By Jess Patlansky 2010
The streets of Cape Town are humming with an almost manic sense of opportunity. Everywhere you look people are making, creating and doing. There’s an energy here that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. Things are colourful and bright, big and loud, positive and confident… And if one should canvass these streets a little closer. Investigate things a little deeper; one would be pleasantly surprised at what is found at the heart of it.
Spotted throughout the city are young vibrant people who, with the help of their everyday businesses, are making a substantial impact on the cities underprivileged. Twenty eight year old Stu Shapiro works in 3D animation, dealing with producing, visual effects, sculpting, modeling and compositing; a lifelong artist formerly making his mark as an exhibited painter and then a graphic designer in his younger years. His 3D skills have been sought after both here and abroad. Shapiro is also an amazing photographer who is launching his own business right here in the Mother City. 3D photo reference.com, human textures, is a new rising company specializing in a photographic service for the film and gaming industry to create photo-real game and movie characters in conjunction with 3d sculpting software.
Pursuing human photo reference, Shapiro hits the streets and hires the cities destitute as models for his work. ‘The project was started due to a gap in the 3D market’ says Shapiro, ‘What makes this project unique, besides it’s much needed niche in the market, is its use of the homeless and less fortunate people’. Instead of hiring your Joe Blog and Mary Jane as models, he felt the money would be better spent on people who could really use it.
Accompanying Shapiro on one of his shoots, I note that the models chosen are not only grateful for the extra money, but seem to really enjoy the work. Once the model is found they are taken to Shapiro’s photographic studio just off Long Street, where they are instructed to stand in various positions. The poses are basic, consisting of back, front and side views of both body and face. No make-up or hair styling is used. It’s the real everyday person, as they are.
In addition to making really authentic characters, it is quiet a phenomenal experience getting to meet all these different and interesting people. One is taken out of their box; their comfort zones and confronted with the real and raw society that surrounds us everyday. You get to hear the most tragic and wonderful stories told by people of all ages, who have grown up too quickly living in the harsh conditions of street life; by wise old men and woman who have a lifetime of hardships behind them, yet have managed to stay sweet and kind, not bitter and angry. Criminals, gang members and murderers are among the few to stand behind the lens. The whole experience is both eye-opening and humbling. Shapiro is currently in the middle of moving his studio from the CBD of Long Street, to either the CBD of Shortmarket Street or out in Deep River, as both these areas are known for their poorer population. Embracing openness to life and to art, Stu Shapiro is definitely part of the heart that makes this city awesome.
Here is an example of people living and working in Cape Town. Young and artistic. Having big dreams for their abilities. And determined to make a difference in their community, city, country and ultimately the world. I believe that whenever one does something to help benefit the good of humanity, it causes a domino effect. Your little act of kindness ripples through the atmosphere and inspires more acts of kindness in turn. A coin dropped in the hand of someone who is starving. The time spent with someone who is lonely or unloved. The simple act of smiling at someone who may be sad. They are all small, but they are also all relevant. And so, when you hear of people like Stu Shapiro who are taking things to bigger and better levels, one must step back and appreciate it, admire it and be humbled by it.
Here’s to Cape Town, and all the little treasures within, making it a happier life.