Design Indaba: How did you get into photography and what journey have you been on to get where you are now?
Paul Hofman: A very good friend introduced me to photography as a medium of expression around the turn of the millennium. She was studying photography and asked me to accompany her on a shoot for one of her set projects. While we were out, she handed me her camera and said, "Have a go!" I did, and she developed the photos. She saw something in my images and encouraged me to carry on, to the point where she gave me my first camera.
Photography came to me at a time in my life when I was going through some very big changes. It offered me a creative outlet - an opportunity to deflect the major issues and find my soul, my essence and in this process the beauty that was around me. Photography also helped me to see what I did not want to be.
Within a year, I quit my day job - a fairly serious one at that - much to the dismay of some fairly close friends and family. Let's just say some are not so close any more. With the support and encouragement of a few believers, I embarked on the most amazing journey of my life. And to this day, I journey on.
What do you like most about the medium of photography?
Apart from the creative licence that you are given when you have a camera in your hand, I love the satisfaction of knowing that I have captured a truly great shot. In my mind, to date, I have only ever captured one! I am not saying that I haven't captured great images or taken amazing photographs, I am saying that there is only one that has given me that feeling of complete satisfaction.
How would you describe your style?
My style is flexible and adaptable. As I do shoots in studio and work within a conceptual environment, it is difficult to pigeonhole my style. Outside a studio or set up environment, it is most definitely reportage - from the hip if you like. I enjoy being part of an environment and the encompassing activity and then standing back and "cherry picking" the moments as they happen. Creating the shot in the camera is my principle objective and getting the best result means being relaxed and at one with my subject or the environment that I am in, whatever it may be.
Your portfolio shows a broad range from studio to reportage, scenic and conceptual work. What are the challenges working across these media and which do you prefer?
I truly enjoy working across the boundaries. I believe that it provides me with an edge, keeps my mind sharp and doesn't allow me to become complacent. It is an advantage in my business in that I can provide my clients with high-end work in a variety of situations and, as such, deliver on their requirements over a broad spectrum.
Lighting plays a big role in achieving a great photograph - what the source is and how you use it - as well as getting your perspectives right so as to best reflect the quality, texture and design of the objects or set-ups that you are photographing.
I love shooting architecture, interiors and design pieces. It is a real challenge to capture images that give perspective to a room filled with different objects, all trying to make a statement. It is about finding the best angles and balancing the image in such a way to entice the viewer to embark on their own personal journey.
In your opinion, what is your best work?
My trip to the United States in 2003 to document one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world, Sturgis Bike Week, definitely stands out as a highlight. It was here that I captured my best shot ever - an image entitled Rain Dance.
I also think that the work done within the scope of Woolworths Young Designers of the Year has been fantastic. I enjoy working as a part of a greater creative force and being challenged with the task of capturing inanimate objects in a way that is vibrant, and gives them depth and perspective.
Of late, I have also done some amazing interior shots for one of the local magazines with a focus on high-end homes in South Africa. In all honesty, I don't think I have come close to my best work yet. Mmmh - I suppose that is the perfectionist in me speaking.
What is your favourite design in Cape Town?
It is a difficult question. I am fascinated with early Cape architecture; the Herbert Baker period with all of the intricate design work that went into producing some amazing buildings. Presently, there are some really interesting structures that have gone up in the Century City Complex and along Beach Road in Strand. The angles and textures make for some interesting photography.
See Hofman's latest collection of work featuring the Woolworths Young Designers of the Year at Design Indaba Expo 2008.