© 2021 Desmond Louw & Antonia Heil
dna photographers / Cape Town, South Africa / Berlin, Germany
All rights reserved.

Porsche 356 B Super 90 Coupé / shot for Porsche Klassik / South Africa

[editorial] Driving a Porsche 356 in the Karoo (in South Africa) with one of my best friends Nic Grobler was a road trip of a lifetime. No plan, no map, just letting it happen. We ended up camping in a graveyard in freezing weather. Luckily we made a nice fire. While sitting there, we realized, the lady next to us (well, six feet under) is celebrating her 90’th birthday. So creepy and awesome! This story was produced for Porsche Klassik in Germany. If you’re based in the German world, the issue is out today! For our English friends, find Nic’s awesome story below. DNA – Desmond

Camping with the Super 90

As I finish checking the tire pressure before heading out of Cape Town, a ten-year-old boy with an old BMX takes over the pump. In the corner of my eye, a white flash coupled with a loud bang. I’m in the air, almost on top of the car — ears ringing. The boy glares at the giggles in the distance. Tears start running. Head in his hands, he sobs: “I just bought this tube!” — it seems like a big deal. Desmond, my friend, and road trip partner agrees that we need to help out. After fitting a new tire and tube, the local bicycle shop owner, asking about our trip, says with a smile, “that is not a camping car.” Crossing paths with the boy, confirms the tone for our journey — of synchronicity and U-turn style surprises.

“Nic, so what is our plan?” Desmond asks. When it comes to these types of trips, I usually prefer not having one, favouring only a direction, an idea — to give in to horizontal gravity in some way. Our ‘plan’: head into the semi-desert Karoo to wild camp somewhere, take the 356 for a service in a small town in between, and I’ll try to get a picture of a Koppie (a small hill), for a photographic project — the service, our only practical ‘destination’. I’ve also been curious about this 1963 Porsche’s ‘Super 90′ engine. Perhaps the mechanic, who happens to be a veteran engine builder, can tell us something about the ’90’.

I was ten years old, driving with my father, who has a very adventurous spirit, when he made a U-turn to buy this car. Growing up, I remember some trips, but I also remember it as an everyday runner. Thirty years later, and after a restoration project, our relationship has evolved. The 356 mostly waits ‘safely’ in a garage in Cape Town. Also, I don’t love driving in town — preferring a bicycle. But, every few months, it comes out for a trip, some over 1000km. I’ve taken it camping, and even had two bicycles on the roof!

Ascending into the Karoo on the N1 (national highway), our next mini-adventure appears. We pass a small roadside veld fire, probably caused by a cigarette. With the wind picking up, it could spell disaster. After a slightly dangerous U-turn, we stomp out the fire with our feet, a first for both of us. Later it occurs to me that I keep a fire extinguisher in the car — next time.

Desmond, a professional car photographer, mentions how he enjoys feeling connected to the elements in this 356 — “a bit like when I’m on my motorbike.” You feel closer to the road, and you can hear the wind — a visceral experience. I’ve also enjoyed trips in various cars, but engaging with the world from this one is different. It’s an object of beauty, in harmony with the environment. It is even different in a social interaction type of way. Whilst it may be in the category of ‘sports car’, it is not very aggressive — often enjoying waves and smiles. I sometimes think that if the 356 were an animal, it would probably be a dolphin — fast, but friendly.

The sun is now setting in the Karoo. Our wild camp idea, not working out yet. Passing through mostly sheep and game farms covering vast areas, we are kept on the road by fences and ‘private property’ signs — a tricky place to hide, especially if we make a fire. The weather is also making a turn for the worse. Passing a farmhouse, we realise that we might need to turn around at some point. The farmer’s son stops next to us with his pick-up truck further on, “you need to speak to the boss… my dad can be full of shit.” We turn back. Jan du Plessis, the farmer, isn’t very talkative. Desmond points up to the big sheltering trees near a kloof above the house. Jan says “yes, if you don’t mind the graveyard, you can sleep there.”

It’s freezing and windy. We take shelter between the 356 and the low graveyard wall. The fire, lamb, mushrooms, and sweet potato straight on the coals offers some comfort. Even though we dug a fire-hole and put some big rocks around it, embers are still flying off now and then with the severe wind. After securing more rocks around the fire, we make sure the last coals die out, then pitch our tents. With the sound of swirling pine trees and dreams of the deceased under the ground next to us, I struggle to sleep. The voice of Jan du Plessis wakes us up in the morning, with some flowers in his hands, standing next to one of the graves, “it was my mother’s birthday yesterday, she would have turned 90.”

