The idea is this: tour the city in search of the best and worst street photographers and get them to take my portrait. Then line up the firing squad and shoot them with my camera. It’s the battle of the lenses, and debut of the Durban Bang Bang Club. And next time you enter the inner-city warzone, you too can get a nice little snap to memorialize your survival of the Poison City jungle.
To begin the quest, me and my bru go in search of the Pine Street Polaroid Crew. You can find them on the corner of every block, shouldering their old school plastic fantastics like bazooka tooth bébé.
The first shooter we come across is sweaty old Willy Buhle. He staggers and sways like a man on the moon and his breath is flavoured with a most dangerous stench. Willy loves our proposition and cries out in delirium: “Shoot me! Shoot me!” So I shoot him down. I do it for Chris Hani.
It takes several minutes to convince Willy to take OUR photo. He’s forgotten what we’re there for and who we are. But eventually he agrees and next thing he’s leading us through the city-labyrinth at a trot to find his special white background. “But we don’t want a white background!” I argue. “Can’t you just shoot us here?” He ignores me and says with a slur: “We going to Photo First lighties”.
We soon discover that the Polaroid Crew are nothing but posers – agents who earn a commission for leading clients to the Photo First ‘studio’. Photo First is a crew of about five cats who have hung a little white plastic backdrop on the side of the street and operate their ‘office’ out of a garage. Sbo the Numzan takes my photo with his state-of-the-art 2 megapixel Fujifilm or some kak. He prints me a colour passport photo that might possibly pass at home affairs, except that I look like a 12 year old that’s been lost in crack den for 17 years.
I give the Polaroid crew a dismal 0/10 and Photo First an average 5. Moving on. Next up we have the Grey Street Bang Bang Club, which is about 10 strong. These cats look like the hipster spawn of Nigerian drug lords. Not only are they dressed to impress, but they’re packing some kak-ill kit too. The Grey Street Posse are rolling with Nikon D3000s, Sony 100 Alphas and Canon printers.
Get your portrait against the backdrop of the Jummah Masjid Mosque and stick that shit in your pocket for just 15 bucks. All in all I rate the Grey Street Bang Bangs at about 6/10.
At last we escape the inner-city grime and head for the ocean, where the North Beach Bang Bangs reign, headed up by my man Shakes. Now if you’re looking for a real good service, this is the place to be. The setting is African metropolis beach paradise/dirty toilet bowl and the photographers are packing serious kit and killer skills.
Oscar Mtolo shoots on a Canon 550D with a 430 EX2 Flash and reckons he’s been shooting since ’94. “I shoot weddings, parties, portraits and whatever my bru. I even throw a little fill flash to make it shiny.” Oscar will do you a portrait for 20 bucks and even braves the shorebreak to get the kiff action shots.
But I’ve run out of dollar so I have to settle for a photo of Oscar and a peek at his impressive portfolio. I give the North Beach Bang Bangs a glorious 10/10. So get on down to the Indian Ocean where any one of these cats will shoot you a dam fine profile pic to boost your star status. Or call me and my blood brother, Mook Lion.