Our Friday Feature today is on Johannesburg based photographer, Gavin Blok.
Tell us how you got into photography and how long have you been doing it?
The first SLR I owned was a Nikon F70 that I bought in 1994 while on holiday in the Maldives and it was for personal use only. I was more into making movies and loved the immediate results I was getting shooting with a video camera. I loved filming weddings and have been capturing special moments since 1988. For 20 years I was content with video only, till I got to see the amazing results the new 2nd generation professional Nikon cameras, i.e… Nikon D2x was producing.
I was born in Stellenbosch and lived there almost all my life. In 2004 we relocated to Johannesburg and I had to restart my wedding video business from scratch again. One of the first wedding togs I met was Jaco & Daleen Fourie. We filmed many weddings together and became close family friends. I was amazed at how fast Jaco mastered digital photography and his ability to build a name for himself, locally as well as internationally. In the wedding video industry, this type recognition just did not exist.
When the economic and financial crunch started to effect us in South Africa, my wedding video bookings almost came to a standstill – yet active wedding photographers were still getting bookings. We then realised that a wedding video had become a luxury and that videographers were dropping to the bottom of the list of required service providers. What was I to do?
I absolutely love working at weddings and have devoted most of my working life to this amazing industry. Also from a financial point of view, I was so heavily invested into technology and equipment – that I simply could not throw in the towel. I had to find an alternative, more sustainable activity where I could use my skills and experience. Doing wedding photography was a logical option.
I contacted Jaco for advice and he recommended that I give it a shot. He had a used D2x for sale and I got it at a good price. He also asked me for a favour, to make a video of him shooting a “Trash-The-Dress” in Durban. In return I could use the opportunity to take some pictures for myself. The Trash-The-Dress shoot was an awesome experience and I got to meet an amazing group of wedding photographers. Togs like, Linda Twiggs, Derrick Gravett, Petrus Saayman, Pieter Willering and Neil Cuninghame left such a positive impression on me. I was stunned at the way they interacted with each other and the way they shared their knowledge. Needless to say, I have become close friends with most of them!!
When we returned from Durban, I could not contain myself when I saw the results of the photos I had taken. Jaco offered to print me a coffee table book and instantly I became published with my own first hard cover photo book.. This was the most exciting moment in my new photography career!!
Then in September 2008, after second-shooting only two weddings, I was thrown into the deep end by Doug Place. He had an enquiry for a wedding that he could not do and was asking for someone available in one of the forums I frequented. I called Doug to ask if the client wanted a video and then he gave me the client’s details. When I called – the client was not interested in a video and told me that Doug had only recommended me to do the wedding photos. I was so caught of guard, stuttered and then said ok – I said I would bring a sample photobook of my recent shoot in Durban when we meet later that afternoon. Needless to say – they loved my work and the book and booked me on the spot.
That is how I got my first solo wedding!!
The wedding turned out beautiful . . . and their coffee table book was a huge success!! After that I had two books to show my new prospective brides and that’s how I started. I was given an unexpected opportunity, grabbed the bull by the horns and I just went out and did it!!
What equipment do you use?
2 x Nikon D700 FX “Full Frame” DSLRs, 1 x Nikon D300 DX DSLR, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 G IF-ED AF-S VRII Lens, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 G IF-ED AF-S Zoom Lens, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED AF-S Zoom Lens, Nikon 35-70mm f2.8 D AF Zoom Lens, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D AF Prime Lens, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 AF Fisheye ED DX Lens, Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 G AF-S ED DX Lens.
What inspires you?
The utmost satisfaction I get, when my clients look at their photos and say: “We can’t believe it’s us – the photos are awesome!! Thank you, Thank you . . . Thank you!!!”.
What is your preferred subject matter?
Photographing people at live events. Also couples – truly in love, when nothing you ask of them is too much trouble. I love shooting a “Trash-The-Dress” at the coast – because that’s were it all started for me.
Name on thing that you would LOVE to shoot that you haven’t yet
At this stage in my photography career, I can’t really say that there is something I really would love to shoot. I go for every opportunity and try to make the most of it. I have so much catching up to do, so much still to accomplish and learn, that I am sure – some time in the future I will find “The One LOVE” to shoot.
When in doubt about your work, who do you confide in?
The internet & forums are amazing!! I can’t believe there are so many people out there – willing to help a stranger. Forums I follow is nobsphotosuccess.com, DWF and a few FaceBook photo groups, like Photographer Mojo and SAWPA. I also follow other international togs pages like Neil v Niekerk, Denis Reggie, Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner & David Beckstead to name a few. When I need to talk to someone, I can call Jaco Fourie any time and talk for hours.
Qualifications/training in anything?
I’m a qualified submariner in the SA Navy. I studied Mechanical Engineering, Psychology and Information Science. I worked as a Financial Planner at Old Mutual for 7yrs and also had my own Insurance Brokerage. At the same time I was in a partnership with a Commercial Video Production Company in Cape Town and I also owned a Training School teaching newbie’s how to use a video camera, camera technique and editing. I’m a self-taught filmmaker and photographer.
Who are the photographers that inspire you both locally and internationally?
As mentioned above, Neil v Niekerk, Denis Reggie, Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner & David Beckstead (international) and Jaco Fourie, Petrus Saayman, Michael Tree, Mario Sales and I must say Dror Eyal. Also Greg Mulford has played a huge role – what a crazy awesome guy!!
Plans for the future?
To expand my total operation – to find people who want to help us grow our business. I am so glad to have a former colleague and friend, Ross Goosen, with me at the moment. So much of what I know about video and media, I learned from him and he is an awesome commercial videographer!! I want to expand my studio, make it bigger and better. I wish to create a space for creative people to flourish in. I also want to get back into training – to share the knowledge and experience I have gained in this industry over the past 23 years.
In one phrase or word, describe your photography.
Still in a process of discovery . . .