20Q: Jodi Bieber

Pictures really do speak a thousand words, and Jodi Bieber's recently proved it. She also believes in love and the comfort of home.
Posted 6 Sep 10 By Design Indaba Interviews / Q&A Comments
Jodi Bieber.
Jodi Bieber.

South African photographer Jodi Bieber has been making headlines recently with her thought-provoking cover photograph for Time magazine. The photograph is of a young Afghan woman, Aisha, who was sentenced by a Taliban leader to have her nose and ears cut off. Powerful and shocking, the image highlights the desperate plight of women in this country.

Bieber trained at the Market Photo Workshop in Jo’burg in the early 1990s. She went on to work for the Star newspaper where she was part of the group who covered South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Bieber has worked for, among others, the New York Times Magazine and Medicin Sans Frontiere. Her work often has a strong South African focus and she’s participated in countless local and international, group and solo exhibitions.  She has an album full of local and international photography awards, including eight World Press Photo awards.

1. What would you put in a time capsule? Love.

2. Do pictures really speak a thousand words? Yes, the world proved it to me with my Time magazine cover of Aisha from Afghanistan.

3. What do you enjoy most about what you do? My day is never the same, I get to travel the world living out my dream and expressing what I have to say about the world through my photography.

4. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Violence against women and children.

5. What inspires you and/or your work? The world around me – the darkness and the light.

6. What's been your greatest achievement to date? Two of my bodies of work finding themselves in books Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing up with South Africa and Soweto, the recent cover of Aisha on Time magazine, and my international awards.

7. What's your secret obsession? I am not telling.

8. What makes you laugh out loud? Today it had to be the advert I saw at a traffic light advertising penis enlargement consultations.

9. Are there certain characteristics that all creatives possess? Obsession, some form of neurosis and a little bit of oddness.

10. In your subjective view, what makes a good photograph? It must draw you in emotionally. You want to respond. It is well composed, and captures the essence of what or who has been photographed.

11. What is the question you most ask yourself? Is it normal to feel this way?

12. Who are your heroes in real life? The guys who collect our rubbish for recycling and travel miles by foot. People who have overcome the most horrific things in their lives and have an incredible inner strength to continue.

13. Are you passionate about South Africa? Yes, so much so that my recent work Soweto partly aims at breaking through stereotypes often portrayed through the international media of our beautiful country.

14. What would you do if you won the lottery? Pay off my apartment, buy a beach house, a second camera body, give my immediate family a healthy share and donate to a charity of my choice.

15. What did you want to "be" when you were growing up? A detective who found the thief who stole the Mona Lisa.

16. If you could have one super power, what would it be? To travel through the internet lines to visit my friends all over the world.

17. Where is your favourite place in the world? Home.

18. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? No comment.

19. What's your favourite film? I love movies but I can never remember them as I watch so many. On my last trip to New York, via Dubai return, I watched 20 movies in total. It is my saviour on flights. The first movie that had an impact on me was E’Lollipop. I see myself in the cinema as a little girl crying uncontrollably.

20. Do you recycle? In Paris I did as they catered with different rubbish bins. I recently moved into a new apartment and I need to research the options here.