The only photographer commissioned to take photographs at the annual maintenance, shutdown and refurbishment operations of Table Mountain’s Aerial Cableway since 2005, will have his unique, never seen before photographs on exhibition next month.
Gary Hirson, a Strand resident, has captured distinctive and exclusive photographs of what he calls engineering on a very grand scale set in a unique environment over the years. In 2017 his photo-book Changing The Lines was published.
“This year Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) celebrates its 90th anniversary. In celebration of its milestone there is to be an exhibition,” says Hirson, who also spoke of his photographic journey thus far.
He explains that the changing of the cables is an engineering feat. The cables weigh several tons, are kilometres long and the work is done on the slopes of Table Mountain or on the cables high above the ground.
“The highlight is that I have access to places that most people aren’t allowed to go. I’ve been trained in rope access so I get to take photos from the cables as well as from the roof of the cable car as it journeys to the top of the mountain,” says Hirson.
“I am harnessed on and follow a very strict rule of operation. For some of the photos I get to be on the top of Table Mountain with only one or two engineers and technicians.
“I love Table Mountain and being able to be up there almost by myself for sunrise or sunset is nothing short of a gift.”
The challenge of taking the photos is that the work is done mid winter and at times the rain, wind and cold is at another level, he says, but still the work needs to be done so everyone carries on to meet the deadline.
“The engineers and technicians are highly trained and absolute focus is needed. At times the work space is very limited and I need to get in there and photograph them without being a distraction,” Hirson says.
“So I have to wait for the right moment to get in and photograph – in the cold and wet, which sometimes can be a bit tough, but I’d rather be there than anywhere else.”
Asked to elaborate on the exhibition, Hirson quips that visitors will get to see about 20 framed images and installations at the exhibition.
“The images focus not only on the behind-the-scenes work of maintaining the cable car systems, but also the men, women and work required to ensure that tourists enjoy a safe trip to the top of the mountain,” Hirson relates.
“The images have a very strong reportage style, with some in colour and others in black and white. The exhibition is also in partnership with TMACC, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.”
Hirson is relatively new to Strand. He moved here with his partner Helene-Marie in December, and the couple work from home so they can work from anywhere.
They wanted to get away from the hustle and the bustle of city life to be closer to the beach, warmer water and to enjoy a more relaxed environment.
“People here are very open and friendly, where in the city our lives were a bit more closed off from each other and the traffic is more hectic,” Hirson says.
“We both really love the holiday vibe that Strand offers. The beach is beautiful, the water is warm and the promenade always filled with people. We love it.”
The exhibition will take place at the Youngblood Africa Gallery at 70-72 Bree Street in the Cape Town CBD on Thursday 5 March. The opening will form part of the popular 1st Thursday art event. The exhibition will run until Sunday 29 March.
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