Eewa! – Photographer – Following a Dream

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Fifi Rhodes EEWA!! After 20 years, I’d never thought it would come to this, but photography – especially digital photography – has changed my life. For good, I hope. A few people helped me realise a dream that I only wished for at the time I took up the camera – my good friends Eddie Martins, Hannes Smith and Chris Jacobie, and the late Desmond Basson. People differ in the amount of time and money they devote to learning photography.ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚  For me, photography came about by accident. At school I was an ardent learner of History, Maths and Geography and that was about as much interest in school for me. I wanted to become a metallurgist but left school after I came out with a low mark in exams. I had no choice but that of hard labour and later to carry out a routine job working on a mine. First, I started underground as a diamond driller and then at a uranium mine where I worked myself up to the position of a senior operator on a metallurgical plant. And it was that routine job which caused me to beg for any alternative. So, one day I just called it an hour, put my television set in for exchange for any decent working camera and set myself up in photography. The love affair began. I will add that after I got my camera, did five do-it-yourself lessons by reading practical books and spent the rest of the time dreaming of becoming a man behind the lens. My best friend was an artist and yet I did love photography. It was then I could become an “artist” as well, I thought. However, in my family there already was a photographer, my mother, and was she good, oh boy. Today we still look at photographs she took with a 126-format model. My first film images that were picked on were hated but support came in a huge way. I tried again and again, never giving up until I started working at the famous Windhoek Observer in 1988 as a darkroom assistant and for that matter with one of the best editors of all time. A recession strike came after four years and I was retrenched in 1992. I even hired an aunt to cry in front of the office in order for the bosses to reconsider, but all was in vain. I stopped photographing and took up picture framing for two years. After some 90 hours per week with little money, I gave up. It was during this break that I spent long hours trying to decide which way my life should go that I picked up the camera again. My love for photography remained. A good friend said to me “why not make it your life”, so with confidence low and full of fear I embarked on changing my life. Maybe because of fear, I have been very nervous about putting my images out there. The feedback was helpful and my confidence started to return. Business has been slow and I am clueless about how to promote and market myself. I still get much grief and critics from family, as I am pretty much self-taught. This has caused problems, but it’s “this”, which has inspired me more. Many doors have been shut for me so it’s “whom you know” that does work around here. It has been hard, yet it’s something I always learnt from. All my work is digital now as this has worked out cheaper, the pennies have almost dried up and the future looks tough as the age is setting in fast. Yet the “Ray of Sunshine” for me is the joy of taking images and the sense of feeling I get when someone loves a photo that I took. But you know what, I wouldn’t swoop it for anything. I always had a motto in my life “Love many, Trust few, but always paddle your own canoe!” It takes guts, determination, self-belief and above all passion to follow a dream, and anything is possible. I’m still striving to capture that picture that will one day be called “The Icon”, that will put me into the hall of fame. So “follow your dream!” EEWA.