In Good Company, visual artist and photographer Marc Gregory merges photography with magic. The book is a culmination of several years of work where Gregory portrayed South Africans who had excelled in their field using visual art. Each artwork in the book is accompanied by profiles written by Jenny Griesel. The Daily Vox team chatted with Gregory about the book and his work.
What made you decide to put this book together?
The idea germinated two years ago. My vision was to create a visual art collection celebrating South Africa’s culture of greatness – being a mirror for others’ light. Also whose imagery and stories would inspire others to create their own brand of magic. I did this body of work in order to impact our country positively. It’s the reason why I teamed up with Reach for a Dream Foundation where all the money from the proceeds of the book will be going.
The money raised from the book will go towards building Dream Rooms for children in South African hospitals.
What was the process like?
In order to produce the art pieces, I had to discover what drives these 32 prolific South Africans at a deeper level. I spent much time researching their history including the events that have shaped who they are as a person. For example not many people know that Maps Maponyane overcame a debilitating stutter at a young age by learning to read aloud to himself. He pushed his limits even further by pursuing a career which relied on talking and crushed it as an actor, producer and entrepreneur. His art piece attached shows the books pages fused in his hair and is titled FULLY BOOKED.
I provided everyone the same set of iconic questions before the photoshoot. “What is the single most exciting and uncomfortable work you will spend your time on over the next year?” This question unearthed dreams and purpose. John Sanei is one of the most expansive people I photographed and he says, “In your pursuit of your purpose and passion, always, always, always follow your highest excitement”.
I also asked them “how would you describe yourself as a symbol /animal/plant?” This question was by far the most impactful because it would reveal them in a way that anyone could relate to. Professor Thuli Madonsela for example embodies strength, grace and dignity and we wanted to capture this by linking her to her symbol, the elephant with which she identifies. In some cultures the elephant is considered sacred, and assumes an understated power of royalty.
The other question was “how would you describe the above vision for yourself in one word”. Pepe Marais said greatness; Zuraida Jardine limitless and Rapelang Rabana connected.
The book features 32 prolific South Africans. Some of the people featured are Nadia Nakai, Farah Fortune, Minnie Dlamini Jones and Dr. Shaakira Choonara amongst others.
How did you choose the people to profile?
In Good Company celebrates our culture of greatness. So I wanted to capture South Africans who excelled from all facets of South Africa including business, sport, music, fashion and more. It was about greats that had achieved success in their fields, had an inspiring story to share and who believed in the impact we were creating with Reach For A Dream. Ultimately this was about capturing the identity of SA’s greatest people in a way all South Africans could relate to.
What did you hope to achieve with the book?
As South Africans, we’ve been living through a time of major disruption as many people have had to put their dreams on hold due to the pandemic. In Good Company re-ignites our creativity and optimism so that we can realise our dreams again.
For Gregory, he is passionate about photography and art because it allows him to create new realities that help people and brands positively stand out.
Tell me about the partnership with Reach for a Dream?
In Good Company re-ignites our creativity so that we can realise our dreams again. It was serendipitous to partner with the Reach for a Dream Foundation who create meaningful impact by making dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses come true. I truly believe that if art can become more than something we look at in passing, and it can find a way to impact the people in our country then art has truly transcended itself and fulfilled its ultimate potential.
While working with the RFAD team I really got to understanding what they are doing to help young children to realise their dreams. It made me appreciate just how blessed I’ve been to have had the time in my life to realise so many dreams, including this one.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
The book is available online and in-store from Exclusive Books.