Belia Oh - From Below



Radical things first: We're excited to be printing your images for your upcoming exhibition. Could you tell us a little more about it?

I'm super excited to be doing my first exhibition after photographing for 8 months. It's going to feature 10 large images I have taken in that time. I have some very talented & animated musos performing (some who are featured in my exhibition) so there will be amazing music as well. It's going to be at The Dream Factory in Orphan Street, CT CBD. It’s a beautiful space that is perfect for this event & the owner is such a rad guy. It’s on Thursday 6 September from 18:30 & it's going to be off the chain! All my works will be for sale at ridiculously affordable prices. I will also be printing a few smaller works, which are even more affordable. Most of the featured musos will be at the event. Rad people! 


What is the concept or theme behind your exhibition?

I decided to focus on rock portraits for this. I mainly photograph on a lower level than the performers, hence the title "From Below". I have photographed many other genres: dance, theatre, comedy, video shoots, press shoots, radio interviews, boudoir shoots. Rock portraiture is by far my favourite. The music, the movement, the passion, the emotion.


When did you become a photographer and what made you want to?

I started photographing live music in December 2011, by accident. I have always appreciated the photography of others, especially of people and portraits. I have a creative past & I love exploring anything creative.


Is photography your main source of income or a supplement?

Neither. I decided to support SA music, as I know many of them are struggling. I went to their gigs, paid the cover charge and bought their CDs. Through this I have built great relationships with the musos. I still want to support them as much as I can, but now I need to make this my main source of income


What gear do you shoot with?

Nikon D7000. I mainly stick to my 50mm, 1.4 lens. Because the lighting in music venues is horribly dark & I don't use flash, the large aperture is great. The large aperture is great for this. I get close to the performers & I love portraiture. The 50mm works really well in this environment. 


Who or what inspires you?

Freshly squeezed orange juice; good lighting; music; passionate, animated performers; Annie Leibovitz; my friends' encouragement; sleep. 


You shoot predominately in black and white. What is your reason for this?

I have always preferred B&W photography. I feel the emotion more.  I love colour in nature & the world, but not in my clothing or photographs. 


Who is the wackiest musician/subject you have ever photographed

Tombstone Pete. Crazy facial expressions; loads of movement; passion; emotion. He has never fallen off a stage, no matter how small. It baffles me. He calls me Bumblebee. 


Do you cough from working in all those smoky environments?

Oh is that what it is!


You're seen in most live venues on most nights when bands are playing; do you have a stunt double or an identical twin in order to be at so many different places at the same time?

I have both. It's very confusing. 


Going forward, where do you hope to see yourself in 3 days, 3 months and 3 years from now?

In three days I will be eating mashed banana on crispy Marmite toast with hot, sugarless, milk induced Ceylon tea. In three months I'll be photographing famous bands all over South Africa. In three years I will be Annie Leibovitz. Except my name will be Belia Oh & I'll be South African. 


What advice do you have for young and aspiring photographers?

Get a camera. I never know what to say to this question. 


You've heard and photographed most of South Africa's top musicians. Who continues to blow your socks off and why?

It's not always the top musicians who blow me away (I don't wear socks anymore because they have been blown off too many times). But...


Shannon Hope - everything. Her powerful voice, her lyrics, her piano talent, her sense of humour, her drive, her passionate performances. 

Dan Patlansky - his skill on a guitar & his uncontrolled facial expressions. 

Tombstone Pete - guitar skills, or whatever you call what he does?

Joshua Grierson - his passion, getting lost in his performance, his voice, lyrics. 


A few others:

Drummer, Jaco Venter, from aKing, for his skill and performance; George from Taxi Violence, his voice and performance; Sannie & Andre from Machineri, Sannie for her bluesy voice and vocal range, Andre for his performance. You asked for top musicians.



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