you feel you really have to document in your work?

Xavier: At the moment, I’m focusing on planned, staged shoots and not on what’s going on in the city. There are enough photographers covering COP 17. In the past, I’ve enjoyed following protests and riots such as the shack dwellers of Abahlali and the res dwellers at UKZN.



DIY: What projects are you currently working on?

Xavier: I’m currently working on a number of things, the most exciting being a collection of scenes from some of my favourite Roald Dahl short stories. Its something I’ve wanted to do for sometime but only recently started to iron out and cast. Each requires a lot of preparation and finding the right actors is proving to be trickier than expected.


DIY: And finally, your dream shoot?

Xavier: It may sound a little pathetic, but I’d love to follow Death Cab for a year, capturing everythingand also doing their promo and album work. In the same breath I’d also have to say that working with James Nachtwey would be other worldly. The thought of seeing what he sees gives me goosebumps.


22 Responses to “Xavier Vahed”
  1. Erin says:

    Nice one, Xavier!

  2. luke says:

    that last shot. what in the fuck. explanation please?

  3. jen says:

    that last shot is madness wow! but then again love all your pics.. great stuff!!

  4. Thomas says:

    Xavier you champion!

  5. Thomas says:

    . . . woah . . . heavy days.

  6. Sulubobsled says:

    Nasi ‘sikhokho!

    What a baaawsssss.

  7. WTF says:

    Although well composed etc that last shot could have come with some warning..

  8. Micaela says:

    Favourite photographer. And even better friend. Xavles you rock.

  9. Bob says:

    Hey guys, sorry about the lack of warning with the last shot, I decided to roll with it even though it’s gruesome because it’s an unfortunate reality of our lives and something that many of us have or will witness or experience.

  10. Biggy says:

    unnecessary last shot! Aiming to shock is the cool thing to do though… right?

  11. luke says:

    i thought it may have been set-up. fucking wild. end of the day, the truth is shocking.

  12. Ryan says:

    Methinks that last shot came straight out of Xavier’s pron folder..

  13. Micaela says:

    The last shot & the protest shots contrast well with the staged studio work, showing Xavier’s diversity as a photographer. Me thinks. Look up one of his influence’s James Nachtwey and you’ll see the horror photography can capture and the power it can have.

  14. Kevin Goss-Ross says:

    What a boss. As for the last shot – at least it’ll make everyone drive more carefully today.

  15. rich says:

    oh crud. awesome stuff. perfect.

  16. Xavier says:

    Hey all, thanks for the wonderful comments! Much appreciated. With regards to the last photo, it was not staged. It was something I came across on my way into Durban. An old couple had stopped to help. At this point the lady is asking the people who were in the taxi they knew who she was.

  17. Matt S says:

    Love this guy, great photographer and an even better friend.

  18. These photos are wayyyyy too small…

    DIY improve this shit

  19. I CANT SEE SHIT!!! Its like looking at a star when you could be seeing gaseous explosions on the sun!


  20. Bob says:

    Can’t you hack them bigger? Come now, I thought you had skillz.

  21. I tried but dots happened some how…

    a res of 640 x 426 doesn’t give me much eye candy.



  22. Whoah. Hectic stuff. Very Brave Xave. I think people need to see that stuff. Even if it’s a bit rough.

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