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  Impressions of a journey through Africa  
 
Author: Nicolette Dirk
Publication: Southern Suburbs Tatler
Publication Date: 30 April 2009

G√ľnther Komnick has taken 50 years of his photographic work and incorporated it into a book called Impressions

Award-winning Pinelands photographer, G√ľnther Komnick, has produced an engaging coffee table book, Impressions, incorporating many of the pictures he has taken of people and places in various African countries he has visited during his 50-year career.

G√ľnther was born in Germany in 1928 into a cultured East Prussian family of artists and was trained as a graphic designer in Switzerland before coming to South Africa in 1956.

He worked as a graphic designer in Johannesburg and always did photography as a hobby. But this changed when he was introduced to his colleague’s father-in-law, a Mr Cohen, who owned a photographic shop.

G√ľnther was bitten by the bug and was intent on becoming a professional photographer. He became even more enthralled with the idea after chatting to Mr Cohen, who was also a member of the Royal Photographic Society, and who not only inspired G√ľnther but gave him all the photographic equipment he needed to start his career.

Five decades and several awards later, G√ľnther is still living his dream through his lens. For his black and white photographic work entitled, Journey‚Äôs End, G√ľnther won a silver medal in 1958 at the International Salon, a competition which is recognised by the South African Photographic Society of South Africa.

G√ľnther also photographed legends in the making such as the late Robert Sithole, who was pictured at age of 13 in the 1950s playing the penny whistle on the streets of Cape Town. This picture is now displayed at the District Six Museum and is also one of the pictures in the book.

His work has taken him to several countries in Africa. The people of this continent and their lives have always interested G√ľnther.

This fascination is evident in Impressions, especially the way in which he captures the hidden emotion that tells a story behind the faces he photographs.

"As a photographer, it is important that every picture tells a story. For example if I were a writer, I would use text to tell this story,‚ÄĚ says G√ľnther.

The process of choosing which pictures to use for Impressions was not an easy one as he had to decide how to present his extensive travels in one book.

"I decided to group the pictures in categories instead of grouping all the countries together because geographically this would have been impossible,‚ÄĚ says G√ľnther.

What is also striking about G√ľnther‚Äôs pictures is the detailed colour in every picture. "I like the pictures in colour because I went through the black and white phase in my early days as a photographer when we didn‚Äôt have pictures in colour,‚ÄĚ said G√ľnther.

Impressions follows the journeys G√ľnther and his wife Lila have taken in countries such as Zanzibar, Namibia, Egypt and South Africa and what is most fascinating about this is how the people in his photographic memoir invited them to not only live with them but also capture their daily lives on camera.

In his 50 years as a photographer, G√ľnther has slept under the stars in a desert with an Egyptian tribe, spent an eight-hour journey on a municipal bus with the poorer communities in Egypt and he lived with the nomadic people in their huts in Namibia.

He says people don‚Äôt usually object to being photographed. "You need to be open-minded to people‚Äôs culture and you have to respect it for them to treat you with respect,‚ÄĚ said G√ľnther.

G√ľnther still keeps in contact with many of the people he has met on his travels. Impressions is a photographic record of G√ľnther‚Äôs journey through Africa although he did take photos while travelling in Europe. "Europe does not inspire me as much as Africa does. Everything I see in Africa tells a story of people's life and culture,‚ÄĚ says G√ľnther.