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Brakpan is a small town that lies on the East Rand of Gauteng, sandwiched between Boksburg, Benoni and Springs. A once-prosperous mining community, today there are pawnshops, roadhouses, mechanics, mini casinos and other day-to-day shops lining the two main roads that slice through the town. Brakpan is like going back in time; so many aspects of the town remind me of old images I have seen of South Africa. Despite all the changes in nearby Johannesburg, Brakpan still goes about its business in much the same way it did before. There is a lack of modern development. You don’t see Tuscan townhouse complexes or buildings with glass facades. It’s all very simple and straight forward – almost transparent, and this transparency can be seen in the people too. You won’t find any airs or graces, no fancy cappuccino shops, sushi cafes or organic goods in Brakpan.
The town does not seem to have benefited from its gold rush glory days, which spanned between 1911 until the mid 1950’s, and it now has very little to show for its’ past. Today, the once flourishing mining town only pulls out a small portion of gold compared to what it used to generate, and some disused gold mines now only sell rubble.
A second factor that has contributed to Brakpan’s sense of preservation is the development of Carnival Mall and Casino, which conveniently lies just off the highway a few kilometers away from Brakpan Central. All the major chains and retail shops have moved to the mall and, as a result, the town centre has been left untouched and undeveloped, stunting it economically and leaving its inhabitants with little opportunities.
And yet there are many faces to modern Brakpan. Young girls push prams while karaoke competition winners don’t get their promised prizes. Pirated DVD’s get sold on the streets, crippling the nearby video shops that rent out older movies. There is a sense of nostalgia that remains and is reflected in the buildings and in the people. This is a place where you can still enjoy school and church fete’s, rugby matches, old bars, sokkie jols, biker rallies, fishing and braaiing at the Brakpan Dam; all of which are a part of the local’s lives.
Here there is a peacefulness and relaxed country town feel, without the stress about what tomorrow may bring. The people of Brakpan live in the now but are still bound by the constraints of the past.
The images presented here are printed on Multigrade V1 FB Fibre matt photographic paper. Exhibition prints are 40cm by 40cm in size in an edition of 10.
Marc Shoul lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was born in 1975 in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa and graduated (with honors in photography) from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 1999. Since then, he has had several exhibitions of his work including group shows at the Arts Association of Bellville, Fusion (1999), Artscape, Mental Health, (2001) Cape Town, Month of Photography, Detour, (2002), Cape Town, Photo ZA, Obsess (2004) and Resolution Gallery, Faces (2008) in Johannesburg as well as at the World Health Organization TB exhibition in India (2004). Solo exhibitions of ‘Beyond Walmer’ were held by the Association of Visual Arts Gallery in Cape Town (2000) and Natal Society of Arts, Durban (2001). “Flatlands” a solo exhibition was also held at the Association of Visual Arts in Cape Town (2009) with help from the National Arts Council. Shoul was also featured in the AGFA Youth International Photojournalism Publication 1999. He also reached the finals of the Absa L’Atelier 2009. Flatlands showed at KZNSA in Durban, South Africa and Galerie Quai 1 in Vevey, Switzerland in 2010. Shoul was invited to hold a workshop at the Vevey School of Photography on the 2010. Shoul was also been included in After A at the Report Atri Festival, Italy, June 2010 curated by Federica Angelucci. Beyond Walmer is on show at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum June-August 2010. Brakpan (work in progress),Shoul has also been included in the Bonaini Africa 2010 Festival of Photography, Cape Town Castle of Good Hope and Museum Africa, Johannesburg. Brakpan (work in progress) was included in 10 a group exhibition at the PhotoMarket Workshop, Johannesburg, 2010. Brakpan in 2011 won the 1st prize at the Winephoto.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum added “Beyond Walmer” to its permanent collection (2007).
For the last ten years, Marc has worked for various local and international magazines such as Time, Colors, Wired, Blueprint, Dazed and Confused, Design Indaba, World Health Organization, Mother Jones, Stern, Gala, De Spiegel, Financial Times Magazine, Monocle, Smithsonian and The Telegraph Magazine, He has also shot for many advertising clients and agencies.
He has recently completed a project named ‘Flatlands’ in the Johannesburg inner city. He is now working on a new body of work in Brakpan on the East Rand where he is exploring the city’s way of life and its people.
He is interested in exploring theams of social relevance and changes within his country and further a field.
Shoul works largely in black and white, using a medium format film camera and natural light printed on Fiber photographic paper.