Greg Lomas

Greg Lomas has made a habit of exploring Africa and documenting his journeys along the way. We discover how he made the transition from graphic design into photography and filmmaking.

  DIY: Give us a short description of a day in the life of Greg Lomas?

 Greg: Coffee will introduce the day to me, and right now my workday lacks a general rhythm since I am currently balancing a number of projects and trying to give each one attention. So potentially my day could involve anything from interviewing a traditional zulu tailor; walking around downtown Durban trying to flog fake animal furs; photographing a story on street culture in Umlazi, designing a brand identity for a start-up company or addressing a silly amount of emails and balancing books.

I would recommend travelling harder, going a little bit further, doing something more unusual, and doing it for yourself.

DIY: You come from a graphic design background, when did you begin your journey into film and photography and why? Has the transition been easy? In terms of a creative sense, what do you find is the major difference between the two fields?

Greg: For me graphic design is one of the most commercial forms of storytelling, but at the end of the day it is still about communicating a message and compiling the right elements to tell the story or the message in the most accessible and most interesting way, and how to be creative about it. I think a lot of photographers and videographers are very technical and lack creativity and vision, and design trains you to be creative and different about your message. In that way photography and film are the same, and I think my design and advertising background has been useful in terms of understanding quickly how best to tell a story or profile an experience, or what people are drawn to. In a creative sense I find film and photography more tactile, and for me it is still a less commercial venture. Photography has always been a hobby of mine, and I have naturally and always had an interest in film, especially documentary film, though more as an outsider and fan than as a career-choice but somewhere deep down always wanted to explore it eventually. About five years I began to exhibit my photography and started collecting bodies of work to display to the public rather than storing them away, and then slowly began to gather requests to shoot commercially, although this is still very secondary. Regarding film I won a commission with Colwyn Thomas about 7 years ago to produce a 25-minute documentary for ETV, and I loved that process of storytelling, and the exploration of a very foreign subject matter and wanted to do more of it. It took a lot longer than I hoped and only launched my career as a filmmaker when we began working full time on To Skin a Cat at the start of 2011. The move into film is now easier than ever with the development of film capabilities on DSLR cameras, so the difference between a photographer and videographer is now smaller than ever before. Most of all I love being outdoors and not always trapped behind a computer screen.


DIY: When did you start your love affair with your trusty Hasselblad? Since you are shooting on film how does this influence your approach to your subjects and how you shoot them? Has the preparation behind the shoot become just as important as the final click?

Greg: I have shot on film longer than I have shot digital, since digital photography is still quite new. I have always loved the process of shooting on film, and I believe the quality of image and the depth of grain is still far superior to digital in many ways. While I loved 35mm the quality I had seen on medium-format film was so rich, warm and detailed that I wanted to explore it more. Since medium-format film is both more expensive to buy, develop and process, it becomes even more of a precious process when shooting, so I find myself being very considerate on the subject matter, and really deciding whether it is worth blowing a frame on, and then going to great lengths to make sure the composition is just right. Since you can’t shoot from the hip there is a very careful consideration and thought as well as patience that goes into the process, which in a lot of creative processes has been lost these days.


DIY: What do you find the most challenging when photographing people? Any crazy/funny stories that you can share?

Greg: Oddly enough for me the most challenging thing when it comes to shooting people is finding the courage to go up to them and engage with them and ask their permission or to motivate them why of everyone else you want to capture them. It really forces you to break your comfort- zones, which is adventurous and rewarding. It is forces me to be considerate and respectful with someone or the subject at hand. I have travelled a lot and photography has been a means to further my adventures, and vice versa, and I’ve run aground on a reef in a dhow in the Indian Ocean with fishermen in Kenya, and almost capsized a dugout canoe while night fishing with men in Malawi and I was threatened in Morocco for sneaking a photograph of a crazy old man, but nothing very threatening; just the potential to lose some gear.


DIY: Your photography is very focused on the people of our city and our neighbouring countries, how do you think it differs from the standard photos one would see in “African” coffee table books?

