Sitting down for a virtual interview doesn’t have the same charm as the real thing. But with Cape Town born fashion photographer, Gerald Kallis, comfy in a hoodie and traffic buzzing outside my small screen becomes a pre-COVID cafe just for a moment. Instead of the sterile boxes our homes have become. “It’s a bit like we’re living in a Sci-Fi movie, isn’t it!” is the first thing Gerald remarks.
Face-to-face interaction has turned into a strange taboo to navigate. Even more so in Cape Town’s eclectic creative community of photographers, models, makeup artists and content creators – all who thrive on a more hands-on approach. With gloved and sterilized hands now idle, Gerald and I talk about the creative wasteland and his brain baby: Moving Box Studios.
What was your initial response to the almost completely foreign idea of a nationwide lockdown? I mean, after ‘joh, it’s rof’?
“Lockdown has been the weirdest rollercoaster ride I think”, he remarks. “Not only for creatives/freelancers but for the entire globe”, he finishes, musing that he went into the initial 21 days thinking that would be it and life would go on. “But by Day 3 the realist in me started realizing that this might be the start of something much longer! I think as for most people, especially creatives, the lockdown has had a massive mental health effect. Personally that was the hardest part about this entire experience, but ‘life finds a way’.”
He pauses, and I can feel a good anecdote coming. “Being a freelancer is like being a shark. Not because we are ruthless hunting machines, but rather because as soon as we stop moving it’s over!” He laughs.
“It seems hard right now, it seems like it’s not going to get any better BUT it will.”
Speaking of moving, he says: “Level 4 came and I decided that it’s time to try and do something to keep sane and possibly even create an income. Having recently moved into a new home just before lockdown, there was a few moving boxes still standing around which I could push together and stack to create a little work table for shooting on.”
You were onto something there, I can tell! I think out loud. “This all gave birth to the idea of shooting product for online sales as it’s a safe approach and something most companies desperately need to stay afloat in these times.” Moving Box Studios!
So I would courier my goods over to you, and you shoot them with the same boxes? I ask. No mess, no fuss, no contact. Ingenuitive. “Yes, I am trying to work with small local businesses to be able to preserve some of the amazing products produced locally so other small businesses like myself don’t get lost in this economic tornado.”
That sounds like a plan. On plans though, Kallis is thoughtful: “It’s tough – I don’t think you can have a solid plan of action with the constant change. You need to be super adaptive to stay ahead.”
Adapting from live subjects to tongue-in-cheek toilet rolls must have been interesting, I laugh. “Well”, he says, “I started my journey in photography completely by accident taking photos for a couple of friends who played in bands in 2014. Slowly my attention started shifting to fashion photography and by 2016 I fully dedicated my career to this field…Fast forward a couple of years, I started shooting [products] for bigger companies. So not entirely new to me, luckily! ”
“Our lives feel a bit like they’ve been packed away into moving boxes.”
I point out that he’s come up with something you can do from home in an industry where location is everything. You have to think on your toes, and that’s something a lot of fresh young’uns can take note of. “Yeah, the only advice I could give to other creatives, especially the young creatives trying to break into the industry, in this time is: It seems hard right now, it seems like it’s not going to get any better BUT it will. It always does. Keep learning, keep trying, keep creating.”
Looking at Gerald’s cover images I’m struck with the sterile, minimalistic environment we’ve all been thrust into. Our lives feel a bit like they’ve been packed away into moving boxes, only to be unpacked and resume when this strange time is over. But his parting words ring with me, blending into one idea: Keep moving!
Coping with COVID-19:
Finish the sentence:
I stay inspired/motivated to create by the fear of being left behind and losing the chance to do what I love doing for the rest of my life.
Taking care of your mental health ….. helps a lot.
When I feel stressed I make sure to try and do as much physical exercise as possible to clear my mind.