Lunghelo Mlati is a self-taught photographer whose dream was to study film, but similar to many other South African dreams, he could not pursue this path, due to financial reasons.
However, that did not stop him from becoming what he wanted. He has always had a good eye for detail; which translated to beautifully captured pictures which told endless stories - no surprises at all then as to why he fell in love with the art of photography.
How it all begun…
He explains how he bagged his first gig as a professional photographer by chance: "There was a club called Dollar Table in Melville I used to frequent, and they needed a photographer. I borrowed a friend's camera, and the rest is history.”
Like many self-taught artists, Lunghelo's journey into photography has not been easy; he’s had to work twice as hard because of the lack of a qualification, or experience - all the while being underpaid.
“Getting paid for something I enjoyed, and didn't mind waking for, was the defining moment where I decided to take on photography as a career,” he reflects.
He then began honing his craft by looking at YouTube tutorials, reading books and of course, constant practise. His work influences include the "I See a Different You” trio, multidisciplinary artist Karl Ndebele, and photographer and influencer Trevor Stuurman, to name a few.
On his biggest achievement so far, he says, “being a father is foremost the best thing to happen, also shooting SA Fashion Week, as well as getting my pictures featured on the JobStarter website".
Asked where his creativity could transport him, without fear of failure, he replies: "I'd travel, capture different cultures and shoot a lot of documentaries".
The creative industry is fast-paced, and requires someone of original ideas and a high-quality vetting standard, he notes. “One must be able to craft extraordinary material/work to get exposure and grow as a brand,” he adds.
Although securing gigs as a freelancer is important, one should expect some tough negotiations, he warns. “It's also difficult to get people to pay you a market-related fee. It's a matter of taking it in your stride and persevering.”
Lunghelo proves anything is possible with the right mindset and dedication. He was able to make a career out of his passion, and you could too, afterall, you are a creative!