Inhabitant: is a series of street photography project looking at the streets of Hillbrow; a residential neighborhood just in the outskirt of Johannesburg, South Africa. The Tanzanian-born photographer captures the faces of people both aware and unaware of his presence, resulting in an array of wistful glances and piercing stares.
This project takes the ideas of privacy in the public space, and the complex role of a photographer within this realm, as a starting point. At any given time, if one is aware of life on the streets, one can locate somebody who appears to think he/she is not being watched. The photographer has an obligation to ask for their permission when working in the street, but this is not always possible and can also ruin the photographic moment. Through a series of candid photographs, Fidelis describes his experience, on the other side of the lens, as having ups and downs. On being faced with the common question, “… Why are you taking a photo of me? …” and the heated debates that usually follow, Fidelis turned to exploring the concept of self, in relation to others and their shared surroundings. He consciously sets out to test the limits of access and personal space through different kinds of images.
The difference it makes when the subject is aware of the photographer is noticeable, with a change in mimic, posture and attitude. These all contribute to the photograph’s message. On the other hand, when the subject is caught off guard, the nature of the photograph makes this obvious. As the picture takes on an air of secrecy, the viewer becomes a kind of voyeur, complicit in taking a moment to look into a stranger’s life.
Given his identity as a non-South African, a double-outsider in being both a stranger and a documenter, Fidelis probes issues of selfhood and public perception. As a knowing photographer, potentially brash or even illegal behavior of photographing people in the street is done with the purpose of pushing the point that nobody has control of privacy in the street, even if they manage to snatch some at certain moments. The photographic series is further intended to question public identities and what happens to them at street level. “Who am I and what am I to others?” is a question resulting in very different meanings when the camera moves on through the area of Hillbrow; a particular socio-economic demographic where “strangers” and unfixed or uncertain identities are constantly being renegotiated. Different kinds of focus and intensities of angle are intended to enhance the psychological tension of capturing inner and outer worlds.