Justin Dingwall (b. 1983) is a successful Johannesburg-based artistic photographer. He achieved a Baccalaureus Technologies in Photography Cum Laude from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2004. Dingwall has exhibited extensively both locally in South Africa and Internationally. He has been selected for various awards including, SA Taxi Foundation Art Award 2015, Sasol New Signatures 2014, and IPA – int’l photography awards 2013.
The artist creates images that resonate with emotion and challenges traditional notions of beauty. His works leans towards the unusual, and avenues less travelled with cultural undertones.
His famous “ALBUS” series has been exhibited both locally and internationally. It is a series of beautifully composed portraits of Thando Hopa, a legal prosecutor who is using her visibility to address the negative perceptions surrounding Albinism. With Albus, Dingwall seeks to inspire a public debate on the taboo subject of albinism, as albinos are frequently discriminated and subject to superstition and violence throughout Africa. In many areas of the continent, magical powers are attributed to them; some are even killed, their body parts much sought after. He portrays albinism in a striking manner, in sharp contrast with conventional notions of beauty.
This series developed into an exploration of the aesthetics of vitiligo in contrast to the idealised perceptions of beauty. It began as an interest to capture something not conventionally perceived as "beauty”. Dingwall began this project with the portraits of Moostapha Saidi. Dingwall’s intention is for the images to become a celebration of beauty in difference. “They are not about race or fashion, but about perception, and what we subjectively perceive as beautiful. I wanted to create a series of images that resonate with humanity and make people question what is beautiful”. Dingwall’s interest lies in the unique and the different. “To me diversity is what makes humanity interesting and beautiful”. Dingwall has foregrounded certain elements in his work. These symbols have inspired his perceptions as an artist, and are significant in his intention to affect the viewers’ perspective.
In Fly by night, Justin Dingwall continues his ongoing investigation of depicting beauty in difference, whilst focussing specifically on xenophobia, diaspora and migration across the African continent and the negative stigma’s that are often related to these constructs. The artist started conceptualising this body of work during the uproar of xenophobic attacks across South Africa and his conceptualising stems from the “Black Swan Theory”. This metaphor describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild. Fly by Night expresses the perception of the unforeseen and unexpected calamity that occurs with xenophobic attacks and migration. In what some perceived as predictable circumstance in reaction to the pressures placed on society, others viewed with shock and disbelief. The black swan theory emphasises that knowledge comes with hindsight. These images aim to provide a means of coming to terms with these societal issues, like xenophobia, diaspora and migration, in an effort to increase our awareness towards changing our perceptions.