#DIYwithDYD is a series that follows creative individuals. We learn how they made their amazing projects happen. We talk to Bernard Brand in our latest post. He is a full-time photographer trying to build community within Pretoria’s art scene with StorySpace Studios.

DYD: We talking to you through #DIYwithDYD initially and not from a photographer’s perspective because of the way you’ve worked with Ett Venter to create the StorySpace Studios. We think that it’s great how you identified a gap and made use of an existing space. We want to know why you chose to create StorySpace Studios?
Bernard: Firstly; thank you very much for taking the time to ask me some questions and featuring our humble little studio. A little history lesson is in order I think to fully answer your question.

Roughly two years ago Pierre du Plessis – who conceived the little church I go to; 3rd Place – asked me about creating a studio in the space. At the time I didn’t have a clue as to how or where to even start such a massive undertaking. I still had a day job and was only a photographer part-time. Then last year I went to the USA for 5 months to intern with photographer Zack Arias. I lived in his studio – The Lab – for those 5 months and it was amazing. I could grab any gear I wanted and experiment, fail, create and retry. I knew that when I returned home I wanted that, so in many ways it grew out of a selfish desire to have my own “laboratory” to experiment in.

I suppose Pierre had planted a seed and my internship was the water that made it grow into what is now StorySpace Studios. So, thanks to his – and everyone involved in the church and their graciousness we now have a really cool space to create in.

StorySpace Studio

DYD: You’re doing things differently. StorySpace is part of Third Place Church, and we love that it makes people think differently about coming to church. You’ve also allowed free use of the studio up until the end of August and we’re pretty sure that you must be aware that there is a big market for freelance studio space in Pretoria. Why have you offered up the space to use for free? Why didn’t you just jump into charging customers as soon as it was ready?
Bernard: We had several meetings and discussions leading up to the launch and the build of the Infinity Curve and we just came to the conclusion that people needed to know about this space. As much as I would’ve loved to keep it close to the chest and use it just for myself, that was never going to be feasible.

Right now it’s just a skeleton. We’re busy adding the muscle, sinew and flesh. We really want to make this a cool space for other photographers/designers/creatives and their clients to use. To do that we needed people to know about us, hence the decision to offer it for free for the first two months. And let’s be honest. People love free shit ;)

DYD: We keep seeing you use the #buildingcommunity hashtag on your posts about the studio. How do you think StorySpace Studios is going to achieve that? And, why do you care about building the community?
Bernard: One thing I realized once I returned from the States was that we (photographers, designers and people in this crazy industry) like to keep things close to the chest. We don’t want to share our “secret sauce” so to speak, in fear of someone coming along and stealing our seemingly great idea. I was – and still am to some extent – guilty of this.

I experienced the complete opposite of that in America. I feel we need to turn that shit around. Share and give and teach and learn. There’s this great quote Pierre had in his TEDx Talk last year, by a Japanese Sword Maker; Korehira Watanabe: “It is my duty to build up a disciple better than me”.

Pretty damn profound right? If you want your craft and skill to live on people need to become better. The student must surpass the master. So, we want to share this space with others and learn from them and as such expand our own knowledge as well as theirs hopefully. Thus building a community of artists who can work together and help one another instead of struggling on our own. We can all learn from and help one another. Or at least, that is the hope.


DYD: We think Pretoria’s art scene is fragmented. There are groups and individuals that create amazing things, like yourself and Ett Venter, but all of these achievements seem to be isolated. There is no cohesive movement in this city. Do you experience Pretoria’s art scene like this at all?
Bernard: Totally, hence why we are trying to build a community. I think the time is ripe. Things have already started and wheels are in motion, now we just need to tend to the garden and nurture the seeds. The studio space is a very tiny cog in the bigger picture.

DYD: This feature falls in our Do It Yourself series. We’re trying to get young people to see different ways of handling their futures. What advice would you give to young people about starting their own projects and/or businesses?
Bernard: It’s f**king scary! The time will never be right. There is no waiting for this or that to happen, because when it finally does, there’ll be a different reason for not taking the leap. I was terrified of quitting my job and pursuing photography full-time. I’ve sort of made peace with the fact that this feeling will never go away. Be smart. Work the shitty waiter job, save money – even if it is just a little – stop spending money on shit you want, but don’t need – let me know how to do this when you figure it out ;P
Stick out the crap 9 to 5 job. Learn, share, intern, assist, fail, get up, dust yourself off and retry. I still suck, but it won’t keep me from learning and trying to be better. Take the leap; however, be smart about it. Have a plan. You will fail, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to keep on trying.

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