Twenty two year-old Jannah Ruthven is one of the youngest artists ever to have held an exhibition at Knysna Fine Art. Entitled “Die Hoeke van Kaapstad”, it featured the series of photographs she presented for the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards Student Focus programme held earlier this year in London. She was one of ten shortlisted photographers from 230 education institutions worldwide.
Jannah matriculated in 2010 and says that her most notable achievement at Oakhill and her fondest memory was performing in Music in the Blue from 2007 to 2010. She was also Interact president in 2010, and served on the SRC for a few years.
Not surprisingly, her favourite subject was art, and her favourite classroom was the art room. “Mrs Nuttall was always an inspirational and creative mentor,” says Jannah. “She succeeded in guiding me to think outside of the box, both in art and other aspects of life.”
When she left Oakhill, Jannah completed a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Communication at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography.
“My father is an avid photographer, so my passion for photography was ignited by his. I wouldn’t say that I have always been interested in photography, but I have always been interested in art, culture and, to a certain degree, science. I discovered that photography allows to me to combine these interests.”
She says her life changed when she received the call about the Sony competition. She attended the gala awards ceremony at Somerset House in London this April where her work was part of an exhibition featuring hundreds of photographers from all over the world. “The quality of imagery was both daunting and incredibly empowering, as it provided a deeper understanding of how influential photography can be when formulating an individual’s view of the world.” After that, she decided to pursue fine art photography as a long-term career.
“I want to produce a travel-based series so I’ve joined a Cruise Ship Agency as a photographer and am waiting to be placed on a ship. This will allow me to travel and take photos while saving money to invest in my own equipment and future photographic endeavours.
“My long-term plan is to start my own business in Cape Town, although at this stage I’m not sure whether it will be to open my own gallery/studio space, or collaborate with other creatives to start a production business that incorporates multiple forms of media, and helps promote local artists. It will possibly be both.”
Jannah says that Oakhill taught her how to operate successfully in a working environment. “It taught me to incorporate self-discipline and respect when working with others, and gave me the confidence to accept leadership roles and share my opinions. I was also always encouraged to pursue my personal interests or talents, and as a result I have never doubted myself and am pro-active about achieving my goals.”
She has many special memories of the fun she had with her classmates, from busking outside the classroom to get money to buy Steri Stumpies from the tuckshop, to picking mulberries behind the music room, and the interaction with other classes at break time.
“I am proud of Oakhill’s growth,” she says. “I recently went to see the sports fields and was blown away by the new facilities! I hope that Oakhill continues to grow while incorporating all of the traditional principles that it started with – the focus on education, celebrating the individual, mutual respect, self-discipline and the encouragement of different modes of thinking. This is what makes Oakhill a unique schooling experience.”