Jody Brand: A fierce independence

'Born-free' photographer Jody Brand uses her work to wrestle free from South Africa's past and create an informal history of contemporary everyday life.

Emerging South African artist Jody Brand uses the Internet as a powerful tool to challenge ideas and construct new identities. 

Brand was one of five young South African creatives who presented their work at Design Indaba 2014 as part of the 89plus programme, founded by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets. The project brings together creatives born during or after 1989, the year the World Wide Web was born, marking a new generation of creatives born into a digital world. Brand is just such a "digital native", bringing a new perspective to South Africa's ever-developing artistic discourse. 

Brand is most well known for her blog Chomma, which she describes as “a collection of photographs documenting my life”. In this interview, she correlates her formative years to those experienced by a fledgling South African democracy, citing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an influence and the importance of interrogating the ideas imposed on her by society .  

Brand is the production manager for South African artist Athi Patra-Ruga, well known for his surreal and striking public performance art. She see her own work, which centres on photography and filmmaking, as a “record of our collective history,” stating that it serves as a vehicle for her to “challenge ideas that threaten freedom and thought transformation.” 

She dismisses comparisons of her work to "party photography" and fashion blogging. "We were and are masters of our own destiny,” she says, a phrase that aptly defines the possibilities that exist within a generation raised along with the Internet. "With the Internet, we have the power to construct our own identity,” Brand notes, delivering a reminder of the positive impact the ubiquitous digital medium can have.

Brand’s belief that “our choice to not be defined by our past but to make our own choices” exemplifies an emerging generation of critical, culturally progressive South African artists.