With honesty at the core of his photography, Kgomotso Neto discusses the importance of accurate representation
The Johannesburg-based photographer tells us how he came to be a photographer and the values he instils in his practice to date.
- Jyni Ong
- 23 June 2020
Born in north South Africa and currently based in Johannesburg, Kgomotso Tleane – otherwise known by his creative moniker, Kgomotso Neto – strives for honesty in photography. Utilising the medium “to become a vessel into my world,” the established photographer boasts a striking portfolio of moving works. With commissions under his belt from the likes of Coca Cola and Facebook, the photographer is more well-known for his evocative documentation of people and place.
Through portraiture, editorials, fashion shoots and personal projects, Kgomotso has traveled to and photographed Tanzanian towns, Afropunk festivals and night scapes in Johannesburg – just to name a few. Upon marvelling at the artist’s steady lens and thoughtful compositions, you wouldn’t think Kgomotso started taking pictures later on in life. He tells It’s Nice That: “I spent the first half of my life in a village until I moved to the city to live with my mother and continue my studies. I never had any contact with photography in the first half of my life, but I believe how I was raised had a great influence on my outlook of the world and people.”
Having grown up closely with his grandmother, to this day, Kgomotso carries the values she taught him from a young age. Those values include humility and respect, “particularly towards people,” he adds. An interest in photography was borne online for Kgomotso, particularly through the likes of Tumblr, Blogspot and Instagram. He recalls how he would shoot a lot on his phone back in 2012, uploading his pictures onto social media, gradually documenting his progress.
“I eventually got a camera a year later,” he continues, “at this stage, I had no real intention to why and what I was shooting.” But after some time, he realised what he loved to capture: people and their stories. “These are stories I can identify with and stories of people I interact with daily, people like me, Black people.” From that moment on, it was imperative that his practice represents not only himself as a Black person, but others too. With honesty at the heart of his work, Kgomotso continues to shoot and learn at the same time.
His work doesn’t possess a distinctly consistent visual language, instead, no matter the aesthetic, it’s the concept and correct representation of Black people that stands out throughout Kgomotso’s beautiful photography. “I believe the work I do is not only about the people I interact with, but it represents me as a person too,” he says. “I believe there’s much more to explore and tell about us as people, I’m talking about Black people.” And representation is an important aspect of conveying this.
Like most photographers over the world, Kgomotso’s work has been greatly impacted due to the restrictions of lockdown. Unable to travel and photograph in this trying time, he’s been at home with his partner and young daughter, which unexpectedly spurred a different kind of project. “I’m used to shooting everywhere else but home,” he says on the matter. “A few weeks into lockdown, I decided to document my family and myself under the constraints.” Presenting a challenge at first, Kgomotso saw his family in a different light through the lens of a camera. But as the days went by, “it became something I enjoyed and special to me as the days went by,” he tells us of the work. So as for the future, “things are a bit unclear, I’m just focusing on taking care of my family and myself.”
GalleryKgomotso Neto Tleane
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.