Greg: Well, I think I still shoot for myself. I have shot very little commercial work, so the majority of the body of my work is me capturing my own experience for myself, and not for someone else. It’s pretty much a form of photo-journalism. In this way I have put myself generally in less-commercial environments. When I travel I’m not put up in a five-star lodge but rather roughing it on a less trodden track, and in my spare time I enjoy walking through the arcades of Durban’s CBD over Umhlanga and I am shooting in a style that I find attractive and interesting without caring what the market thinks. So I’m not shooting classic photography of children in rural environments or giraffes at sunset in a safari camp. I’m shooting people I am drawn to in interesting places with stories that fascinate me and maybe no one else. I’m not shooting commercially and making it real pretty, but for myself, which is probably why my work doesn’t sell! The upside of this is that more and more I am starting to attract commercial work in my ‘style‘ and for my approach, so although selfish and self-indulgent it is now attractive to others. I guess this approach means I’ve defined my own style.


DIY: You have mentioned before that you are fascinated by people and this pursuit has led you to interesting places and not the pursuit of taking photos. For our aspiring photographers out there, how do you go about organising these trips, are they work related or own your own downtime?

Greg: Initially they have been in my own downtime, as I have always been inspired to travel and found it really rewarding, but more and more they are beginning to become work-related, which is great because it gives your travel experience real purpose and sustainability rather than just missioning around in your time off. I have been traveling all around Africa as much as possible over the last decade, and I’ve always been drawn to its beauty and chaos and its sense of surprise, and I’ve tried my best to go to interesting places as more and more places becomes more commercial and easier to frequent, and that drive puts you in some peculiar situations and something is bound to go awry and if your comfort zone is properly broken you’re more than likely going to have to ask someone for help or engage with them in some way. Then you are already in an environment that is more than likely going to produce more opportunity for great images. So I would recommend traveling harder, going a little bit further, doing something more unusual, and doing it for yourself. You’ll find the image afterwards. It’ll present itself. A lot of Africa is becoming more and more accessible, but also more expensive, but it’s easier to get around now. I will say that I have never felt threatened or in any great danger, and I think that’s important to bear in mind when heading out there.


DIY: Six months ago we chatted to Colwyn Thomas about the progress of the Skin A Cat foundation you both started. What is the latest news on that front? Are you closer to reaching your funding goals to complete the project? What needs to happen to make that realisation come true?

Greg: To Skin a Cat is coming along really nicely. We have guaranteed our full funding, allowing us to actually finish the film, and the fake fur product is advancing well and the Shembe church has shown great interest and enthusiasm in accepting the fake skins and beginning to discuss conservation primarily around leopard fur but other animals too. So all these elements means the end is actually in sight and the campaign is proving successful. Its been a long road, with a long list of massive challenges, and so it’s nice to see the end in sight and know we are actually going to produce something, and that thing I think will be really rewarding and important.


DIY: The year is coming to a close & its time to start making plans for 2013, anything major going down for you?

Greg: Obviously finishing To Skin a Cat before the end of the year is really exciting, and being able to launch that in the new year and hopefully pick up a broadcaster and tour the film is a great thing to look forward to. We’re also very involved in the development of fake furs, and we’re excited to see what impact this initiative makes to conservation. Other than that I’ve just finished a music video for Andrew James and I’ve been asked to shoot some nice stories for some international publications.


You can check out Greg’s website here and show him some love on Facebook and twitter.

9 Responses to “Greg Lomas”
  1. Micaela says:

    beyond amazing photographs.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Great article and some really interesting people.

  3. ian says:

    As always the DHS art boys represent – Greg you indeed do us proud!

  4. Kasia says:

    Loved reading this article, a fitting title,beautiful photographs.

  5. Really, really gorgeous photographs. Any of these for sale anywhere?

  6. Daisy says:

    Wow, what amazing photography, what an interesting life!

  7. Tanika says:

    Awesomeness!!! Beautiful pictures… 😀

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