How Dutch photographer Lotte van Raalte captured the musical spirit of Cape Town for Appelsap

© Lotte van Raalte

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Dutch photographer Lotte van Raalte lenses pockets of youth culture in various regions. She’s photographed fashion imagery for publications such as i-D and most recently, she’s lensed Appelsap Festival’s ONE LOVE campaign.

While the idea of high fashion editorials may conjure up images of poised models with sharp cheekbones and composed expressions, van Raalte’s images almost appear as though she’s captured the hidden moments between staged poses. Her visceral images contain an unbridled sense of joy; they scream life at viewers. Models appear to be caught with genuine smiles, beaming at the camera, with scrunched up noses, creases in the skin and gaps between their teeth. Often, subjects are caught mid-action which, far from the stillness of fashion campaigns, evokes a freeing sense of movement. Combined with van Raalte’s encapsulation of bright colours with a high level of contrast, the results are sun-soaked, vivid images that tap into real depictions of youths.

First linking up with Appelsap through her agency, the festival crew has become a family of creatives that celebrates diversity. The campaign features a series of images that focus on mundane everyday details, highlighting the beauty of Cape Town’s nuances, and there’s a distinctive style of capturing subjects during their own interactions. The visuals feature the everyday fashions and life of Cape Town’s youth, through the portrayal of boxers peeking out of trousers, boat shoes, patterned shirts and hanging round by the park’s swings.

ONE LOVE marks their forthcoming one-day festival in Amsterdam. So far, Lil Wayne, 67 and Siobhan Bell have already been confirmed for the line-up with more names to announced soon. Below, we catch up with Lotte van Raalte and Appelsap founder Reiger to discuss the ONE LOVE campaign.

Tell us a little bit about your time spent in Cape Town?

Lotte van Raalte: Last year I lived in Cape Town for two months to work (fashion and documentary). I found out soon that there are so many beautiful and interesting people in and around Cape Town, so I didn’t limit myself by just shooting ‘models’. I actually always prefer street casting over the average ‘picture perfect’ models. It needs to be a character, someone with a story, something in their eyes or energy.

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it’s a strange city too; the inequality and discrimination between people living so close to each other.

I didn’t want to go on a quick ‘township tour’ to take some nice shots; I really wanted to learn about their lives and give something back. That’s why I started to teach photography in township Langa. By the end of the two months, we created a photography exhibition in their own township with Project I AM – the township film school.

Sara Nix, the producer of Project I AM (who also works at my agency) then spoke to me about Appelsap maybe wanting to shoot next year’s campaign in Cape Town. So, one year later it actually happened! Sara, Rogier Smalhout (founder and creative director of Appelsap), Basha (director and also part of Project I AM) and I went back to give workshops in Langa and asked the students to assist us while shooting and filming the Appelsap campaign.

What were you trying to capture in the images?

Lotte van Raalte: We wanted to celebrate the diversity of people and create something positive from it. Together with some of the people I met last year, we started casting. Appelsap also contacted some amazing artists from Cape Town. So in the end, I think we shot around 30 people from different backgrounds; music artists, designers, students, we even asked people that were walking by on the streets. The ONE LOVE concept that Rogier created is very clear, but you’re never sure until the day itself if everything comes together. But it totally did. Every single person working on this campaign brought such positive energy. I think you can definitely tell this shoot was made by a lot of people with a lot of LOVE! The Appelsap family has definitely expanded this year.

© Lotte van Raalte

How did you first link up with the Appelsap family?

Lotte van Raalte: Almost two years ago, I joined my agency HALAL Amsterdam. The first job they asked me to do was photograph people from the Appelsap family for their 15 years of Appelsap book (entitled SO FRESH IT HURTS). I had heard of the festival before, but didn’t know much about them yet. On this shooting day, I was immediately thrown into this great family. I shot around 40 people in one day. I remembered it was one crazy and hectic day, but the energy of [the] people was insane. So different from an average fashion editorial with just one model. This felt like a heartwarming rollercoaster and ever since then, I felt very much part of Appelsap.

Which is your favourite shot and why?

Lotte van Raalte: That’s a difficult one, because there are so many people and so many locations! I’ll start with the group shots then. Nikho, a beautiful talented guy I met last year, helped us out with the casting. I asked Rogier if we could do a group shot of an actual (real) group of friends. So, Nikho asked all of his friends to come when we were shooting in township Langa. All of the Project I AM students were there too. It was maybe the most hectic moment of our shoot – people everywhere, boiling hot, Basha and me taking turns on directing and photographing. But if you’re talking about ONE LOVE and Appelsap Family, I think this was definitely one of the key moments.

The second one might be the one from the older man David, shot in the Woodstock area. For some reason this was my favourite location. While I was shooting Nikho I heard Rogier whispering, “Lotte look at that guy”. I turned around and saw this beautiful man with silver/grey hair, wearing a djellaba and sunglasses. Without thinking, I ran after him to ask if I could photograph him for this campaign. One hour later, we were still talking. While he pointed at his house he asked me to come visit him and his family next time I was around. I can’t wait to show him the pictures!

How do these shots reflect the Appelsap philosophy?

Reiger: We are a summer festival and we work together with a lot of international and new artists. We wanted to show more of our network and show that this hip-hop culture doesn’t have any borders; we are a global family of like-minded people. At the festival, we see all these cultures come together as well, so we wanted to create this same fresh and universal feel in the festival campaign.

Tell us about the relevance of the ONE LOVE theme in 2017…

Reiger: Well of course we’re not the first or only brand jumping on this theme, but we’ve been playing with this idea for quite some time as we feel it’s super important to express a positive sound in these times where we see people becoming more and more isolated and standing across each other. At Appelsap, since the beginning, we don’t see colour or race; we only see dope artists and like-minded people. It sounds a bit lame, but we see our festival as an example of how society could be; everybody is just chilling with everybody, no matter race, colour, origin, belief, whatever. We think our visitors feel the same way.

Which artists coming out of SA at the moment are you guys listening to?

Reiger: Of course, we would mention the artists who we’ve also portrayed as they were all on our wishlist to shoot because we were following or knew them already, and we’re happy they all agreed to join this campaign – which says a lot about the universal family idea. A lot of interesting stuff is happening right now in Cape Town. A new generation of MCs is stepping up. At the pictures, we have MC and producer Dope Saint Jude, producer Beat Sampras and MCs Boolz and Blaq-Slim. A couple of years ago, we already had a gang of artists perform at Appelsap, like Okmalumkoolkat, Spoek Mathambo, Christian Tiger School and Black Vulcanite who we also still follow, but for this campaign we focused on the new generation.

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