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Updated: Aug 12, 2022

A beautiful impressionistic art print by Martin Osner

Creation No.1 | Martin Osner

An outpouring of emotion, absolute excitement, gratefulness combined with an eminence sense of relief on the day "Creation" was unveiled. I know this statement does not make sense, and even more so if taken out of context...let me explain.

Early in September last year, Samantha and I decided to have a final exhibition to close off 2019 at our private gallery in Hout Bay, which we scheduled for the last week of November. The show we called "Unveiling" (Click here to download the exhibition brochure), and it was themed around both new and long term projects that we were both currently working on. We felt that three months was enough time to shoot the recent work we required.

A few weeks later, we took a walk through the gallery and pinned-up postcard prints on the walls where we envisaged the completed photos would hang. As we found with previous exhibitions, this procedure allows us to pre visualize the showcase. For both us, even with a few months yet to go, there was a lot of open walls requiring new work.

Sam got started quickly; she managed to get some beautiful autumn impressions in the Overberg, a trip that yielded up zero success for me.

An abstract impression of an autumn tree

Autumn Impression | Samantha Osner

Together, we then visited the Hemel en Aarde valley, day after day, the light, unfortunately, remained poor for photography. Lots of opportunities, but nothing attained. I remember saying to her that sometimes it can all come together so quickly, and other times it can prove to be so challenging, especially now with a deadline looming.

The next month, Sam returned from another trip that she had completed on her own with some incredible minimalistic impressions (entitled Serenity). Slowly her spots on the wall were filling up, while I felt like I was marking time. Work, pressure, and all that day to day stuff was getting in the way as my creativity remained locked away deep in mind.

A minimal black and white print by Samantha Lee Osner

Serenity No.1 | Samantha Osner

Instinctively I felt that the Hemel en Aarde valley held a treasure for this exhibition, but had no idea where to look or start. I again revisited the valley for a few days on my own, but to no avail. My walls in the gallery remained blank, and the pressure continued to build.

In the next few weeks, I managed to complete the second "Candy Girl" as well my "African Queen" portrait in my studio but had still not found the prints that would be shown on two of the largest walls of the gallery.

Two quirky portraits in a modern interior

Candy Girls | Martin Osner

A beautiful portrait entitled " African Queen" by Martin Osner

African Queen No.2 | Martin Osner

Call me a sucker for punishment, but two weeks before the exhibition was due to open, I once again returned to the valley for a couple of days. Again day one and two proved fruitless as heavy overcast weather had moved in, relatively uncommon for the time of the year, and the lighting remained dull and sterile. It felt as if this location was teasing me, calling me back and then only delivering empty promises. On the last morning of our stay, I awoke at daybreak to yet another bleak overcast sky. After returning from another unsuccessful shoot, I had come to terms with the fact that I would need to show some older work, a compromise which I was not happy with but accepted. A retrospective if you will.

After breakfast, I packed up the car and then decided to go for a walk before returning home. I took a camera and a lens along but left all the other gear behind not expecting to photograph anything.

What happened next is one of the reasons why I love photography so much. I have mentioned before that I take photographs because I love to see what life looks like once photographed. An exciting transformation from three-dimensional reality into a two-dimensional impression thanks to the camera and lens due to the inability of the photographic system to replicate human vision through exposure, contrast, sharpness, colour, lens compression, distortion etc.

Out of nowhere, the heavy clouds on the eastern side slightly parted and some soft light gently streamed in unannounced. The forest across the valley, which earlier seemed like nothing at all had now miraculously come to life. I did not have a tripod or filters, just a camera and a longer lens. Using gentle camera movement, I started to experiment, not knowing what to expect. After a short while, what I saw on the camera completely lifted my spirit, and I just knew this was it. As the light broke out in selective places it all felt so spiritual, and the thought crossed my mind when looking at the results on the camera, that this is what it may have looked like the day the earth was created. The colour and intense energy were being realised through the photographic process, amplified by the pools of light. The moment was overwhelming.

Over a couple of hours, I was able to shoot from several vantage points across the valley as I waited with anticipation for the light to reappear and do its magic. A sense of relief and gratefulness soon filled my spirit, and I was able to relax in the situation, knowing that all is well.

I managed to achieve four photographs which I liked and then, just as quickly as it started, it was all over, and the scene returned to grey. As I slowly walked back, I was overcome by emotion, a feeling of gratefulness, and now in complete contrast, excited for the exhibition. I considered the last few hours as an answer to prayer. I know it sounds deeps, and super-spiritual, but I felt like this event was going to be the outcome all along, I just needed to walk this journey to learn a valuable lesson.

It's strange, but very rarely do I know with absolute certainty that what I have just photographed will work. It's usually only until I process the files, sometimes even months after I have photographed them, will I be able to reach such a decision. In this case, I just knew it straight away! I could envisage the prints framed on the wall; I did not need any input from anyone towards selection, no advise, nothing...this was all realised on the battlefield in the heat of the moment.

Sunday, the very next morning I was back at the studio, just four days before the exhibition was to due to open. I processed the work and sent it straight off for printing. Sam walked in a little later and asked me what I was up busy with. I opened the files and said this is it, my final prints. "Oh my God!" she said, "where on earth did you photograph these?". "In a place called Heaven on Earth", I replied.

Even though I did not need affirmation or confirmation in any way, I had to keep in mind that I was still exhibiting to an audience. Receiving compliments or a pat on the back is one thing, but the real critic of art is if it sells or not, and especially so when its low edition investment pieces like these.

An abstract impressionistic art print hanging in a modern bedroom

Creation No.1 | Martin Osner

Creation No.1 was sold during the exhibition and is now hanging in a beautiful home in Cape Town. Creation No.4 has been earmarked by one of our top interior designers, Jacques Paulsen ( for a project that he is currently working on. The prints are still attracting a lot of attention, and I can only stand back in the wings and thank God that I was in the right place at the right time.

An abstract impressionistic art print entitled "Creation"

Creation No.4 | Martin Osner

I would love to try and shoot a few more prints for this collection, I have some ideas around including the ocean, but I cannot help but feel that what happened was a special day and the collection may be complete. Only time will tell.

And oh yes, the lesson I mentioned... Well, I feel that I am at my most creative when I photograph in a relaxed, attentive space. Stress and pressure do precisely the opposite for me. I just need to learn to trust. You see, it was when I handed it over did I come to terms with the situation, allowing my visual ability to be once again heightened. Great photographs are all around us, disguised by our own ability to recognise them.

Is this what it takes? For me, I most certainly think so.

I hope you enjoy it,

Martin Osner

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