Doors of Cape Town

An intrepid Capetonian is photographing good-looking doors around the city; and an Instagram account set up to document his findings is developing a following.

Barry Havenga, contributing editor at Golf Digest, talks to us about his Doors of Cape Town project:

Doors of Cape Town print/canvas poster for sale

You got the idea for DoorsOfCapeTown from The DoorsofNewYork account. How did you discover The DoorsofNewYork and what made you think it could work similarly well in Cape Town? In other words, had you already noticed some of the quirky and beautiful doors around Cape Town?

The power of the hashtag. I was in New York in 2012 and discovered TheDoorsofNewYork while browsing through NYC hashtags after uploading an image to Instagram. We have such diverse architecture in Cape Town – thanks to the Dutch, French, British and Malay settlers – that I saw an opportunity to create an account for Cape Town. I thanked The DoNY account for the inspiration in the first post (the now defunct Reserve bar on St George’s Mall).

Do you have a schedule each day/week/month when you go out purposefully looking for doors to photograph, or is it more of an organic process?

There’s certainly no strict schedule, but I find that Sundays are good for shooting in the centre of the city when businesses and buildings are closed. I keep a notebook of doors I need to return to if I don’t have my camera handy.

Durban Road, Wynberg-Chelsea Village

Do you find yourself driving to different neighbourhoods in search of good-looking doors?

Absolutely. Once I decided to commit to the project I identified areas that were likely to yield interesting and colourful doors. Bo-Kaap, Wynberg-Chelsea Village, the general CBD and the Atlantic Seaboard have been happy hunting grounds. Although not strictly Cape Town doors, I’ve photographed entrances in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, and plan to include Paarl too.

Do you find that bright colours or interesting architectural details make you want to photograph a door more?

Most definitely. Sometimes an actual door can be very plain, but the colour of the wood or surrounding walls can make it visually compelling. I’m a sucker for animals, so some ordinary doors have made the cut because the house cat/dog were lounging around the entrance.

Old Coach House, Wynberg-Chelsea Village

When you go to people's houses now, do you find yourself lingering outside gazing at their front doors for longer than is typically usual?

I’m naturally observant, but definitely pay close attention to any home or business I enter, or even go past. Spontaneity is good too – I went to friends in Vredehoek on Boxing Day and shot their white door with a Christmas hanging wreath. I even want to paint the front security door red on my own apartment block – just checking with the body corporate…

St James Beach

What sort of camera do you use?

A Nikon D3100 SLR. I transfer the images onto an iPad and then upload to Instagram. From the outset I concentrated on image quality and will not haphazardly shoot a door on my phone unless absolutely necessary. Ninety percent of the archive was shot with the Nikon.

How many doors have you photographed?

There are 160 doors posted on Instagram, but I have a solid archive that allows a door to be posted every two or three days. High walls and security gates mask many interesting doors, but homeowners who take pride in their entrances and are creative with security gates are likely to be featured.

Victoria Road, Hout Bay

When did you start the Instagram account?

Easter Saturday, 2013. I walked up St George’s Mall and started snapping…

What is your favourite door in Cape Town and why?

I hope I haven’t found it yet! Highlights to date (all pictured above) include UCT’s Department of Botany in autumn; the Cape Archives (two doors in one shot); and the Missibaba boutique on Bree Street (yellow door, charcoal wall). Sometimes you need a little luck, and I was fortunate that a fire engine was reversing into the Sea Point fire station one Friday afternoon. I got the shot as a fireman was closing the doors, with his helmet in hand. My favourite place to shoot is Wynberg-Chelsea Village, especially on Sundays.

Robert Sherwood Design, Bree Street

Otherwise what's next for DoorsofCapeTown?

Not everyone has access to Instagram, so a Facebook page and Tumblr blog are planned. Future ideas include postcards and photo books, and I always welcome tip-offs on doors that deserve to be photographed.