It’s not always easy articulating why you are drawn towards a certain subject matter or visual theme, but creating this short piece – I Found Myself In Hues of Cinder – became one of those magic creative experiences where it intuitively came together to express a feeling really – a feeling of coming through the other side.

As a stills photographer, this is my first foray into video and it was a true collaboration. Not only with the editor, but with the incredible dancer and choreographer Llewellyn Mnguni. I was looking for an exceptional dancer. Someone talented, beautiful and unique. I happened upon Llewellyn’s work on Instagram and just knew they had to be in my project.

I’m in love with dancers (I photograph them as often as I can) and how they transform their bodies to create meaning.  Llewellyn immediately stood out and I approached them, not knowing their personal story and how the essence of what I was trying to convey through this piece spoke to them so profoundly.

Growing up in the small ultra-conservative town of Mafikeng, South Africa, Llewellyn was raised in the strict Setswana culture.  Being black, queer and feminine, they have walked through fire themself. Barefoot.  We are all transformed through pain, trauma and adversity but this is something they can viscerally relate to. So when we arrived on location, an abandoned mine-dump in Krugersdorp (a small town on the outskirts of Johannesburg) they just knew what to do.  They danced purely on intuition. They took the fire, the smoke, the props, the sand, the setting sun – and turned them into pain and freedom.

The seed of this piece was very personal. A few years ago, I went through an incredibly traumatic experience.  It took me giving up my life as I knew it to become the person I am today. Collaborating with Llewellyn enabled me to tap into the universal experience of what it means to be human.  To experience pain and despair and to be transformed by it.  I sometimes feel that we too are a bit like fynbos that require fire in order to complete their life cycle.  In the same way, our seeds of creativity and renewal are only unlocked in our destruction.  Challenging times have the power to transform us just as fire has the power to destroy or renew.

We become because of it.

DIRECTOR & STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER: LIEZL ZWARTS @liezlzwarts
DANCER & CHOREOGRAPHER: LLEWELLYN MNGUNI @lulubelle999
RETOUCHER FOR STILLS: JP HANEKOM @ilive.idream
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: JORDAN-LUKE PASCOE @jordanlukeout
SECOND CAMERA OPERATOR: JOSHUA BULL
PROP STYLIST & SET DESIGN: KLARA VAN WYNGAARDEN @klara.v.w
MAKE UP: TSHEGO RAMS @swirlstylist
SFX: GERHARD VAN DER HEEVER
1ST ASSISTANT: BASETSANA MALULEKA @bvssiie_
2ND ASSISTANT: CINDY LEAH AWUOR
3RD ASSISTANT: BEN NKOMA
EQUIPMENT RENTAL: GLOW HIRE
EDITOR: JAMIE TAYLOR @superfortyfour1331
EDITING FACILITY: HOUSE ON FIRE @_house_on_fire_
COLOURIST: CHRISTIAAN RAUTENBACH
FINAL MIX & SOUND DESIGN: BRENDAN LARTER (BART) COPY WRITER: ZOË ARTHUR