What a street style photographer can teach you about South African style

Obakeng Molepe tells African stories through street style photography that captures feeling, locations and outfits

As an iconic style brand who realizes that style lives on the street, Levi's set out to tell authentic stories of style by working with a photographer that would capture the essence of how people #LiveinLevi's.

Recognising Obakeng Molepe as a photographer who captures self-expression in an authentic manner that's core to the brand and its values, Levi's wanted to inspire South Africans to wear their jeans in their own way. We caught up with the exciting young photographer to talk street style.


What does street photography mean to you?
To me street photography is capturing peoples everyday lives and having the privilege of telling the story of images in my own personal style.


How did you first discover this style of photography?
I used to live in Maboneng and I would see all different kinds of people and locations and I guess the feeling I got from got from seeing all these people and scenarios got me to translate my work in this style.


What do you think makes a memorable street style photograph?
The idea of capturing time (being able to capture the feeling, location, outfit) it's the ability to freeze time and when one sees the image they can have that memory or feeling even when the photograph is passed its due time.


In what ways do you think the approach differs in South Africa to Europe or America?
Our cultures do the job for us, finally being able to tell an African story with western influence. Basically documenting what it means to be African.

What do you want people to take away from your Levi's street-style photo's?
That life beyond themselves exist, I think we as humans have grown to be so narcissistic, especially with idea of "individuality", we end up forgetting that there is so much that happens beyond our "individuality" or our circles.


How have you seen street photography evolve in South Africa?
Street photography never really changed, the people changed (people are more free with their styles, bodies and who they are) guess that's how the images look more organic.

Do you shoot on a phone or a camera and why?
I use a camera, it's my third eye. With a phone I don't have much control but with my camera I can adjust the settings to match the scenario as it is very difficult to capture what the eye sees with just a cell phone.


When you are out shooting-how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I'd say 30% is planned and that would be the location and what I would like to get out of the images, the rest is instinct and I seem to amaze myself all the time.

How important is the subject/model in your images and why?
They are very important, I feel like models or subjects breathe life into our images and other people are able to connect, empathize, sympathize or just relate to the subject at hand.

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