Award-winning Durban photographer Val Adamson, who has photographed the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience since it began in 1998, shares her work in an online exhibition titled: 21 years of JOMBA! through the lens.

The exhibition will run on the festival website at the same time as the dance experience – from 25 August to 6 September.

‘This is not only a moment for honouring Val’s extraordinary photographic eye for dance and performance, but it is also a time to visually remember the festival’s 21-year history through her amazing pictures,’ said the festival’s Artistic Director Dr Lliane Loots.

Enjoying a long association with the performing arts, Adamson has carved a name for herself through insightful and creative photography in the fields of theatre, music, dance, and visual art as well as portrait photography. The generous support she gives artists across the spectrum is legendary.

She was named a Living Legend in 2014 by the eThekwini Municipality for her work in documenting theatre. 

‘In the early days of shooting ballet, I had such amazing artistic directors and choreographers to work with, including Ashley Killar, Christopher Kindo and Mark Hawkins. They would not use certain photos if a leg or foot or arm was not technically perfect or I had not captured the leap or turn at its most flattering. So I had to hone my skills and focus my eye on exactly how the dancer’s body would move, and almost anticipate what they would be doing in order to capture the moment,’ said Adamson.

Reflecting further, she said: ‘I was working on film and printing images so I had to be so careful not to shoot willy-nilly – it was an expensive exercise! Then came the fluidity and flexibility of contemporary dance where the mood and emotions became the focus, and this – coupled later with digital technology – enabled me to experiment and play. I would not have been able to create this work without the dancers, choreographers and stage lighting technicians. I have loved working with JOMBA! over the years and feel incredibly privileged to have witnessed so many creative works and talented dancers up close!’ 

Adamson was born in Kenya, studied in Scotland and came to South Africa, her mother’s birthplace, in 1985,when she joinedthe Performing Arts Council of Transvaal as an assistant photographer. In 1988, she was invited by the Playhouse Company to set up and run their photographic department in Durban.

She was commissioned to produce six exhibitions over the years. The first, Caught in the Act (1988), featured images of theatre and earned her a nomination for The Rising Star of the Year award. She had further exhibitions in 1992 and 1993, which toured the country using performing artists sponsored by AGFA. She began freelancing in 1993 and continued to work extensively in the arts but broadening her subject matter.

In 2012, DanceLink recognised her photographic services to dance with an award at the Durban Dance Awards. In 2013, Adamson created Love Dance and KZN DanceLink commissioned this exhibition of her dance photography, supported by the eThekwini Municipality Department of Arts and Living Culture and funded by the National Arts Council and the National Lotteries Commission. The exhibition, part of Giyani Lusha 2013 in Durban, was featured at the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience and the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, both in 2013, and the National Arts Festival in 2014. 

JOMBA! is presented by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts in the College of Humanities and features an array of dance-works. Adamson’s exhibition is available for viewing via the website (jomba.ukzn.ac.za) throughout the festival.

Click here for isiZulu version

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: John Ivins