Photography – In Focus with Juanita McKenzie

Embracing city life, photographer Juanita McKenzie finds beauty in the metropolitan landscape around her to produce some powerful, eye-catching shots. Here, she tells us what drives her and shares some of her favourite photos…

‘I am a Bristol based amateur photographer but I’m originally from Cape Town in South Africa and moved to the UK about 6 years ago. It was a huge transition to make and in many ways was a process of starting over but I believe this was the catalyst to rediscovering my teenage dreams of pursuing photography. In high school I dreamed of becoming a photojournalist and telling the stories that I so passionately believed needed to be told. I saw the ability of an image to convey powerful emotive messages in a way that words could not, yet I also saw the synergy that could arise from combining image and word.

Looking back, I realise that the passion for photography has been there almost since the beginning – as a very young child I was fascinated by a set of encyclopaedias at home that had the most amazing colour pictures of the world and its people. I remember spending hours looking through them, planning how I would visit all these places one day, to take the photographs and tell the stories. So here I am now… a late starter perhaps and with a lot to learn… but I have a long-standing love of photography and a dream that demands I pursue it!

Having moved from the Cape Town environment of mountains and sea to living in a city in the UK has been a big adjustment and a major influence on my style of photography. I’ve had to adapt to not only being in a new country but also to city life and being part of an urban landscape. Cities can appear to be grey, oppressive concrete jungles but I have learned that if you really look, there is beauty to be found everywhere.

(Kings Cross Station, London)

Everything is about perception and your perspective at any given time. It fascinates me how we all look at the same things yet see something completely different. How we perceive the world is unique to each one of us and photography is a way to for me to show the viewer the world as I see it, through my particular perspective and through my lens. I hope that it creates a visual journey for the viewer that may inspire seeing the familiar or ordinary with new eyes.

For me photography is a narrative, each image tells a story and often has a story behind it too. Photography captures moments in a sea of constant change and this is particularly evident in the fast pace of city life. Photography is a way of slowing down and being present in the midst of all the rush and movement. It is a way of capturing the essence of a moment and documenting places, lives, people, the times we live in. These images are collections of moments that weave together to tell our stories.

I hope that I can inspire others to discover the world with new eyes every single day, starting right where they are. There is beauty everywhere, you just have to look for it!’

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour”

– William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

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Colourful Exchanges

Paddington Central, Westway Bridge – city underpasses transformed by colour. This is a public artwork by Liz Weston, called Colour Transfer. The statue in the foreground is one of two very realistic figures by sculptor Sean Henry, portraying the narrative of everyday life and the potential of meeting up.

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Perceptions

New Bridewell Street Walkway, Bristol – large public artwork on the side of a building, showing a digital pattern that appears to change as you walk past. This artwork is called 14537/9431 and is by artist Lilah Fowler.

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Keeping an Eye on You

Candid shot of spectators at the vibrant Notting Hill Carnival 2018.  Some of the buildings along the streets are boarded up during the carnival weekend but these barriers are transformed into colourful and inviting artworks.

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Golden Hour Reflections in London

This is a city that has definitely stolen my heart with all its contrasts and contradictions. The modern architectural styles of glass fronted skyscrapers can provide perfect reflections and in both of these images I loved the combinations of old and new, reflection and form, cold and warm light.

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Walking in my Shoes

Bristol Wing – This was taken on a photoshoot and the model was posing outside the old fire station doors. While everyone was trying to capture her face in the last ray of sunlight, I noticed her shoes and how they expressed so much. I love DMs and pretty much live in them, so well-worn boots speak to me of character and roads travelled.

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Look Up

City buildings can tower over us, dominating the landscape and blocking out light. I see so many people walk around the city, hunched over, looking down, drawn into themselves. Looking up reveals beautiful building details, expansive skies and interesting skylines. It also creates a sense of spaciousness and light that can sometimes be forgotten in the concrete jungle.

(Left: Bristol Wing, old police headquarters – Top Right: Richmond Building, Bristol – Bottom Right: Rivington Place, Shoreditch)

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At the Feet of a Poet

St Pancras International – detail shot of the large statue of poet, Sir John Betjeman. Something a little different and purely because I could not seem to get a clear shot without people in it. I eventually sat down on the ground in despair to wait and that’s when I saw this shot. I never did get a shot of the entire statue.

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Painted Cities

Urban art has fascinated me for a long time and it is so much a part of city life as a means of social commentary, protest, expression and also transformation. I notice how areas that are decaying and forgotten often provide the canvas for some of the most beautiful and colourful street art. The art transforms and uplifts these neglected spaces and creates a sense of vibrant culture and optimism in these communities. In some cases street art has even become part of the identity of these areas.

(Top Left & Top Right: Stokes Croft, Bristol – Bottom: Brick Lane, London – Header Shot: Shoreditch, London)

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All photos are taken and copyrighted by Juanita. If you would like to see more of her work or discuss a photography project, you can contact her via her website and see regular posts on Instagram.

25th February 2019