Pierre Rommelaere is a familiar face for local musicians and their fans alike — even if it is only from behind a camera. From his humble beginnings photographing live music at venues in Stellenbosch and Cape Town, Pierre has risen to one of the most prominent live music photographers in South Africa.

We asked him about his experiences thus far, his thoughts on the local music scene, and even some photography tips.

Return to the Mother City

Pierre grew up in the windy Cape Town suburbs of Vredehoek and Devil’s Peak. In 2011, he purchased his first film camera and began learning the fundamentals of photography through trial and error.

“I was still in my first year at Stellenbosch University when I started making friends with the local bands. From my second year on, I started capturing the shows,” he says.

A Canon A-1 was his first film camera, and a Canon 450D was his first digital one. He is still shooting film with the same camera, but switched to a Fujifilm X-T30 for digital. He uses digital cameras for work but still prefers shooting analogue for fun.

Pierre was raised in a creative environment. His father used to be a sound engineer and played in a few acts and his mom is a ceramicist.

“A lot of my parent’s friends are or were also musicians and played in bands. I eventually met some of those friends’ kids, who also played or started bands, so I always managed to find myself where the music was,” he says. 

Zolani Mahola in Stellenbosch in 2019. PHOTO: Pierre Rommelaere

Despite Pierre’s upbringing in a musical environment, he claims he is not particularly musical himself. “I can play like three or four guitar chords,” he says. In high school, he and a few friends would jam together and he would play the drums — but that didn’t lead anywhere. “I was also encouraged by my parents and friends to attend live gigs, where I met even more musicians and bands. This eventually sparked a keen interest in music photography,” Pierre explains.

Pierre has relocated back to the Mother City after spending most of his time working in Stellenbosch. He says he gradually outgrew Stellenbosch as a town. “It had its charm for a very long time, but in later years things became monotonous. The pandemic didn’t help much either, so I had to start looking for greener pastures,” he says.  It made a lot of sense, given that Pierre is a Cape Town local and that most of the bands and musicians he knew during his time at Stellenbosch are now also based here.

Drawing inspiration

Except for growing up in a music-focused environment, what inspired Pierre to take up music photography was the energy of a performance. “Seeing photos of Fokofpolisiekar bassist Wynand Myburgh doing his infamous kick — as an example — was why I wanted to start photographing live music. It’s a powerful image that demands to be captured,” he comments. 

Pierre is constantly drawing inspiration from photographers and videographers such as Adriaan Louw, Bruce ‘Flyinghorse’ Geils, Henry Engelbrecht, Liam Lynch, Leigh Groenemeyer, Mark Reitz, Mia Truter, Joshua Rijneke, Joshua Stein and Jurie Neethling, he says.

Although Pierre and the late local photography icon, Henry Engelbrecht only formally met in 2019, they had been admirers of each other’s work for quite some time. “I really admired his work and I really do miss him. It was always an absolute pleasure seeing him in the pit,” says Pierre.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

In addition to his profession as a freelance stills photographer, Pierre assists Bohemia in Stellenbosch in co-booking bands for their Thursday band nights and designing the artwork for the event. He also does freelance work for Stellenbosch-based DPK Productions.

Pierre, when asked about difficulties experienced by local photographers, names two main issues: not getting paid decently and not receiving the necessary credit.

“It would be really nice if photographers, musicians, or anyone else involved in an event or production got paid their full rate. Unfortunately, the independent or underground scene — whatever you want to call it — is not a very lucrative one and our economy is not doing great either. So it is quite a struggle to make a living out of your passion,” he says.

In the year 2022, Pierre is amazed to find people who still do not properly credit photographers. “We’re in an age of social media. Photos are being used, shared, cropped, and re-edited and it later becomes lost on who took the photo. So, please credit your photographers, we could really do with the recognition of our work,” he says.

Lucy Kruger in Stellenbosch in 2021. PHOTO: Pierre Rommelaere

When asked if he has any tips for aspiring photographers looking to get into the local scene, Pierre offers up the following nuggets of wisdom: “Explore your camera, shoot manual, experiment with it — just don’t shoot in automatic mode. If you’re shooting from the crowd, be very aware of what is happening around you, things can get rowdy in a split second — especially if a mosh pit breaks out. The stage is the band’s space, be mindful that it’s their show, not yours.” 

He continues to always be aware of one’s surroundings in a crowd, because things can get rowdy. “When on stage, please respect the musician’s space — that’s their space,” he adds

For our readers, Pierre also mentioned a few local acts he believes everyone should keep an ear out for, including Yndian Mynah, Holograph, Moskitos, and TOUGHGUY. He also mentions Wombed, which is a local act based in Berlin.

Just the beginning

Over the years, Pierre has photographed several well-known musicians, including Fokofpolisiekar, The Kooks, Zolani Mahola, and Portugal. The Man to Lucy Kruger. After considerable internal debate, he settled on A Place to Bury Strangers, Night Beats, Fokofpolisiekar, Medicine Boy, and Yndian Mynah as his top five.

  • A Place To Bury Strangers
  • Night Beats
  • Fokofpolisiekar
  • Medicine Boy
  • Yndian Mynah

Pierre believes we’re currently in very interesting times — post-pandemic speaking. “A lot of new bands and venues have popped up over the past two to three years bringing in some new sounds. It’s also great to experience new venues, but it is sad to see that some venues didn’t survive the pandemic,” he says.

Unfortunately, there is also some bad in the picture. As Pierre pointed out, the local music scene is still not very lucrative, and its members are all having to scrape by. He went to the Stellenbosch Music Indaba recently, where he heard a famous Afrikaans pop musician say that they no longer make a living from their music but instead rely on other assets. 

Even the top sellers have a hard time. “Many bands that have toured here have had financial backing from their governments, but the odds of it happening here are very slim,” he adds.

“I would like to thank every band, venue, promoter, and person who has helped shape this thing I call a career — dankie!” Pierre ends off.


I can’t play any musical instruments or sing, so this is my contribution to the local music scene — which I love immensely. I can’t touch my toes, but that has held me back only slightly in life. My hobbies include reading, beer, bringing up Let’s Get Local when no one asked, writing, and surprising people with my pool skills. I believe somehow all of this will lead me to Dave Grohl.

1 Comment

  1. Pierre Rommelare has captured so many amazing musical moments…thank you, always, for your passion and work.

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