Kristin-Lee Moolman is a South African photographer active in Johannesburg. Her photography explores black masculinity and sexuality, puncturing stereotypes and defeating norms of the portrayal of the black man. Much of her work is created in partnership with Sierra Leonean stylist Ib Kamara. This year, their work has been exposed to a wider audience. I have had the pleasure of seeing the series 2026 at Stockholm gallery CF Hill, as well as in Paris at the prestigious Fondation Louis Vuitton, as part of the exhibition Art/Afrique, Le nouvel atelier. Moolman is listed on this year’s Dazed100 list of young talent.
Tell me about yourself, who is Kristin-Lee?
“It’s a complicated question – I am so many things. But professionally I’m a photographer as my method of making sense of the world is taking photos. It helps me deal with identity and find identities in things and people. Personally, I’m a South African woman who was born during apartheid. There is a strong sense of before and after that time, which has contributed to a conflicted sense of self in me. The rigid attitudes to human identities here have made me think about being a woman, my sexuality and abnormality. In the past I have tried to run away from my South African identity, but that has changed. I’m proud, I embrace my nationality now.”
How did you get into photography?
“At first it wasn’t my medium of choice, I preferred painting. At the art school I went to, nothing special just a shitty university, we were encouraged to try all mediums. I became inspired looking at Richard Avedon’s In the American West. Eventually the bug bit and I realised how amazing the darkroom process is. Gravitating towards that, I still dabbled in sculpture, but in the end, I crept back to the camera.”
What do you like about shooting portraits?
“It’s instinctive for me as I’m drawn to people. I picture them in a post-gender world, whether they are close friends or random people I see on the street. Sometimes when shooting someone I become good friends with them and many of the models in my photos work in the creative field. To create with fellow artists sparks an amazing dynamic.”
What makes a good photo?
“I constantly debate with myself if I like what I create. The important thing is that a photograph tells a story, reveals a personality not just a model. There needs to be a connection happening through the lens, something almost tangible, so that the observer almost makes direct eye contact with the subject. This happens when there is spark between the photographer and subject, that’s why I photograph people who I’m drawn to.”
What’s your relationship to fashion and what role does it play in your work?
“I lean towards fashion photography almost by default. I see fashion as a manifestation of what’s inside of us, expressed visually, and it’s relation to gender. Fashion can be viewed as the conversation within my work, it’s a tool for exploring gender identity. Not always the subject’s identity, but in relation to general attitudes and norms of gender. However, fashion is far from the South African identity, it’s not something we have a history of, and it hasn’t been essential here.”
Fashion is a more recent exploration in South Africa, possibly, as you say a “tool” for the young generation to express themselves. The fashion aspect of your work is created together with Ib Kamara. How did you meet?
“Well thank god for Instagram! I saw his work, and eventually followed him, and he followed back. We liked each other’s stuff. We decided to hang out and shoot together. 2026 was the first work we produced together. And oh my god – it really worked out.”
How did you embark on the path of exploring gender identity?
“It was just instinctive, about documenting friends, I didn’t really think of it from that perspective. My own gender identity shaped by my childhood and the idea of femininity and not fitting into that. My feelings conflicted with people’s heterosexual ideas. I realised the system of conception of thought, for example idealised standards of beauty. I do see it as the responsibility of an artists – to promote the change they want to see.”
How do you experience the creative climate in South Africa right now?
“It’s amazing. South Africans are exploring a new identity, an identity that doesn’t buy into the classic conception of our country. It’s challenging the old view.”
Biggest misconception about South Africa?
“People have a one-dimensional view of the country, possibly part of a generalised view on Africa. They don’t realise how diverse it is, and how complex our society and culture is.”
Favourite thing about Johannesburg?
“The duality of the city, all the things you can experience in one day. Everything from the mine culture to the landscape and vast contrasts.”
All images by Kristin-Lee Moolman from 2026, via http://www.cfhill.com.