Louis Botha Photographer
Louis was born in Bloemfontein, Free State but grew up on a small farm north of Pretoria. Their gabled house, from stone, was built on a rocky “koppie” with views to the north, east, west and south, as far as the eyes could see. Much younger than his elder brothers Louis had to amuse himself.
In the silence and surrounded with an abundance of space and nature Louis learnt to appreciate the beauty of a sunrise and a sunset, the full moon rising above the trees in the east and setting in the west. He observed the building up of clouds resulting in late afternoon thunder storms and he stood in awe as he watched the bright stars and the milky way hanging low at night. He developed a deep awareness of the rhythm of nature as it changed from season to season.
After finishing school Louis studied finance and managerial sciences and entered a corporate career in the financial services industry.
Louis always had an interest in photography and at the age of 40, encouraged by his wife who thought he needed a hobby, decided to take it a step further. He enrolled for several courses at the National College of Photography and joined a photography club. He bought many photography books and embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Louis firmly believes that a photograph says something of the subject but also something of the photographer! Looking through a view finder became Louis’ escape from the noise and busyness around him. The thought of writing stories with light excited him and Louis changed his lifestyle drastically to make more time for photography.
The idea of making photographs oppose to taking pictures became Louis’ passion. Every photograph to work requires just the right amount of time and light and the impact of a photo increases in direct correlation with the quality of the light available. Louis got inspired by the words of one of the founders of photography, the Frenchman Louis Daguerre who wrote to a friend: ”I’ve managed to arrest the flight of light, the sun itself shall draw my pictures.”
Louis is married to Mariana, who paints, and they have three sons. Every year they drove 1200km through the middle of the country to a holiday destination in the Southern Cape. These journeys took them through the Karoo. On these road trips Louis began to discover many qualities reminding him of his upbringing. He fell in love with the wide-open spaces, the clean air, the silence and the feeling that time stood still in the beautiful Karoo villages. The vast landscapes, the old white washed buildings and the friendly people of the Karoo became his open-air-studio and his preferred subject matter.
The Karoo and his passion for photography absorbed Louis completely and in 2008 he began to travel the Karoo extensively. In the last 15 years Louis travelled through the length and breadth of the whole Karoo multiple times and photographed the rich diversity of beautiful landscapes, old Karoo buildings and people he met on the way. In 2011 Louis and Mariana bought their first property in Prince Albert and live there since 2014. Prince Albert was chosen as it has a rich history dating back to the 1700’s and it is nestled at the foot of the majestic Swartberg Mountains with amazing landmarks such as Meiringspoort, Swartberg Pass, Kango Caves and Gamkaskloof all within reach.
In 2015 Louis published his first photobook titled “SLOW DOWN look again”. For this book he photographed the coloured community of Prince Albert. He found the people he met and photographed so interesting that he realized that unless we as human beings slow down and listen to each other we will never get to understand and appreciate each other. All the images were taken with a 1956 Hasselblad loaded with medium format film. Louis just felt that black and white film showed much more respect to his subjects. The slower process of shooting with film, using a hand-held light meter and a tripod, also contributed to a better connection with the people he photographed.
In 2017 Louis published a second photobook titled Karoo. In this book he captured the vast open spaces of the Karoo.
In 2019 Louis was commissioned to do a photobook for Naankuse, a large conservation organization in Namibia. The title is “Naankuse”, a bushman word meaning “God protects us”. Naankuse does conservation of endangered animals, vegetation and the Bushmen culture.
And in 2023 Louis published a second book on the Karoo, “KAROO book 2”, this time a more balanced representation of Karoo landscapes, small “dorpies” and its inhabitants. For this collection of photographs Louis and his wife travelled through the whole Karoo again and visited 51 small “dorpies” and other places such as railway stations, missionaries and concentration camps.
Louis is often asked the question how is it possible to love shooting landscapes and people so much, are they not very different. His answer is that landscapes and people are not very different subject matters as one’s approach to photographing them are not very different. Landscapes and people go through seasons of change, have different moods and only reveal their real character when there is a proper connection between photographer and the subject. This connection is normally built on trust and trust comes from showing respect and spending time with them.
Louis has several solo and group exhibitions under the belt and his work can be seen in the Prince Albert Gallery, on FB and/or Instagram.
Louis enjoys sharing his love and experience of photography and the Karoo with other photographers during his workshops. These are normally tailored to customers’ needs and time available.
Louis is a member of Prince Albert’s Open Studios and of SCAVA (Southern Cape Association of Visual Art). Written by: Louis Botha