Asking him about his life, he says, “this is a hard place to live, but I prefer it here, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.” Jan invites us to visit again. “Come earlier. I’ll show you a better spot across this ridge — there are some wild horses there.”

Over the last few years, I’ve preferred servicing the car at Andreno Motors with Arno van Wyk. His engine-builder workshop is out in a small town, Villiersdorp. I refer to it as an ‘air-cooled shrine’, it’s been a family affair for over 60 years. Complete with floor-to-ceiling photographs of their old rally driving days and a unique collection of air-cooled cars, including a ‘prototype’ 1954 beetle with only 36000km on the clock, “the only one left in the world” — we’ll be in good company.

This time, although Arno only needs to replace the oil and filter and set the tappets and timing, you can appreciate his experience. All the years have given him a kind of poetic cadence. According to him, if you maintain an engine, it would keep going forever. Pointing to a display-wall of damaged engine parts, with the words ‘YOU BEND IT, WE MEND IT!’ he says everything that goes wrong is due to human error. Like failing to check the oil or overdoing it when driving — “it’s human, man-made trouble.”

In between servicing the car, having some tea with Arno and his wife, and plenty of rally stories, we walk through the workshop, past what feels like 100s of engines in progress. “We can adapt your Super 90 engine, from a 90 to 100.” Arno says, “the sleeve kits come from America — I’ve done two of them before.” He explains “you can’t see any difference from the outside, but you can feel it. Consider doing it once you have a problem. Otherwise, it is a waste of money.” I appreciate Arno’s practical approach.

It makes me sad to know that Arno’s son won’t take over from him — he can earn a lot more working in an office. I wonder, where will this 356 be serviced 20 years from now, will there be some poetic cadence there as well?

After another eventful camping night, and taking the picture I needed, we drive home, I’m processing the trip: I think about the uncomfortable moments, like not knowing where you’ll sleep as the sun is setting, and how being open to the new and unknown makes it all worthwhile. To be found, you have to get lost first. Those wild horses are waiting.


One track mind / shot for High Life, British Airways’ inflight magazine / Cape Town, South Africa

[ediotiral] “To succeed,” advised Walt Disney, ”Work hard, never give up and above all cherish a magnificent obsession.” Franz Kafka echoed this sentiment almost exactly when he recommended “following your most intense obsession mercilessly.” Claude Monet, meanwhile, described colour as his “day-long obsession, joy and torment.” Obsession worked out pretty well for those three. And it’s doing the same for these delightfully obsessive South Africans. Meet Errieda du Toit, Gary Goldman, and Denny Mo.


Talking about Gawie Fagan / for the GAWIE FAGAN 1925 – 2020 RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION at the Cape Institute for Architecture in Cape Town

[documentary] “There’s quality in simplicity.”
On Sunday, 15 November 2020, Gawie Fagan would have turned 95 years old. For the GAWIE FAGAN 1925 – 2020 RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION at the Cape Institute for Architecture in Cape Town we made this clip talking to family, co-workers, etc. The exhibition is on for a few weeks, go have a look! [71 Hout Street, Cape Town]


Carmen Stevens for nakedwines.com X Robot TV / Stellenbosch, South Africa

[commercial] “It takes passion, perseverance, and determination to do what Carmen Steven Wines has done for women of color in the wine industry. She’s not just making changes, she’s making history as South Africa’s first Black woman winemaker in her community and in ours.” says Nakedwines.com. We met and photographed Carmen a few weeks back at her winery in Stellenbosch on a shoot with Robot TV for Nakedwines.com.


Jason Bakery / Cape Town, South Africa

[documentary] WE’RE IN THE SAME STORM BUT IN DIFFERENT BOATS
The past two months have been difficult for many! The saying “we’re all in this together” is only partially working for us. It’s more like: We’re all in the same storm but in different boats. There are people who lost their jobs, had to close their companies, had to take a massive pay cuts… there are others who got to keep their jobs, can still keep their business doors open… show kindness for the different boats!
And if there are businesses you love – help them out by supporting them more than ever! Because otherwise they’re the next ones announcing that they have to close. Put your money where your heart is!
🥐 A business we love is Jason Bakery [@jasonbakerycpt]- best bread and pastries in town (and further!). We got to hang with them from 4am one morning, documenting the awesome team making magic. Go support them, there are not many bakeries that make such high quality products and make Cape Town awesome!


The Union-Castle shipping line / shot for High Life, British Airways’ inflight magazine / Cape Town, South Africa

[editorial] British Airways turned 100 last year; when it made its first scheduled international flight – to Paris, from London – the Union-Castle shipping line was the Gateway to Africa. Together with journalist Nick Dall, Desmond documented the old buildings and interviewed some of the people that used to work there.


