After matriculating in Cape Town, aspiring cinematography student, Boitumelo Lalela headed to Johannesburg to enrol at AFDA. On-route, however, she was handed the pamphlet from the Market Photo Workshop that changed her charted course. Lalela fell in love with a different muse and took up photography instead.
After completing her studies at the Market Photo Workshop, Lalela spent two years at the Sowetan newspaper before moving on to a stock agency in Illovo called Great Stock. Lalela spent seven years at Great Stock starting as a Senior Picture Researcher and ultimately as the Editorial Accounts Manager, learning tonnes and loving every second before deciding that it was time to pick up the camera herself.
Five years later, Lalela found herself in a tight spot with a camera in need of repairs and nowhere to turn to. So, she took a chance and contacted Canon SA, which has led to a beautiful and inspiring story. It was Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa who assisted Lalela in getting her camera repaired and who recognised something in the eager young photographer. It came as a total surprise to Lalela, however, when Eitzen reached out to her late in 2016 to inform her that she’d been selected for the Canon Street Photography Programme.
Lalela’s love for the programme, for the work she does and for the relationship she shares with her mentors at Canon are evident as she tells her story, explaining how they have all contributed to her blossoming career and growing client list. “You know, with what photographers are going through right now, being unable to work due to lockdown restrictions, I have been incredibly fortunate. Thanks to this programme, I landed a few significant clients last year, whose fees I’ve been able to rely on during this time. Without them, I would never have had the opportunities that I’ve had, and I’m pretty sure I would have found myself in dire straits right now,” she says.
So, what exactly does the Canon programme entail, and what does that look like for Lalela? “My Canon mentor is African wildlife photographer and specialist photo guide, Andrew Aveley, who is based in Knysna. I send him a selection of photographs each month – either from the jobs I’ve done, or just out of my personal shoots. I’ll give him all of the technical specs for each image, such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO, etc. He then reviews these photographs and gives me a technical critique with tips on how I can improve on similar types of shots going forward.”
“Last year, I also got to meet Andrew in person and work with him at a sport function – a golfing event – where we got to spend some one-on-one time. This was great because I was able to get a lot of on-site technical advice from him, from what kind of equipment to use in that particular setting, how to package images for sending to the client, adding copyright watermarks to images, and so on. He basically gave me a crash course on running a photography business!” Eitzen says of Andrew that he is a diverse and highly respected professional in his field. He is also a long-time Friend of Canon and currently the only independent Canon professional trainer in South Africa, whose passion for the subject of photography is evident in how eagerly he shares his knowledge with his students as they build their portfolios.
For Lalela, the journey has shifted somewhat over the years, having started with street photography and progressed onto events, such as the one she covered with Aveley last year. More recently, though, Lalela has found her niche in food photography, and she literally lights up from within as she describes this new-found passion and the work she’s been doing, assisting international food photographer, Libby Edwards. When asked about where she sees her photography career in the next five years, Lalela states emphatically that her goal is to be the “go-to food photographer in South Africa.”
She also feels strongly about supporting women in the field of photography, and shares that there are so many talented young female photographers in South Africa who deserve to be seen, mentored and supported on their journeys to success. It’s exciting to see the calibre of talent being noticed and nurtured by a brand like Canon in South Africa with its photography programmes, and this particular lady is certainly one to watch.