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Dominic von Stosser – winner of Proudly Namibian Competition

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Dominic von Stosser is the winner of the One Africa Television Proudly Namibian Competition! He entered with a long format photography project which displays Namibian women in all their shapes and forms. The project aims to dispel negative stereotypes about proudly Namibian women. 

About Namibian Women: 

In part as my celebration of the 25th anniversary of Namibia’s independence, and in celebration of living in Namibia for 15 years myself, I’ve embarked on a portrait project of Namibian Women.

This project is about depicting Namibian Women as empowered, strong, resourceful people. It’s about challenging the notion that a Women ought to look like this or that; it’s about undermining the widely-held internalised opinion that her appearance and demeanour should be pleasing to others. The project is not about conforming to any perceived standards of beauty or perfection, so much as showing the pride and dignity that comes from what Namibian Women achieve every day. I intend to explore the contrast between expectation and reality, to challenge viewers with a traditionally andro-centric viewpoint to examine their preconceptions about what it is that Women have to be proud of, and to examine the gender-role constructs that predicate judgement.

I am not confining this project to any social class or ethnic background. The more diverse, the better, since I am trying to represent as many facets as possible.

Ultimately the aim is to have these photographs in an exhibition, as well as assembling them into a book.

This project is growing and evolving. In a way I see myself only as a messenger, so I welcome input and feedback with respect to the direction and the message of this project. Initially the portraits will be taken at my studio. Much further down the line I’ll be in a position to travel. But for now: Windhoek.

The response to the photographs I’ve taken so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s utterly humbling to be a part of it.

Each Woman has her own interpretation of what I’m doing, and each one has brought new insight: what it means to them, what it means that these photographs are being taken in this way.

One has stated that she’s reclaiming her empowerment this way, but that her portraits were some of the most visually confronting images of herself that she’s seen. Another sees this project as a good counterweight to a highly unpleasant blog she found that defames and slanders Namibian Women. Yet another felt that the process itself was a liberating contrast to the hyper-perfect airbrushed surrogate reality that suffuses the depiction of Women in the media.

On a technical note: I will be shooting these portraits on large format film, generally with a Schneider Symmar 1:5.6/210 on a Linhof Technika 13×18. I will use either Spürsinn G50 type 2 or Fomapan 100 film, and I will process these in a Rodinal-type developer at a concentration of 1+50. In part this is because I love the medium, but also large format film lends the images a certain feel not easily achieved with modern equipment.

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