Simon Weller is a graphic designer and a freelance photographer - a fine combination of skills for such a book as SOUTH AFRICAN TOWNSHIP BARBERSHOPS & SALONS. Weller travels the globe for such prestigious employers as Getty Images, etc but this book is a 2009 expedition to South Africa, and to gather a microcosm of similar businesses (and art) within one country he has focused on those little places where real life talk happens spontaneously - the barbershops and salons. He visited Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and rural townships, finding the little homemade shops down alleys and minor streets - shops often built by and definitely designed by the 'entrepreneur' owners.
What results is a book full of photographs of these bastions of business that are usually tiny huts decorated with paintings and collage and photographs and wonderfully entertaining names - places where men and women alike can have their hair cut, styled, ironed, woven, braided, etc. Weller is obviously a gregarious artist as he is able to strike up conversations with the owners and with customers and from this illustrated information we learn much about the varying areas of South Africa, how the globe is viewed, how the townships are viewed, and a good bit of heady gossip that matches the brilliance of the photographs. Along the way Weller employs local guides and the conversations he gathers from them add to the special aura of the differences - and the pride - of the shops. He pauses in The Hollywood Barbershop where he photographs Lucky the barber and owner, takes his time in the 3 Sisters Hair Salon in Khayelitsha to document the process of hairbraiding, and he interviews people such as South African designer Garth Walker who puts all of Weller's explorations into context.Read more ›
Simon Weller's photography of the South African township barber shops is an incredibly engaging look at the human element of these makeshift, back alley salons. It seems like unconventional subject matter, but the photography is brutally beautiful. The written material that compliments the photos creates a connection to the visuals that I've never experienced. I highly recommend this book.
Another note: The book is printed beautifully, and bound in a very nice hardback cover. Not bland, or boring. Makes for a great conversation piece. I have it standing up on a shelf in my living room, and there have been multiple counts of people reaching for it, because it really does grab your eye. They then stood there, thumbing through page after page.
I'm really looking forward to more work from Mr. Weller. Believe you, me, I'll be the first in line to order his next book.
I am beyond pleased with my purchase of this book. If you are on the fence, do not hesitate as you will not be disappointed. The first thing you notice upon receipt is that this is a really beautiful book that's substantial in feel, artistically inviting and well-done overall. Nice colors, nice paper stock, nice finishing on the cover, nicely bound.
What unique insight to a culture I really didn't realize existed! The everyday lives and work of South African hair artisans and sign artists are captured here by a camera lens with a grace that is rivaled only by the faces themselves. The topic itself is fascinating - who knew there were so many of these businesses using such unique, vibrant art in their shop signs and on their buildings to atract customers? For a photographer to see an opportunity to document these establishments and create something this beautiful is really to be commended.
The beauty of the photographs are punctuated by careful descriptions, interviews and snippets of history lessons that make it much more than a coffee table book of pretty pictures. Weller is clearly a talented photographer that has an eye for the eccentric and beautiful - I look forward to seeing more of his work.
This was an impulse buy and I might not have noticed the book had it not been displayed with the cover facing out. The functionality of the objects and the chaos of the dangling wires grabbed my attention. The rest of the book is equally arresting. In addition to the beautiful photographs, the author has interviews with shop owners, customers, and the artists. It would be a hear heart indeed that isn't moved by the ingenuity of the proprietors of these businesses: repurposed shipping containers, electricity from car batteries, water in buckets from neighborhood taps. Weller shows how these informal barbershops function as community hubs (does anyone else remember Floyd's Barbershop in the Andy Griffith Show).
Physically the book is very appealing with a well bound hard cover, stunning photographs, and excellent layout. It is the kind of book that is a pleasure to own.