I See a Different You – SCENE Magazine
Three lads from Pimville, Soweto in Johannesburg, are slowly changing the way we view townships and African life, by creating stylized, sartorial visuals of themselves in ordinary settings. The portraits encapsulate their experience of Soweto and the places they visit, without altering the grittiness and sometimes, shabbiness, of the setting. These images have come to represent the I See a Different You (ISADY) vision.
I sit down on a park bench in Pimville and chat to twin brothers, Innocent and Justice Mukheli. Vuyo Mpantsha, the third member of the collective is on his way.
From the start, the Mukheli brothers emphasize the importance of community, friendship and mentorship in their journey to date. The three work at advertising agencies Ogilvy and Draft FCB by day, and spend their free time photographing, illustrating, and directing shoots. That’s when they are not travelling on ISADY assignments around the world. This is their definition of being ‘creatives’, it isn’t just one thing.
“We weren’t academics at school. We had to convince our mum that we could be successful without a formal education,” Justice explains after sharing that he and Innocent are dyslexic.
”Mum was worried we’d end up with the guys on the streets. She agreed to support us if we promised we’d be the best artists we could be.”
“Now that we’ve got some of the world’s attention, we can sell some of our ideas with ISADY,” says Innocent. The brothers finish each other’s sentences, handing over the conversation periodically.
Dressed in fitted tweed trousers and smart tailored shirts, one sourced at a thrift store, they are undeniably stylish, and each element, including facial hair has been carefully curated to present a certain image. “People judge the package first,” says Innocent.
When Vuyo, dressed in denim dungarees and an edgy shweshwe print shirt joins, the brothers relax into an easy rhythm of friendly banter.
“This is what we do. Always playing,” says Vuyo who helped the brothers learn the more technical aspects of photography. ”We’re still learning,“ says Justice, “but what’s important is you must have an eye for composition.”
“Our images are honest. We hardly process them,” says Innocent.
On the subject of twins having similar interests in adulthood, the Mukhelis laugh. “When we were younger we couldn’t stand each other. We liked all the same things, even girls. Then we developed a healthy rivalry. When we were in grade 10 we realized that we would benefit more if we helped each other,” says Innocent.
Wherever we go, young men get out of cars to shake hands with the trio, exchanging greetings.
Weekends are spent cycling, sometimes from Sandton, 45 km away, to Soweto where they spend most weekends, and brainstorming business ideas.
“Soweto grounded us. She gave us our street smarts. And the vibe is here,” says Vuyo.
When I ask about their future plans, Innocent says, “We talk about our dreams everyday. We plan and strategize. But the only difference between you and another talented guy is making it happen.”
Note: Limited edition prints available soon.