Araminta de Clermont – Before Life

Araminta de Clermont is a photographer from South Africa and currently based in London. She has been commissioned by publications such as the Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK. Her work has also appeared in magazines like Colors (one of my favorites magazines) and
Marie Claire USA. While living in South Africa, she was a regular contributor to The Sunday Times. The project below is about human culture.

Crystal, Manenberg

This series of portraits of girls all dressed up for their Matric Dance was photographed on the Cape Flats, a vast area outlying Cape Town. The Flats have been described as “apartheid’s dumping ground”, a place which still possesses all the attendant problems of a formerly forcibly displaced and fragmented society: poverty, crime, drug addiction and gangsterism.

In my preceding series “Life After”, many of the men I had shot had originally hailed from these same areas. When I had asked them about their lives they often, perhaps understandably, blamed their environments and the grinding poverty from which they came for the route they’d taken in life. I became fascinated by these youngsters from the same areas (but a born a couple of decades later), hoping to go a different way, knowing they deserve more, in many cases fighting to get it and to be able to soar up out of their surroundings.

For most matriculants and their families, the matric dance is a seminal moment: for some, it is a celebration of being the first member of their family ever to finish school, previous generations having been disadvantaged by the apartheid era education system and economic conditions; for others it is a night that formally marks the leaving behind of childhood and transition into adulthood; for the majority, especially in the cases of more impoverished families, it may primarily be a night of fantasy escapism, a chance to live out their dreams through costume and styling, their first and possibly their last real opportunity to dress up no holds-barred and be the centre of attention.

An incredible amount of thought goes into what will be worn on the night. This may well be because friends, family and often the entire neighbourhood will gather around, waiting for the matriculant to leave her house on the night, celebrating her achievement with screams o delight, and perhaps hoping that she’ll inspire watching children to also finish school and have a night like this…

Many families will deny their children nothing for this outfit, costs often being budgeted into household expenses for up to a year in advance. The resultant look, I believe, speaks volumes: about the hopes, dreams, aspirations and influences of young South Africans today, before any disappointments, before their dreams are crushed. May they shine on.

Keenan & Yusra, Heideveld


Linda, Nyanga


Bernadine, Delft


Namhla, Khayelitsha


Bronwyn & Giovanni


For more images from this project and other interesting ones visit Araminta de Clermont‘s website.
She is represented by Joao Ferreira Gallery in South Africa and Michael Hoppen Contemporary in UK.