Signal Bikes Dealer Tour (episode 1) / shot for Rush Sports / Port Elizabeth, South Africa

[documentary] When you are on assignment with Oli Munnik, you know you are in for a wild ride! In Port Elizabeth we shot Alan Hatherly (a South African mountain bike racer and Olympic athlete) hanging out with some amped high school cyclist. Thanks Signal Bikes, looking forward to the next tour.
Read more about it here


Cederberg feature for Cathay Pacific’s inflight magazine Discovery

[editorial] For the November 2019 issue of Cathay Pacific‘s inflight magazine Discovery we traveled to the Cederberg. We stayed at the beautiful Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge, visited Bushmen’s paintings, Clanwilliam, the Skimmelberg Buchu and Rooibos farm and enjoyed it all! What a great country we get to live in! Thanks again to the Hong Kong team for giving us such a great gig. [Have a look at the South Africa feature we shot for Cathay Pacific a while back. Click here.]


Toyota Corolla shot for High Life, British Airways’ inflight magazine / Cape Town, South Africa

[advertorial] The new Toyota Corolla (2019) pleasantly surprised us. The interior is beautiful, the exterior fresh and the ride super comfortable. We were asked by British Airways’ inflight magazine High Life to take her to Muizenberg and Kalk Bay and have a colourful shoot. The weather didn’t play along but we made the best of it!


Red Bull Cape Town Circuit Formula 1 / Cape Town, South Africa / 2 June 2019

[automotive] Last weekend was big! Shooting a F1 car is probably on every car photographer’s list and boy oh boy did I shoot a F1 car. We took the car to the unfinished highway in Cape Town early Friday morning to shoot some photos for the Saturday newspaper. On Saturday we shot the car together with the whole team – including David Coulthard – for a short film (Can’t wait for the release of this!).  Sunday was the big event where the absolute power and sound of this piece of engineering stunned the whole of Cape Town!
South Africa is so hungry to host a F1 event again, hearing that sound of the V8 bouncing between the buildings of Darling street gave me goosebumps all over!
Thank you Red Bull for the gig and thanks for Wayne Reichie and Craig Kolesky for all the support and good times. DNA – Desmond


Bike trip Tankwa & Karoo / South Africa

[travels] My buddy Roy and I (Desmond) took our bikes and did a circular route around the Western Cape. We didn’t book any accommodation and just took it as it came. We met so many characters in the Tankwa and everywhere we went. South Africans are just the best, humble, friendly and helpful people. Here are some photos Roy and myself took.


South Africa feature for Cathay Pacific’s inflight magazine Discovery

[editorial] For a South Africa feature in Cathay Pacific‘s inflight magazine Discovery we got to travel all over South Africa. Kruger Park, Route 62, Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn and Cape Town were on our list (including Chapman’s Peak, Boulders Beach, Cape Point, Kalk Bay etc.). Great being a tourist in your own country! Thanks to the Hong Kong team for giving us such a great gig. Enjoy scrolling through this extra dose of South Africa – loads of sceneries, animals, details, plants… [SA feature was published in Discovery in November 2018.]


ISUZU / Struandale plant / Port Elizabeth, South Africa

[automotive] No cars without people. Early January we spent some time in Port Elizabeth at the ISUZU plant. It takes a bunch (!!!) of people to make a car. It was fascinating to see and document the whole process for ISUZU Motors South Africa.


The Signal bicycle [Rush Sports] / Attakwas 2018 / South Africa

{events} Having become accustomed to racing high-end dual suspension mountain bikes abroad, Oli ‘Pinner’ Munnik accepted a challenge to ride this year’s Attakwas Extreme on a sub ZAR20k alloy hardtail … would he survive?! For more info on the Signal Bicycles click here.


Zip Zap Circus / editorial shot for High Life, British Airways inflight magazine / Cape Town, South Africa

{editorial} I documented a few days in Inathi’s life as she works-eats-sleeps the circus life with Zip Zap Circus. Shot for British Airways‘ inflight magazine High Life. DNA – Desmond 


Nemiroff TVC / shot in Cape Town, South Africa

{commercial} We LOVE shooting TVCs, especially when it involves dust, fire and petrol! Nemiroff Vodka asked us to shoot their new commercial. Three days of non-stop work, an amazing experience and so many cool peeps. Have a look at the TVC over here.

Client: Nemiroff 

Production: Magai Production
Local Production: MR
Director: Noah Conopask
DOP: Garrett Davis