Each year on November 5th, the children and teenagers of Katlehong, South Africa, dress up in their mothers’ best clothes and run around the township, singing and asking for spare change. This day, according to photographer Marco Casino, who has been photographing the first South African apartheid generation since 2012, is called Penny Penny Day, and its origins are attributed to Great Britain’s Guy Fawkes Day (possibly born of the custom of asking for a “penny from the Guy,” though upon asking Katlehong residents, Casino was unable to confirm). Casino adds that today, people in the township also associate Penny Penny Day with the gay rights movement. “No one knows when or why precisely it mutated to this, and that makes it even more interesting from my point of view,” says Casino.
Mostly self-taught, Casino says that he is “proud to be part of the first generation of photojournalists born in the Internet and digital era.” Although he does not completely tie himself to any specific esthetic, he says that all of his images have in common a “subtle, dark mood.” For this series, armed with an old Polaroid 210, which he modified by changing the shutter speed and flash connection, Casino had no more than four or five hours to shoot the entire series, partly in low light. “For this reason, I chose to shoot with a large-format instant camera,” Casino says. “With that equipment, I had the chance to give the original prints to the kids, which really helped me to involve more of them, and to keep the film with me, from which I took the final negatives after a bleach process.”
Casino says he is always looking for new challenges and inspirations, and his series on Penny Penny Day is no exception. Of the series as whole, he says “I wanted to push the limit of my visual language—in my mind, the series had to [comprise] staged documentary portraits, but with a fake fashion look.”
Casino’s series was recognized in the Photojournalism/Documentary category in the 2015 PDN Photo Annual. The 2016 Photo Annual is currently open for submissions, with an extended deadline of February 24. Please visit the website for more information. —Taryn Swadba
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