Studio Studio is a photographic studio, shared office space and the home of Johannesburg photographers Justin McGee and Chris Saunders. They opened the doors in October and a launch party was held on the rooftop, which boasts one of the city’s best views. We spoke to Justin McGee about his startup and what it takes to pursue a creative vision in Johannesburg.
There seems to be a real sense of community around the space.
Yeah, Chris Saunders once invited the Vintage Dance Crew kids to use the space as a practice area. They showed up unannounced one day, and as they were doing their routine, I shot some video of them. Occasionally they would hit the mark, allowing me to film something visually exciting. I wouldn’t get as much opportunity to shoot random moments like those if I did not have the space.
You hang around with a number of the city’s musicians and artists, has helping them out been a driving factor to your exploration of film?
It has definitely helped. I had been working towards shooting more film for a long time. Helping out friends and artists has given me a greater education in the medium than I would get from attending a college course. My focus improves with each new project, so they help me to develop my skill. Many times I help them out with the condition that I can shoot their next budgeted video, even though those budget don’t stretch very far. I don’t mind working for free on projects that I love, but a bit of money never hurts. I have always been like that, just because I am always fighting against everything. Getting money helps me survive, but it can’t make me live.
How have you kept Studio Studio going when commercial jobs are slow?
We rent out the rooftop space to people that host parties. We have hosted our own parties too. We occasionally host events with friends, but money can muddy relationships - and it gets tough to control what comes in on a night and what goes out. Ideally we like to rent the space to people for a lump sum and let them handle the events. It is interesting to live, work and party all in one space.
Between the commercial work and the parties, how has the space allowed you to pursue more of your personal projects?
I did some press shots for Eve Rakow’s musical project, Stolen Pony. Most of the city’s musicians struggle to make a living so I agreed to do it for free if she would let me shoot some videos for her. I want to be more involved in film, so it was a good place to build a body of work. The studio has also let me help other friends with projects. It is easy for me to set up for a shoot so I just invite people around and we get things done. Johannesburg’s art scene thrives on favours. The studio has let me take on projects without the stress of worrying about logistics.