Spending time with Suzanne Coetser

  1. When did you first find you have a passion for photography and the arts?


I don’t know when it actually started? You see when I was 5/6 years old my father bought me a shocking pink Kodak 28.mm  camera, not one of my siblings ever received a camera for their birthday. Thus I don’t know if it is something my parents saw in me since I was born? The first time I saw graffiti I was about the same age, never understood why all the walls aren’t painted with beautiful works of art. At school the teachers all complained about me living in a dream world and how difficult it was to teach me. I understood the work always passed my subjects but they could never get me interested in school work.


  1. How would describe your method or process before capturing each shot?


Since a very young age Jozi CBD has been my playground. My father had a company on Commissioner Street, we would go watch movies at the Carlton Centre my first movie wasGleaming the Cube. As I got older we would take the bus to town on school holidays and hang out in Small Street Mall, Braamfontein, and Joubert Park, shopping and just hanging out and after that we would go to the night clubs. Then as an adult 90% of my corporate career was spent in Joburg central. Thus I have a very deep and sentimental love for Joburg, andthat love is shown in my photography.


My father only had 2/3 good years when he had his company, thus there wasn’t money for a camera, film or to develop the film… So when I completed high school I bought a little Pentax camera from Cash Converters with my first pay check,(digital cameras only just came out but I did not know about it then back in 1998) and took photos whenever I could afford to. It was only in 2007 when I got my first digital camera a Nikon D40. I would go out almost every lunch hour in my high heels and corporate clothing with Abdul my co-worker and “bodyguard” We would go everywhere;Main Street, Jeppe Street, Ghandi Square Newtown Bree Street EVRYWHERE shooting every nook and cranny of the CBD, whilst chowing on a polony n chip roll in between shots. I was so inlove with the city I wanted to capture each moment. Some places you photograph and the shot looks the same every time, however in the CBDyou can never get the same shot twice. She is so vibrant and busy, cities like London is just grey from the sky to the streets, and everybody walks and talks the same. There is no city like Jozi… I’m not saying the other cities aren’t great and that Jozi is the best, just there’s no city like Jozi. When I came back from my travels, I was even more inspired to shoot every moment Jozi has on display.



That said my photography is motivated by emotion and why most of my photos are “street /documentary style”. Sometimes I would be at a place andimagine the photo I want to take and sometimes plan it for months. Going back at different times learning the light and life of the area, and at times the weather would be perfect and, knowing I need to be there right now to get that photo I’ve had in my mind. I often haddeep regret and hatred that I was stuck in an office practicing law when I should be out there taking photos. Back then nobody supported my passion for photography or took me seriously. I made some drastic and bold chances to my life then and it was only after that when made new friends and started to build a new life. They would look at my photos and give me such high praises! Honestly, I thought they were just being polite. It was only in 2015 when my father started pushing me to put my work out there and go to galleries etc. This lead to some of my work being exhibited in a small gallery at 27 Boxes in Melville an article in City Buzz, and interview for Joburg Today TV.


Thus taking photos is just something I do, and never really thought about it. It was when I started showing my work to the galleries that this question came up a lot, and I always find it difficult to answer properly, but it was very good that I was confronted with that question because it made my photography better  and gave me a somewhat of a purpose of the thing that I just do.



  1. What’s your favourite most memorable shot you’ve taken, and how would you caption the shot??

“Across the lines who would dare to go?” – Tracy Chapman.

On the other side of the train tracks is some of the wealthiest suburbs of Johannesburg. It isalways the train tracks that separates us/them.


Chair – A photo I took in NYC. This photo took me about 45min to take. To get it perfect. My knees afterwards were so sore I couldn’t walk for a while. I took this with my D90 and I was just starting out figuring out how everything works etc.


City of Gold

Joburg always has this gold aura. I took this photo from my mother’s office in Jozi CBD. I am surprised by the response I get with this photo. I found that happens so often, photos I take just by the by people would love and what I would consider some of my best shots people wouldn’t even notice. (Hahaha)


Come get your escape….

We all do know what shoes on a wire mean,… Don’t we?


Coming home.

I took this photo at the end of winter, the birds are flying back south for the winter…I also wanted to name the photo antipodean, which means polar opposites, People from the North (Europeans) would use the word referring to people living in the south, Australia and it’s natives. Even though technically it would be correct it was coined more for the use for people from Australia, so I sticked with coming home


Concrete jungle sunrise / new day

I took this photo whilst I was still working in the corporate world. I was at the office before 6am and noticed the sun starting to come up, so I took a smoke break and I went down to balcony by the canteen. The tall building with the black and white stripes, also known as Marble Towers is the building my mother works in and where I took the photo City of Gold.


Coney Island

This is just one of my favourites. Here I am in one of the biggest cities with the tallest buildings just a hop on the train and 10min later I am on the beach!


Empire Sunset

Just another one of my favourites I took whilst living in NYC.



