Yolandi Jacobsz

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.

Yolandi Jacobsz - "For Maggie & for Sunette".

With it being breast cancer month, I wanted to create a photo series with amazing, fighting, brave women, who have been through this struggle, or is still going through it. 

The story:

I as photographer, wanted to create a project, around the theme of breast cancer, which is usually celebrated in October. I wanted to create, really create. And breast cancer month is usually very pink in colour. So my idea was to not have the same stereotypical shoot, as always, but to create something that is a little different, have a different meaning and symbolism, and look a little different. I have also spoken to some of these women, and did not want to show them in a light of people needing to feel pity on them. They are the strongest of the strong, and they still raise their children, go to work, and face life. I wanted to give them a glamour moment, have them feel for a moment what fashion models felt like with stunning make-up, studio lights, and a feeling of them being appreciated. 
I started making headpieces. Before I even knew the women, I had begin to make my headpieces, each with a different look, and with a different symbolism. They were handmade from scratch, each flower glued and cut, and perspex add-on's were made to bring out the symbolism in each. The whole shoot was again shot on my Fujifilm system, after it's success with my Iconic Women series done in February, and March.

A tree was used for Gerdie, as I saw when I met her, and started talking to her, that she has a great wisdom, and tress have this wonderful way of standing strong in wind and weather. Each delicate little leaf was pasted on the three trees, and in all of the headpieces, different shades of pinks were used in support of breast cancer's look and theme.
Gerdie was also kind enough to offer her house for the first shoot, and we had such a great time, where the women could bond, and they didn't even know each other - but walked out of there, friends.


Birds were used for Dinkie. Dinkie is an educated doctor. Whenever I spoke to her she had this light and airy way about her, and her messages were always friendly. She made me think of a bird, and birds too, soars high above the rest, and also withstand heavy weather well.


Ocean waves and elements were used for Raynolda. Raynolda has had three different cancers - ovarian-, cervical-, and some breast cancer and have fought them all. Raynolda is also part of the amazing cancer association Cancervive, their CEO being former South African TV-presenter Janie du Plessis. Raynolda goes with Cancervive's team to many schools, and rural areas, to educate people on what cancer is and isn't, and tries to help break the stigma amongst black people, that cancer is only a white people illness. Many black people do not seek a doctor early enough because of this stigma, and at a point when they do, it is many times too late. The ocean sometimes can be rough and it can be calm, and it can bring peace and it can also destroy, and that is what these women have told me their cancer battle is most times.  Janie also personally messaged me , and said that I am welcome to use Cancervive's logo, as support from them, for my project in aid of cancer awareness.


A gazelle was used for Sonja. Sonja is currently still received chemo and radiation. She is in remission but she is getting treatment to try and prevent any cancer from coming back, Sonja has had reconstruction on one breast as she had had a mastectomy on her right breast. A gazelle I find graceful and with fine features, which is what Sonja exactly is.


Leanie bravely bared her chest, as she has had a double mastectomy and have not had reconstruction yet. Leanie has an amazing story, with having almost been written off by doctors, confined to a wheelchair for many months, and have quite a couple of scars because of where the cancer has spread and what it has done to her body. She has an amazing character, and I used a tiger for her, to show power and strength. 


I also approached a lovely woman called Isabelle Lotter, who owns a clothing label called Sies! Isabelle, and she does stuff for SA Fashion week. Isabelle made me some pieces in a week's time, was very willing to help as she mentioned cancer affects is all, and she also has aunts and a grandmother who have had cancer, or has been affected by it. Isabelle gave me pieces from her own line, as well as constructing some raw silk pieces, which also represented their own symbolism. She made them each with a bit of a cape, as she mentioned, she feels these women are like superheroes. Isabelle was a big player in the success of this shoot, as she added to the lovely soft, but still raw styling, and I loved the look of her silk, and pieces with texture such as the wool, and cotton strings.

I also approached some of the best make-up artists I know, to add to the look of these women for their own glamour moment, and they were able to delve in some pinks and transform these ladies into something spectacular. Sam Scarborough was a star, Maureen Grobler also helped, as well as Cicilia Kaufmann, all three women known within the industry for great bridal-, editorial-, fashion- and creative make-up.

The shoots with these women really changed me, I didn't walk out of there the same person. I learned how many small things are not significant and that you shouldn't even bother about them. These women have been through amazing struggles, and talking to each of them teaches you a lot about cancer, what to expect, diagnosis, different types of it, treatment, how to handle life at your worst, and how to still keep your dignity when you perhaps have no more breasts, or hair and lashes and eyebrows. I was humbled by all of it, and I really wanted to honour them by giving them an amazing shoot, with my contribution, of making them each a headpiece, and giving them their visual identity within their own individual shot and within my project, and what I wanted it to look like.

The project does has a name, called "For Maggie & for Sunette".
Maggie was my father's mother, whom he lost at 28 due to breast cancer. My grandfather also had intestinal cancer so it was a part of our family, and my father's life from an early age. Sunette, is my partner's mother, who is suffering from lung cancer, and I get to see how it affects him and the family, when she needs to go for treatments, and gets sick because of it, it's a tough road for all, and a very big emotional struggle, where you sometimes feel helpless, and do not know what to do to make the situation better. These are two women who didn't ask for this hell, as didn't the women I photographed either. This is in honour of them.

These women all want to create awareness, and really want to bring hope, as many will tell you there is sometimes the untold story, which all cancer sufferers and patients know, but the rest of the world doesn't, such as knowing sometimes in chemo sessions, you feel very supported with doctors and nurses and other patients around you, and then you go home..... and sometimes at 23h at night, you feel so desperately alone that you wish you could pick up the phone and call someone who might understand. Or that you are dead scared of losing your breasts, and then that worst case scenario becomes the best case scenario for you, and the only way out, and then waking up with a flat chest has a way of stripping you from your femininity and has a way of making you feel empty. So hope, is what they want to bring, and they want to show how they are strong still, fighters still, and carrying on - still.

I wanted to capture their beauty, their gentleness, showed their feminine sides, and wanted to add my own botch of creativity a well, and wanted to bring that all together for a visually stunning project. These women are also available to tell their story, which is what they would love to do, to show the process, and to help with awareness, some visibility, and a message of strength and bravery.


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Email:  yolandi@lociphotography.co.za
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