Photowalking Jozi’s Downtown Fringes

by | May 3, 2011 | Arts and Culture, Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Tours | 14 comments

Yesterday I took another jaunt with the Joburg Photowalkers, a group that organizes walks around different parts of town for photographers, amateur camera enthusiasts, and people who just want to explore. (Read about the last photowalk I attended in Hillbrow.)

Monday’s walk covered a few different areas on the eastern side of downtown: Troyeville, Bertrams, Ellis Park, and the 12 Decades Hotel. It’s difficult to summarize everything we did in a coherent blog post; I think my photos tell a slightly disjointed story. But here goes.

We started our walk at the Troyeville Hotel, which is actually not a hotel but a restaurant. Troyeville is a historically poor white neighborhood on the edge of downtown. The Troyeville Hotel is famous for its quirkiness and delicious Portuguese-Mozambican food. I’ll have to write a longer post about it someday in the future.

We got special permission to go up to the roof of the Troyeville Hotel, which has a nice view of the city skyline. I was more interested in this beer bottle sculpture though.

From the Troyeville Hotel, we drove a few blocks to the Johannesburg Cricket Club. There was no cricket going on and not a lot to see, so I walked next door to a social services center that has a large community garden. 

This is a cabbage plant. I never knew cabbages could grow on trunks! Apparently you can pick the leaves off one by one and the plant will keep growing.

I met Refiloe and her daughter Beautiful (a very appropriate name) in the garden. Refiloe lives nearby and works in the garden. She uses the food for herself and her family, and also sells vegetables through the fence to passersby. I like what Refiloe told me about why she works at the garden: “If you don’t do anything, nothing will happen.”

After exploring the cricket club and the garden, we took a walk through Bertrams, a suburb adjacent to Troyeville. Most of the houses in Bertrams are “railroad houses” — tiny brick dwellings built for railroad workers in Joburg’s early days.

Bertrams is a grim place, although there were pockets of happiness and beauty in the grimness. 

 Every home in Bertrams has at least one dog. When I walked past this house, the dog ran up to me and wagged her tail. I asked her elderly owners if I could take a photo. The dog went into full attack mode as soon as she saw the lens. I guess she’s camera-shy.

Mail slot to nowhere.

We came upon this beautiful mosaic on the edge of Bertrams.

The story continues on the adjoining wall.

We walked from Bertrams to the grounds of Ellis Park — a large sports complex that includes Coca-Cola Stadium, which is home to the Lions rugby team and also one of the 2010 World Cup soccer venues. There’s a nice public space surrounding the complex.

These guys make a living taking photos of people and selling the prints for R10 (about $1.50) each. I’ve noticed several similar operations in parks and public places around South Africa. I asked them for a job and they laughed at me.

Ad for the photography business. I’m not sure why they call it “Same Time Photo” because they have to take the photos to be printed at a camera shop.

There’s a cool soccer-ball-shaped sculpture outside Ellis Park. By the time I got there, the ball was crawling with children and Photowalkers photographing the children. I decided to hang back and give my camera a break. As everyone walked off, these girls ran up and asked me to take one more picture.

The last stop on the Photowalk was the 12 Decades Hotel, which is a few minutes’ drive from Ellis Park near Arts on Main. We wanted to catch the sunset from the roof of the hotel.

It was worth the trip.


  1. Tilly Bud

    Refiloe is a wise woman;and her daughter really is beautiful. Like that sky and those last three children.

    Really enjoyed these pics.

    • 2summers

      She is indeed very wise. I need to figure out how to get a copy of this blog post to her.

  2. amblerangel

    I love the pictures you take of people….

  3. Kathryn McCullough

    What a fascinating post, Heather! And that last photo of the sky is stunning! Sounds like a great walk. Take care—————

    • 2summers

      Thanks Kathy. We were worried there were too many clouds to get good sunset photos. We were definitely wrong!

  4. jackie

    Hi Heather – your blog is terrific and your photos are fab – what lens were you using on the day ? you have captured it wonderfully ….

    • 2summers

      Hi Jacks, thanks so much! Glad you’re enjoying the blog. I was using a 10-22 mm lens on my Canon 60D. It’s a great combo for shooting wide stuff.

  5. Anna

    Love photo safaris – amazing what details and people you can find. I really enjoyed this post – the pictures are evocative and elegant.

    • 2summers

      Thanks so much Anna, and thanks for visiting my blog.

  6. Alan Mason

    Nice blog Heather. I kind of know the area and I really wanted to join you folk on the walk but guess what?? I HAD TO WORK ON THE PUBLIC HOLIDAY!!!

    • 2summers

      Hi Alan, glad you enjoyed the blog. Sorry you had to work on a holiday! Hope to see you next time.

  7. Richard Brooksbank

    Thanks again Heather, you really captured the mood of the afternoon again in your blog and photos and your novel viewpoint is always refreshing. You can sit in the front seat next time.

    • 2summers

      Richard, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for ferrying me around. I don’t mind sitting in the back!

  8. Fidel

    I absolutely love that mural!


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