Upon returning from China, I started to see my travel investment pay off. I had tons of new portfolio images and shots to pitch and sell to editorial clients. As a photographer, it’s always key to keep fresh work in front of potential clients. They also loved the travel vein running through the work and it of course made me appear larger than life, which never hurts in an industry whose foundation is smoke and mirrors.
It became clear that building my portfolio work and making client contacts abroad were my best options for upleveling. This inspired me to start thinking about other specific places to travel, and particularly, ones with great interior and exterior spaces. This time I was focused on high-end residential spaces and the destination of choice was none other than Cape Town.
It was love at first sight. If I could marry a city it would be Cape Town. I had an amazing stay both work- and travel-wise. I connected with SAOTA architects, arguably the top modern architects in South Africa, and possibly on the continent.
My second day in Cape Town, I met with SAOTA’s owner, the well-known Stefan Antoni. I arrived seven minutes early to his office, which was duly noted at reception. Stefan sat on the lower level in a pod literally dead center. He motioned me to come forward and sit down. I introduced myself and took a seat. Stefan waited about 10 minutes to look up, at which point he said, “I thought you’d be ugly.”
It’s not every day a woman receives a compliment like that.
His work was beautiful and to my great fortune, most of his clients owned five or more homes, so they were impeccably designed from the inside out and gently, if ever, used. I was able to build an arsenal of portfolio and editorial work here, some of which are still my favorite to date. Stefan started out shooting his own camera right behind me at the first couple of houses and lightly let up his grip as my weeks in Cape Town went by.
The guesthouse I stayed at in Sea Point was lovely and run by four women who promised to find me a husband the next time I came back ... in this case, that would end up being a couple of months later.
If Chicago was a man desert, Cape Town was a man tsunami. A vortex. I couldn’t walk out of the guest house without meeting someone. And as every good fisherwoman knows, you catch a lot more when you lower your net. It was good, clean, liberating, no-strings-attached fun.
SOUTH AFRICA PART II
I rarely travel to the same place twice. It goes against my constitution of discovery.
However, in the case of Cape Town it was inevitable. There was so much to see and do, and I made great connections which only fueled the fire for a return trip. I also had a major crush on a modern architect and that stone clearly needed turning. Not that I needed more of an excuse to escape, but Cape Town is a top shooting destination in its summer (the northern hemisphere’s winter) and thus the town is geared up for still and video production at all levels. I wanted to enhance my portrait portfolio taking advantage of Cape Town’s international modeling scene, continue with architecture with the top local architects, and also propose a pro-bono project for Mothers2Mothers—a non-profit organization that helps pregnant women with AIDS.
South Africa did not disappoint a second time. I was able to shoot more medium format film landscape-style, and cause more trouble with my greater knowledge of Cape Town and a romantic liaison that doubled as a driver and photo assistant. I stayed at a gorgeous boutique guesthouse overlooking Camps Bay, with stunning models coming in and out all day to shoot on my balcony. It was as good as it sounds on paper. Everything in South Africa I photographed turned to gold. It was a huge success on all levels— professionally and personally. I was shooting fish in a barrel, so to speak.
I met an Englishman who was desperate to impress. Over dinner at a fine dining restaurant in Camps Bay,
I heard about his family lineage, which according to him, went back to 30 B.C. early France. For the love of God! Fortunately, around 50 A.D., the waiter sensed a hostage situation and rescued me with another generous pour of red wine—I’m guessing my third gallon at this point.
I carefully navigated my way out of dessert and returned to my hotel, downed a bottle of Advil and passed out.
All in all, I had more dates during these two trips to South Africa than I had in Chicago in five years. The net-net of this fell in the positive column and the distance factored well into the love (avoidant) story I loyally subscribed to. I was also able to “up” my portfolio game tenfold with my key, high-level interior shots. The combination of indoor and outdoor beauty is unsurpassed in the world.
South Africa and this trip in particular, will always hold a special place in my heart.
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