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Images of Ordinary Madness

by Andy Davis / 13.08.2009

Nick Aldridge is a grumpy man when he’s hungry. He does not so much control his emotions as wrestle with them. The first time we met we almost had a fight over a chocolate bar on a road trip. That little episode earned him the nickname “Darkness Boy”. A mercurial talent behind the lens, Nick has made a name shooting some of the most evocative portraits of South African celebrities from Kinglsey Holgate to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rian Malan to David Goldblatt. His landscape, abstract and surfing portfolios are pretty good too. And he has a great side project shooting old hotels.

Klaas Pieters
Klaas Pieters, trapper, Verneukpan

“There are lots of interesting people I’ve photographed,” he pauses for a moment, to let me know I should take this bit seriously. “But most of the people who are supposed to be amazing, treat photographers like shit. Either they think you’ll steal their souls or are they’re only interested in the milage they’ll get from you.”
“But I enjoyed taking pictures of these guys. There’s Klaas Pieters, the caracal trapper. Felix the lion man. Beautiful human beings living a non-materialistic, simple life. I photographed a guy who starts fires, he was interesting, and a guy who travels the world testing all the newest roller-coasters, if he’s alive they’re safe.”


“I’m studying to be a yoga teacher.” He says. “Surfing, writing, making collages and shell necklaces with my 2 and a half year old daughter, Sienna… It gives me something to do while the recession eats the photography business. And stops me spending too much time in my head.”

It’s tough shit the life of a photographer, eking out an existence in a world that tends to reward mediocrity and glosses over substance. It’s a place where talent struggles to make a living and ends up shooting brochures for shopping chains or stock images for corporate prospectuses. If they’re lucky. Do any of them make any real money?

the lost sheep

“Ja, sometimes. I mean I’ve managed to scrape by. And I don’t work that hard in a 5-9 kinda way. But the easy money days in photography are over. There are too many of us and digital makes it all very easy. About 1% of the kids that graduate from photography schools get to be photographers. It’s bullshit that there are so many people being trained for such a tiny industry. An article in Creative Review says that in the next 4 years, if you’re a studio photographer you’d better be doing 3D rendering of you’ll be out of business.”

Are you ever satisfied with your work?
“No. Never. The moment i can do something i need to move on. Hence the yoga and the surfing. I’ll stick at something until i can understand it, assimilate it and then I get bored and need to move on. I’m very interested in doing some film work, actually.”

Kingsley Holgate is even cooler than you think

Tell us a little bit about Kingsley Holgate.
“Kingsley is taller than me. And he is the coolest famous guy i’ve ever met. I took the photo of him while be was eating Jungle Oats. Kingsley eats jungle oats! There’s a frikkin’ ad for you. He had to arrange his facial hairs for a minute before and after each mouthful.”

Poetry in the park 

Do you like any other photographers?
“I’m not all that interested in the so-called South African fine art photographers, mostly they are photojournalists and commercial photographers selling pictures in galleries because the magazines and ad agencies have cut budgets.
But i think there will be some good photography coming from South Africa soon, the Bang-Bang Club have sung their song and it’s time for a different tune.
On the other hand photography is probably dead already and 3d rendering is the way forward.”

holy man

Check out Nick’s full portfolio here.

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  1. Nicky N says:

    Great Andy!!
    Loved the interview and pics!

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  2. dylan says:

    what equipment does he shoot with?

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  3. Andy says:

    He clung onto medium format film long after it was fashionable, but he finally migrated to digital a few years ago. I think he shoots on Canon these days. Nick’d have to show up to provide more details

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  4. Dean says:

    another rad little piece ous… digging mahala and these photos…

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  5. nick says:

    @dylan, i shoot on canon digital entirely now except for my hotels project which i’m shooting on a old rolleiflex 2-and-a-quarter square. i’ve shot with the full range of cameras: ancient nikon 35mm, spent years in love with medium format film and then 4×5, but digital gives me freedom to do what i want and have a darkroom with out having to spend days breathing toxic chemicals.
    my work is freer and better now, as a digital photographer, than it’s ever been.

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  6. you says:


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  7. Jan Verboom says:

    ……. great to see that you are having fun and taking some lovely images. How about a cuppa at the new studio?

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  8. Sarah says:

    we all have to make money, so knocking those who do commercial work is so passe and 80s. Although I am an admirer of Nick’s work, he, like a few other big name “art” photographers all come from serious cash, which has given them the space to do their thing, so let’s keep things in perspective and give respect where it’s due to those earning an honest living

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  9. Normandi says:

    Nick, I so know where you are coming from and I love your attitude towards life and this industry.

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  10. sandramglhs says:

    Absolutely fantastic work! WOW! I love to look at your work, its incredibly inspiring. Thank you!

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  11. The Rude Kaiser says:

    Great interivew and pics. Really captured your essence in every respect:)

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  12. Jason says:

    Wowzer, how bling are those knuckledusters. I’m off to Builder’s to get me some.

    Awesome work by the way. If you’re selling prints keep me in mind – Klaas Pieters can come visit any old time.

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  13. Gregg says:

    awesome portrait of Kingsley… lovely work

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  14. Philippa says:

    The last pic is incredible

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  15. Roger Young says:

    > Sarah.
    We all have to make money, sure, but doing commercial work can crush your soul (its why I stopped doing it). I do whatever I please now and live off less, I feel better and don’t “come from serious cash”. You obviously are a bit bitter or wouldn’t need to sound off like that. Knocking those who knock those who do commercial work is a clear indicator that your commercial work is unsatisfying.

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  16. nick says:

    > jason.
    yes, i’m selling prints! i have to in order to make a living (“serious cash” aside). please contact me through my website if you are interested in buying any of my work.

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  17. Pauly says:

    lovely andy lovely

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