We had a chat with renowned photographer Anthony Bila ahead of his Made of Taste Dinner held at Thirteen to find out about his collaboration with Singleton, photography and more:
You refer to yourself as The Expressionist, why?
I believe that people are art, they are blank canvases from the moment they are born and everyday we have the unique opportunity to ‘paint’ ourselves in whatever colours and textures reflect who we are or how we feel, it’s a form of expression as old as time. I wanted to document those narratives hence my moniker, The Expressionist.
How has photography and fashion changed your life?
It has afforded me so many unique experiences, from travelling to England, Ireland, Singapore and China to exploring my own backyard in the form of Botswana and Nambia and even closer to home, all nine provinces and countless towns in South Africa. I’ve had the opportunity to create all kinds of content that connects to people.
Would you say that there’s a link between fashion and photography?
I think and feel the two are inextricably connected, the one cannot exist without the other. The symbiosis of the relationship echoes throughout history, on both a street fashion level and a high fashion level too. Just think about yourself, there are days you leave the house wearing an outfit so could that at the end of the day, if you feel like you haven’t been seen by enough people, you want to stay out or repeat that outfit so it gets maximum exposure.
The internet has also been a wonderful place for the symbiosis for flourish, if it wasn’t for the internet and platforms like Tumblr, fashion would be in a different space and we would not be as savvy as consumers of fashion as we are now, we know the value of both fashion and photography in relation to each other far more astutely than before when it was reserved for those who could afford high fashion magazines or the elitist world of fashion weeks the world over. The internet and the photography as well as fashion therein have take power and relevance away from the fashion weeks and put them back in the streets.
You have an afrocentric approach to your photography, what inspires that?
I am an African, but at the same time I’m influenced by anything and everything in the world and thanks to the internet I have all the information in the world at my finger tips. I am inspired by Africa and the internet, that lends itself to me be conscientious about my narrative. I think Africa can be celebrated without being stereotyped or typecast the way it currently is. Often our narratives are told by people who aren’t African or who view us in a very myopic manner. So my work exists to subvert that notion and steer clear of the cliches.
You’ve recently partnered with The Singleton on the ‘Made of Taste’ campaign, how did that come about?
They approached me, siting that they had an appreciation for the work that I do and I researched the brand and found that our outlook when it comes to creativity and self expression aligned wonderfully. It’s also a great heritage brand and I’m interested in blending the old and the new, which made it a perfect match. I am excited to do more work with Singleton too, this has been a great first step.
How important is it for brands to have influencers/curators?
I think it’s far more important for brands to have individuals who embody what the brand is all about and people who consume the brand. Influence is a byproduct of authenticity, it should not be conflated with popularity. Often brands and agencies misconstrue someone who is popular for someone who is influential. Although, the two things don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. It’s also important for brands to develop long term relationships with whomever the choose to partner with and I used the word partner very strongly because the person they work with can’t be seen as a human billboard, they need to be a collaborator and they need to be given the room to create with authenticity.
What kind of stories have you told through photography and what do you still hope to achieve through it?
I have told the stories of people like myself, a young and emerging creative class who has been sidelined for the longest time but are the biggest contributors to the cultural landscape across number of disciplines and talents. I tell my story. I tell your story. I tell our story. I am evolving from being a pure photographer to working as a director too now and it’s been a great challenge and learning experience. I have a few projects under my belt I’m proud of and I hope to do more in the future, my favourite has been the Galxboy Start Something ad I was fortunate to direct and photograph.
Follow Anthony Bila on Instagram to keep up with his amazing work.