Art Focus: Expressions of a man’s truth

Art Focus: Expressions of a man’s truth

By Melissa Cohen

A picture can say a thousand words, and that is exactly what Cape Town based photographer Robert Hamblin’s work does.
After being involved with theatre and performance production and photography, Hamblin decided to take his passion for photography seriously and has been a full time photographer since 2012. “I always use people in my work. My work is performance based and I try and use a concept to help express that,” says Hamblin with a smile.

Hamblin uses photography to have a discussion with his viewer around truths and struggles of being a man in today’s times. He does, however use this medium in a very different and unique way. “I break all the rules of photography by making my images blurry and using low light,” explains the artist.
Currently, Hamblin has two different exhibitions running during this month. Both works embody the essence of his concept of the portrayal of masculinity in society today. ‘Threshold’ is an exhibition running in Cape Town over the next few weeks where Hamblin captures the male body during a period of expression. “I use cayolin clay on the men’s faces, which gives the work a South African theme. It also makes it look like the process of some ritual,” says Hamblin.

‘Threshold’ talks about the personal experiences of men in society. Hamblin has done this by chatting to different men and taking pictures of them as they perform a “physical theatre like” ritual. Each photo is completed with a quote by the subject written in binary code.
‘The Colony (Phase 2) Occupy’ is Hamblin’s biggest exhibition, which is running in Johannesburg at UJ from October 8. Although it is only running in Joburg at the moment, Hamblin believes that he is showcasing a piece of Cape Town through this work.

Simplistic, beautiful, yet very powerful are words that best describe ‘The Colony’ as it depicts masculinity and the power that money has over men in society. Dalebrook tidal pool near Kalk Bay was the canvas for this painting. This exhibition features a contrast of images which depict men rising out of water in formal suits. This is juxtaposed by other images of the sunrise and the striking gold colours that emerge on other objects in the surroundings, like rocks and water droplets.

Hamblin isn’t really interested in other forms of art other than photography. “I have never been interested in painting, because I find it very boring. I prefer working on modern, contemporary projects,” mentions the photographer.
Throughout his career, Hamblin has had to face various challenges to ensure that he presents audiences with unique and pleasing work. “I find it is difficult to stick to the concept sometimes and I also find that it is difficult to make the work that you envision accessible and convincing to your audience. It’s all about finding links with other people.”

* For more information about Robert Hamblin and his exhibitions visit
Exhibition dates:
• ‘Beyond the Beach’ (Featuring work from ‘Threshold’) – Until October 21 at Casa Labia, Muizenburg.
• ‘The Colony (Phase 2) Occupy’ – October 8 to November 19 at UJ, Johannesburg.

Twitter: @MelCohen92