I took this photo at the end of the Metallica concert. I always wanted a fireworks photo and knew this was my one of the only moment’s I’ll get to make it happen. I was so happy when I saw what I got.


Gotham City

What I love most about this photo is that it is a colour photo and when you look at the clouds/smog above the empire state, you can make out a clear face!


Grand Central

This the opposite side of the entrance at Grand Central Station. I was quite proud that I was able to get such a clear shot so late at night.



Why I love this photo so much is because it really depicts the people of joburg,…friendly.


IMG – Un-named

I took these whilst out and about one day. They have no special meaning or part of a project. Just captures the nature of the CBD.



Kids are usually happy, they don’t have the need / understanding of money and consumerism. All they want and need is a loving family and good friends.



Whenever I would complain about my art my brother would say; “A bad artist always blames his tools!” Thus having a professional camera does not make you a photographer, and what we can do with our cell phones these days! I don’t think phones will ever replace professional camera and there are moments I take a photo with my phone that I wish I rather had my DSLR.


Let’s go – Hamba!

This is typically of what I meant by you could never get the same shot in Jozi twice. This city is so vibrant and busy.


Look up!

As I walked out of the subway I looked up and clicked.


My Home

People always comment about the doves in Jozi, only if you frequent and know the CBD well, you will understand how the doves of Jozi is a part of the landscape as much as the buildings and the people.


No Smoking

This is where the new Newtown mall is built. I can’t really say why I like t

his one so much. I think it’s the colours and the atmosphere.


Notice me too please

I went through a phase, photographing every piece of graffiti / street art in the CBD and surrounding areas. This was part of the City of Gold Festival. I did not notice the kids in the photo until I got home and edited the photo.


NYC twilight

I just like this one



I was out on a mission, the Gallery that agreed to exhibit my work said they wanted to sell some exclusive Jozi postcards I just finished an early morning shoot and drove past these guys, dressed up and in their vintage cars. I just had to stop and take a photos. These guys where so cool and I ended up shooting them for almost 2hours!


Peek a boo

I love the kid peeking in and smiling.


Radio City

This is one of the first photos I took that made me super proud. I was like “wow did I take that photo!” The one photo is my favourite but everybody else prefers the other one!


London Rain

This is what it looks like when you look out of your window when living in London.


Stolen moment

This bride is a friend of mine, our neighbour. She was the busiest bride I have ever shot. At one point she had a phone in each hand at each ear… she was 3hours late! All the groomsmen, bridesmaids, flower girls, page boys and family members where there too. Getting a photo of her was impossible,… hence this is a stolen moment.


Summer is coming

This is part of a series (coming home).


Under the bridge

Another one I took whilst photographing all the graffiti in the city.


Whishing tree.

This is the emotion I get when looking at this photo. I can sit on the chair and make a wish whilst the sun is coming up.



Some of the photos of my Windsor Project.

Abdul- my friend that used to walk with me so I could take some photos.


  1. Where do you see yourself in the future?


I have now enrolled for a 6 month photography course that will teach/help me with many areas of photography that will help me to get where I want to be. Exhibiting some of my work, and some of it to be used as stock photos, and of course building a website. Then,We(my boyfriend and I) will go sailing and then open a restaurant, all whilst I am still taking photos! (:


I have my own passion project I am working on. My mom moved to Windsor East 20+ years ago, so half of my life was spent in Windsor East. This suburb has bred a lot of horrific stories, but as I resident I have a different story to tell. A story of a very close knit community that is almost like family. You see I would often be ashamed that I had to live in Windsor East (we live about 500m from the Spar) As grew up and became more mature I started to think what is it actually that I am ashamed of? Not everybody in Windsor is a Drug Lord or a Pimp!! There are more Pimps and Lords in Sandton and just about anywhere else. The way the world displays poverty for their charities enrages me so much. Thus I am driven to change the way poverty is viewed, and I am hoping to change the mind-sets of those stuck in the clutches of poverty. You see I enjoyed law to a degree, there is a structure, and there are words that are used in the right context etc… but a photo, without a word can stir up a 1000 emotions in a second which would take pages and pages of words. This is the reason I quit law, “It is often said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but what happens when one puts down the pen and picks up a camera?” – Suzanne Coetser


  1. What would you say is the most memorable moment with in your career?


I never ever entertained the thought of having a career in photography, I just took photos because I have this demanding need to take photos. Now that people have started to notice my work I know this is what I must do. So I would say the most memorable moment is over a period of time, when people started to notice me and my work.


  1. What advice do you have for not only photographers but all people aspiring to take up a career in the art industry?


I would suggest studying some diploma in business management, accounting, and or a Para-Legal Diploma. Because it is not all just about the art there is a business that you need to manage, even if you can get people to do the business side for you, you would still need to know these things to protect yourself.

We would like to thank Suzanne for taking the time to share with us and we are very certain our readers will enjoy learning from her. If  you would like to get in contact with Suzanne follow the link to her Instagram Account Suzanne and find a few pieces from her collection below.

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