HE HAS been making news headlines for his love life but long before Anele Papu was linked to the curvaceous TV presenter Boity, he had been honing his craft as a photographer.
Evident by the amount of celebrities the KwaDwesi photographer has captured, Papu remains a firm favourite among the who’s who on the South African entertainment scene.
Raised by a single mother of three, Papu, 26, who matriculated from Lungisa High School, said his mother had hoped he would study information technology, and even though he was accepted into the course at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, he chose instead to follow his heart and pursue a creative career.
“Even though it wasn’t what she wanted me to study, my mother still supported me through it all but it wasn’t all easy.
“The photographic course required a lot of extra money weekly to carry out assignments and that led me to get a job so I could meet my mother halfway by helping out with buying the small stuff,” Papu said.
Speaking to Weekend Post, Papu shared his journey thus far.
What is a social media influencer and what does one do?
A social media influencer is also an individual who plays a temporary role as a brand ambassador for brands on a smaller scale through social organic collaborative projects.
How and when did you get into photography?
I got into photography at university. Initially, I wanted to do graphic design, but it was recommended that I do photography. After some of my work was involved in an exhibition and sold at varsity, I got a positive response, which gave me a confidence boost and made me think I could actually do this. Immediately after dropping out of university in my second year, I started my own company and I’d say that’s when I gained all my experience, applied everything I had learnt in that short while. It’s carried me this far.
When did you move to Johannesburg?
I officially moved to Johannesburg this year in search of a bigger platform.
Last year, I was in and out and some people thought I lived in Joburg already, because I’d spend two weeks every month between the two cities.
You’re not just a photographer, but a model as well. Could you tell us about your modelling career?
After attending a few fashion events I had a number of agents approach me who were quite interested in representing me. I exchanged contacts, had a few meetings and everything took off from the first casting I attended for an MTN summer campaign. The rest is history.
Who would you say gave you your first break?
I did it myself, because I never joined a series or reality TV show. I just submitted my portfolios everywhere myself and the work I presented luckily spoke for itself.
But things really started happening for me when I began working with celebrities and my fan base grew. Brands soon followed. I’d also say the collaborative projects I’ve done with huge household names helped.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get the perfect shot?
Shooting with a full-grown live cheetah in studio. The thing kept coming my way and its minders fed it raw mean on location just to keep off and distract it. It’s only now I think to myself… What was I thinking?
Do you describe yourself as a celebrity photographer?
I haven’t yet accepted the title but SA has given it to me because I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities and incredible brands that have brought the spotlight. I’m beginning to accept it. After all, it’s not really a bad title… Lol.
Who do you look up to in terms of photography?
Steve McCurry. He’s the best photographer.
What projects have you been involved with or are you currently busy with, and what are your future plans?
This year has been amazing. I’ve been involved with incredible brands and have gained experience. I recently did an international #Truewanderer campaign with the brand Wrangler as a judge, which was huge for me. I’ve also been involved in award-winning projects with rapper Emtee’s and more. All Emtee’s photography for his debut album, Avery, and video shoots were done by me. You’ll definitely be seeing me soon in places you never thought!
What advice would you give to youngsters from KwaDwesi who look up at you and aspire to become like you?
I’m very sensitive about giving advice as there’s actually no formula. Just do it your way, but always remember hard works pays off.
All I can say is that I’ve encountered the grace of God. So my advice to them would also be to get close to God and pray.
Lastly . . . Are you and Boity shacking up together?