“He chooses photography as a medium to communicate and engage with people from all walks of life.  Photography is not always the easiest of jobs.  Some of the terrible experiences he had may have forced him to quit but he is staying put. While shooting images, he always appreciates how musicians make the instruments have a solid conversation all at once. His work always reminds him how beautiful nature looks”

In 2014 Hymie Sokupha Sokupha left his full-time job, bought a smartphone and developed a passion for taking pictures of places and things he saw.  Six years later, the 29-year-old former driver and camera assistant is one of the photographers whose work is widely recognized and used in print publications.  He is last born of the four sons to Gladstone and Nosi Sokupha.  Working in a production set was something he thoroughly enjoyed but taking his own images was something he was extremely passionate about.

Hymie Sokupha. Picture by Marc School

He was born and raised in Alexandra township where he still lives.  Hymie’s education started at Ekukhanyiseni Primary School.  From there he went to Liberty High School where he dropped out at Grade 11.  He had an amazing childhood and upbringing. “When my father passed away, life became a challenge and I was forced to for work as a means of survival”, he told Jazz It Out. The young and curious Hymie found himself working in the fast-paced field of production.  When his aunt Caroline saw his passion for taking images, she bought her nephew his first digital camera.

“I am self-taught photographer.  When my love for photography grew bigger, I got Charles Heiman to mentor me which is where I drew inspiration from”, he said.  Heiman started giving Sokupha fundamentals on how to upgrade his photographic skills. From an amateur photographer, he started turning his passion into hobby which ultimately became his profession.  “I took up a few challenges to upgrade my skills”, he added. Hymie specializes in portraiture, social and corporate events, photo journalism, property, food, fashion, and product photography.  His company is called Hymie’s Eagle Eye Photographic Solutions.

In this image of pianist Thandi Ntuli, Hymie shows appreciation of concerts performed at full houses and the happiness that bring to artists and jazz audiences.                                                                      

What made him develop a passion for photography was speaking through the images he takes. “I choose photography as a medium to communicate and spread my message and engage with people from all walks of life”, he said.  Hymie also knows that being a photographer is not the easiest of jobs.  He has been prevented several times from accessing places and shooting concerts.  Those experiences taught him to do his homework before the event is hosted such as finding out what restrictions are imposed and get all the relevant information before the day of the event to avoid disappointment.

Despite the developments in the media which has seen people using more modern and sophisticated ways, Hymie firmly believes photography will always be relevant.  Iconic images are taken through the camera and are viewed by many generations and earn awards for the lens men and women who shoot them. They provide credible evidence of what happened when they were taken.  In his six years as a photographer is yet to receive an accolade but is happy with the nominations he has received which give him lots of encouragement to excel in what he does. “More should be expected from me”, he said.

Through photography, Hymie enjoys seeing people’s expressions when being photographed and how beautiful nature looks.  He believes it is important for photographers to be always out and about.  They must engage with people, talk about their business, be visible on social media platforms, assist where they can and create a need for their services.  Doing a shoot requires a lot of energy. Fashion, portraits and family photos require the photographer to engage with the subject, set the mood to get the expression they need from the shots.

Hymie captioned this image of pianist Nduduzo Makhathini “My favourite notes that touch my soul”

One cannot be a jazz photographer if they do not appreciate the genre itself.  “I love how the musicians have a solid conversation all at once”, he told Jazz It Out.  Hymie is passionate about jazz which he sees as music for the youth.  “If we look at the background of most jazz artists, they started singing and playing the instruments when they were young, some in their early teens”, he added. Even though he is a lover of music in general, jazz is a genre that he listens to the most.  Doing chores like cleaning feels a lot easier for the camera man through the sound of jazz.

Some of the memorable jazz events that he has covered include Jazzy July, Jazz on the Lake, Echoes of Times, concerts by Ayanda Sikade Quintet, Ndabo Zulu’s Umgidi Ensemble, Nduduzo Makhathini and the CD launch by Viwe Mkizwana.  Through these events, he gets to meet people and other jazz photographers he draws inspiration from.  Hymie is always humbled to hear jazz artists acknowledging his work as much as he appreciates their music.  The relationships he has established with some musicians he led to him being roped in their special projects where good images are of paramount importance.

Hymie is also encouraged to see photographers hosting exhibitions displaying their artwork, something he hopes to do one day.  He hopes to see more pictorial jazz books showcasing the talent this country has in abundance.  The outbreak of Covid-19 has raised a few concerns for the lens man.  “Some photographers are selling their equipment to survive during this pandemic”, he said.  Hymie is also selling some of his images in print to survive the loss as a result of many events being called off. But he refuses to paint a gloomy picture for the future.  “Photography will always be a service required as part of storytelling.  Perhaps as photographers we need to create ways of remaining relevant”, he added.

Through this image, Hymie acknowledges how the audience pays attention which gives the band energy to give their best performance.

When life is back to normal, he wants to own a photography studio at home, increase his client database, and most importantly groom other upcoming photographers.  He always tells young people that have an interest in taking photography as a career to use whatever resources citing his example of starting to take pictures using a smartphone.  Most importantly, they need to have a passion for what they do because days are not the same and often you come across with people who often make it impossible to do what you love.

His worst experience as a photographer was when he saw his work in a newspaper credited to another photographer.  Hymie often covers weddings and events where clients promise to pay but never do.  His best experience was seeing his photographs at the airport billboards.  He also gets joys seeing his images appearing in publications and just hearing people compliment his work.  The photographer is also very active on social media.  Like his Facebook Page Hymie Sokupha.  Follow him on Twitter @Hymie_Eye and Instagram @hymiesokupha. Connect with him on LinkedIn Hymie Sokupha.