Banele Mhlanga well-known for his personal brand name ‘Nizi jpg’ is a 22-year-old muse and creative who began his photography career by merely capturing random pictures of his friends and objects.
“It started off unconsciously, like taking random pictures of my friends too,” he said.
Mhlanga was born and raised in Soweto, Protea Glen, and studied Events Management at Boston College, although due to unforeseen circumstances such as the lack of financial support or security, he could not complete his Diploma qualification. It was at that time when his career took off.
“I just decided to start doing photography because I started meeting relevant people who actually do photography,” he said.
Banele owns ‘Nizi jpg’ which is a modelling and photography brand, established in 2018. He also works for a photography and film production company ‘Dark Niz Agency’, a collaboration of two creatives- Banele Mhlanga together with Tshepiso Seleke best known as ‘The Darkroom artist’.
Before the partnership became official in 2020, Dark Niz Agency was the sole proprietor-owned company by Tshepiso Seleke which was called ‘Soldering Iron Concepts’. In their collaboration, Banele focuses a lot on fashion photography whilst his mentor and partner ‘Tshepiso’ does street photography.
Mhlanga has worked with many prominent personalities in the entertainment industry such as the South African actor and musician ‘Motlatsi Mafatshe’, also known for his famous roles in the film ‘State of Violence’, ‘Sokhulu and Partners II’, as well as’ Zama Zama’.
The creative recently worked with the Rebelintown Production in the television reality show ‘The Coolest OG’S’, which was aired on SABC 2. He has been fortunate enough to have worked as a model with the ‘Ugeza Ngobisi’ exhibition by Tshepiso Seleke in collaboration with MMArtHouse.
The synopsis tells a story about self-love and acknowledgement, embracing the essence and beauty of his subject, the unacknowledged identities of black people, the richness of black culture, black spiritual belief systems, black languages, and the richness of black skin which are foreground in Ugeza Ngobisi.
Like many struggling artists in the industry, Banele has encountered hardships too, such as the lack of capital or funding to purchase the necessary equipment. When he started off his craft, he had to get a loan from his mother to purchase a DSL Camera which cost R4500 then. With the work put in, he has been able to save up and grow his craft.
“Photography is not a cheap industry. Every gig I got, I just made sure that I re-invest on my craft,” he recounts.
As a young artist who did not study photography but has been mentored by the best in the industry, he has put in a good name for himself as he has only been doing his craft for almost 5 years now.
Mhlanga wants to be remembered as the best photographer. He wants to be remembered as someone that has made a difference in the many lives of communities in Soweto. As someone that struggled to know what he wanted to pursue as a career, he wants to help the youth have the ability to identify and embrace their own talents.
There are many talented artists all over South Africa, let alone in Soweto, and when Banele was asked in an interview as to what sets him apart from everyone else, he said, “[my] eye sets me apart. We all have different eyes when it comes to photography. My mood is more into reality, as you can see that my work drives you into reality and editing is not complicated, but it’s just what you’d see with your naked eye.”