Yolandi Jacobsz - My Iconic 16 Women

When an American trip didn’t unfortunately happen for me as planned, I was in a position to cancel it all, and decide what am I now to do with the amazing Fujifilm XT-1 camera, with a XF56 APD lens, that the amazing guys, and especially Eslie Basson of Fujifilm South Africa, gave me to try out, and see what I could capture while being in the States.

He was so amazing, that after having to had let him know that the States trip is off, he mentioned to keep the camera, to try it - and then come back and see what my finding of it was. I thought by myself - have to make them proud here, and mostly, I have to try and prove something to myself.

So I started, with a personal project where I would photograph myself for the time I had the camera with me, which was about two weeks. I wanted to capture me, in a representation of a few different women- all famous or infamous for various reasons, and all women who have made an impact in mostly just my life, through either seeing their work in museums or art galleries, or hearing their music, or reading about their work somewhere.

So I started with Frida. Frida was an amazing artist and definitely had her own distinctive style. When Frida’s image turned out successful according to my own standards, I had the idea, that perhaps this could be very successful and perhaps I could make this work. Because I am a pro-photographer myself, I had my usual work during the day and as it called for, and usually at about 23h, I would start make-up and hair for these different characters. By about midnight I’d be finished and some shooting would start.

The Fujifilm XT-1 comes with wifi built-in, and an extraordinary feature of it, which helped me tremendously with this project, is the phone app you can use, to fire the camera. You can there and then see exposure, and if you need to change the lighting’s position for different shadows and effects, or change the aperture and shutter form your phone if you needed to.

I also didn’t want my self-project turning out to be severely expensive, and all styling, all clothes, and all accessories were things I already had at home. Apart from a few add-ons to complete characters, all was already within my own space.

Janis Joplin was someone we listening to on vinyl. We had records at home, and was exposed to so many different styles and genres. I have always loved Janis, and thought she had a sense of freedom about her.

We were told the story of Dian Fossey and her work with the gorillas in Rwanda, and through the film Gorilla’s in the mist, I was able to to connect more with a woman I thought fought and worked for an amazing cause.

We have a grandmother who believes in the beautiful and classic in life, and my grandmother had shown us, and have us hear, exactly who the magic of Edith Piaf was. Edit always sang and spoke with her hands, and she always performed with so much emotion.

When we were younger, I remember that there were often in so many people’s homes, work of the artist Tretchikoff. His iconic blue woman, the Chinese Girl, was one of his most famous works.

Nana Mouskouri was a regular sound in our house, and I loved her gentle look, which never seemed to change over the span of her career.

Cho Cho San, is the character of the Madame Butterfly. When going to my grandmother's home, you didn’t watch cartoons on television, you watched VHS tapes of Aida, and La Boheme, and listened to Beethoven on the stereo. This character is an ode to an amazing grandmother.

We grew up with Cindy Crawford as the ultimate model of the 90’s, the one from all of the Revlon advertisement. She was, and still stayed, one of the most beautiful women ever.

I used to do years of ballet, where we had to watch old tapes of all of the classic masters, and I just adored Margot Fonteyn and her strong, but so graceful manner.

Madonna had been able to transform herself so many times over the years, but her 80’s look, was, and still is, very iconic and memorable.

I think Beyonce is just fierce, and someone who has kept her strength and stature while still having a career, being a mother and a wife.

We loved Whoopi’s movies! And her tad bit shyness and awkwardness was always something I could relate to, as she was never really comfortable in front of cameras or on the red carpet.

When I hear Back To Black, I was in love, and I had always thought Amy Winehouse unfortunately died too young, still with an amazing song within her.

In the apartheid era our father taught us about Miriam Makeba’s soft, motherly nature, and I have always admired her.

We also saw Audrey Hepburn's amazing films often, and there is now a woman, always known for her style and work.

The last girl - is just my favourite one.

I looked at each and every woman, and worked out what exactly she needed, what type of look, how her hair should look, what expression she should have, what accessories she should have, and did all of this on my own.

Having my own business meant sometimes starting styling and hair ,at about eleven o' clock at night, finished at midnight, and shooting until 1am. I became HER, I photographed not myself, but THESE women, who suddenly became demanding clients, wanting her image represented perfectly.

It was necessary to work out what each of them wanted and had to look like, and how I had to showcase them, and make sure I tried to at least replicate them as best I could.

All of these, came from a heart’s place, and when looking back at it, the whole body of work, is something I am proud of. All styling, all photographing, all editing, all make-up, hair and clothes, were done and provided by myself. And somehow it worked from start to finish.

I had uploaded these on a popular online blog called Bored Panda, an online photo forum.

In 72 hours, it got more than 20 000 views….so it’s being seen, which is wonderful.

And I had a message on there from someone who had commented and said that all is wonderful, she just feels that Audrey’s hair, is not quite the right colour.

I was quite dedicated and committed towards the project, but I wasn’t going to dye my hair for Audrey, or shave my eyebrows for Edith.

I can’t thank FujiFilm enough for their support, and for trusting a photographer not known to them really, with an amazing machine. I was able to capture this project so stunningly with the XT-1, and the end-result I am proud of. It was two weeks of intense make-up, and lots of flashes in my eyes, and after being exhausted, the feeling of happy with what I did sinked in.

The X-T1, is an amazing machine. I was very impressed at how it served me. What I loved, was that it could work with an app that can be downloaded, then through the camera’s wifi.

I also recently saw and online statement which mentioned Audrey, saying she was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer, she had spent her childhood- and her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the Nazi’s, and she had spent her post film career as a goodwill ambassador of Unicef, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts - but history remembers her for being pretty. So the hope is to not be remembered one day for the looks I was able to pull off, but for the work that went into them, and the reason for something done through the medium of photography.

So too, would I not want to be remembered for 15 different looks that I was able to pull off, but the work I was able to produce, and the contribution I was able to make. I had three rules doing all of this - especially because I was given the permission by Eslie, to just PLAY -

1, to just have fun with it. 2 To not take critique too harshly -  and 3, which ties into the previous point - that the idea was not to look like any one of them 100% - I never could, but I could try and represent their looks as best I could. These weren’t done to replicate THEM, but rather, as a tribute shoot.  

It’s also not to represent style icons, as someone like Dian Fossey, will never be remembered for her style, but, for her work.

These are 1 person depicted as 15 other, but in actual fact, 15 women, all in one. This is an ode, to the 15 different women represented and to the different paths of life for each of them.

There is a current trending song, which somewhere in it’s lyrics, says - I owned every second this life could give.

When you're a photographer, you know - our lives do not consist of seconds. It consists out of 2000th of a second, 500th of a second, 160th of a second, a third of a second - sometimes a moment takes 30 seconds.

And if you're a great landscape photographer, you know sometimes you wait for one moment, for hours.  A second means nothing to us.  It's just another measure of time which we know, what we can do with photographically.  So sincere thank you, for sharing in 16 160th of seconds with me which i owned - but sharing in a whole lifetime of Inspiration.