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Cat-like Stealth

by Mahala High Five Brigade / 10.10.2013

After 49 epic weeks of Braamfontein Friday nights, the Puma Social Club finally came to an end on the 20th September. For those who never made it to the front of the queue, Dustin van Zyl has been documenting the whole sordid affair since it began. We’ve taken the opportunity to get the views of the man behind the Puma view finder.

MAHALA: Can you tell us a little about yourself, what were you doing before, did you study photography etc?

DUSTIN: I’ve been taking photos professionally since 2005, I started out doing so part time while working towards a BA in Visual Studies at Tuks. I’ve always been a little obsessed with the power of images (not just photography) to tell stories and I can’t draw so I found an outlet in Photography and Design. After varsity I worked for a couple of news agencies in the UK and the States as a foreign correspondent for Sub-Saharan Africa before settling into doing more creative work at home.

How did you get the gig at PSC?

I’ve done a lot of work for Puma in the past thanks to my association with Sly Creative Labs and their Mutant Overlord Leader Matt Suttner. I think my aesthetic kind of suits the ‘After Hours Athlete’ vibe too.

Did you have fun?

To be honest there were times when I didn’t look forward to going through to the club but I can’t remember ever having left without a smile on my face. The professionalism of the Puma team and everyone involved in the running of the club made every night a great experience for me and everyone who came out.

PSCJ Retro

Did you miss any nights?

I missed 4 of the 49 nights due to illness and wanderlust.

What gear do you arm yourself with?

A canon 5D mkii and some really fast prime lenses.

Apart from (maybe?) the equipment, what do you think makes a good photo?

I always look to capture moments that have some sort of narrative quality. A venue like Puma Social Club lends itself to photography though, interesting light and the proximity of the performers to the audience made getting decent images easier than a lot of other situations. Being there every week and knowing how to make the most of the space and available light helped too.

Who were the best bands to see live? What was the best night you can remember?

The intimate space and amazing crowd brought out the best in a lot of the acts which is part of why the club was so special. All my favourite performances were by artists who really embraced what the club was all about regardless of genre, some that immediately come to mind are Spoek Mathambo, Zaki Ibrahim, Tumi and Yesterday’s Pupil, BLK JKS, Gangs of Ballet, PH Fat, Beast, Shortstraw and Shingai from The Noisettes.

PSCJ Retro

And the worst?

I can’t remember any bad performances per se, but one or two of the artists attitude’s were a bit pretentious to say the least. Like the guy who almost didn’t play because his entourage’s drinks weren’t chilled to his liking.

What was the strangest thing you saw go down at the PSC?

Matt Suttner’s resurrection of Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’ way before any of the Random Access Memories hype.

Do you drink on the job?


How did you recover on Saturday mornings?

Red Bull, greasy breakfast’s and reliving the night before whilst editing the photos.

PSCJ Retro

Where will the PSC crowd go on their Friday nights now?

I think we’ll look back at PSC as a large part of the impetus in the development of Braamfontein as a cultural hotspot so there will be no shortage of great places to hang out in the city. Right now the best Friday night jol anywhere is Stereo Science at The Great Dane a block away.

Will you go with them?

After a short hiatus.

Do you prefer to take pictures like a sniper or to ask people to smile?

I’m not a fan of contrived photos, so I tend to use cat-like stealth tactics in readiness for the sneak attack.

PSCJ Retro

Do you have a 9-5?

I am the Executive Creative Director of a small agency where I spend most of my time designing and developing websites and applications for awesome clients.

Outside of Braamfontein’s Friday nights, what do you most like to shoot?

I start feeling weird when I haven’t shot live music for a while, it’s a compulsion as much as it is a passion.

If I had more time and unlimited budgets I would shoot ridiculous editorial stuff on giant sets with crazy props and hundreds of minions and cast members.

What’s next for you?

Not much has changed, I’ve spent the past two Friday nights in the city photographing Str.Crd and shooting the official pics for Vodacom In The City.  I’m really looking forward to spending this Friday night at home with my family though!

PSCJ Retro

Below is a retrospective gallery of the nights at the Puma Social Club. Have a look through, or alternatively watch this fast-paced slideshow.

Puma Retro from Katie on Vimeo.

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* All images © Dustin van Zyl

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