Paul Ward on creativity, originality and whether design will save the world

8699-7203259-EVE_JHB-16The idea of functioning as a creative-being has always intrigued society in a way that many depend on those that stand out to actually stand out. And when it all falls down, it’s the self-awared that survive, holding firm to their creative world as if all that matters is what really matters to them. We have all come across self-proclaimed “creative” individuals that claim to operate in “creative” mentalities, but what does it mean to be a true creative? Can a creative be defined, explained or built? Questions that only a true creative can answer. With that dramatic intro said HYPE got the opportunity to have an exclusive with photographer & Creative Director Paul Ward, which included discussions on what it means to be a true creative, the misconceptions of being a creative & his opinions on the development of our culture. Without further ado let’s get straight into it…

8699-7144737-DANNY-12You are one of the dopest creatives in our country. Getting the cliché out of the way, take us through your journey and where it all start out for you?

At the age of 15 I started taking photographs. I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t really care. I just took hundreds and hundreds of photos until I liked what I was getting back. In some-ways I’m still just doing that. Instead of taking photos of my school socials I’m shooting amazing events like the Olmeca block party early this year. Instead of documenting my friends, I’m documenting tours like the Danny Brown adidas #unitejozi tour. A lot of stuff has happened in between but when you take it down to the basics I’m still that 15 year old kid trying to capture images I like.

Then there’s DIARY OF WARD, a blog that makes one feel cool for even looking at it, capturing honest moments with honest people. What was the initial idea behind the blog? Did you ever expect it to be the way it is today?

 In hindsight #diaryofward looks quite strategic in how it played out, but to be honest, I was going through a weird phase where I wasn’t shooting that often. I’d just finished studying and was finding my feet in deciding what direction I wanted to go. I thought post studies I would be super creative and have all this time to make shit, but it was 2010. The World Cup got the better of me and I got lazy. I learnt at school if you want to be inspired you have to make shit. You don’t wait for inspiration then make shit. You make shit then the inspiration will come. So I started forcing myself to take the camera everywhere I went. People started asking where the photos I took were going. So after three months I decided to put them online. The response was crazy! And yeah that’s how it all begun.8699-6508094-LAYOUT

The whole idea of being a “Creative”, seems to be an on-going trend amongst the youth lately, what would your definition of a “Creative” be if asked to describe the term? And do you think there is a certain misconception in the way we perceive the role of being a “Creative”?

This is quite an intense question. Pretty sure someone should do a thesis on this topic, but let’s keep it simple. “Someone Who Reads The Textbook, Understands The Text, and Instead Of Copying The Textbook, Tries To Recreate The Textbook, That Is a Creative”. Just because you on a creative job or you don’t have a 9-5, doesn’t mean you are a creative in my opinion. Pretty sure you get some very creative accountants out there, so yeah I think that’s a misconception.

Kanye West once said he really does believe that the world can be saved through design. In your opinion how true do you believe this is and what qualities do you think does one need to have to truly function as a creative being?

Wow! Another gangster question. The whole trend of “design thinking” as a process seems to be quite on point if you’ve been to the Design Indaba lectures over the past few years it’s always a common thread. I think it was Bruce Mau who first sold me on the concept and if Kanye says it, it has to be “true” right? [laughs]. I do believe if you focus design on all aspects of life, life will improve as opposed to design being the afterthought you apply to make a solution to a problem look pretty. I think as long as you aren’t accepting the norms, and your mind is open to seeing things that don’t already exist, then you have the qualities to function as a creative being.


Quite a handful of people actually know that Photography/Graffiti or some sort of Expressive Art is a segment that originates within the Hip Hop culture. You’ve documented many events whether it be the music, dance or street fashion… what’s your opinion on the development of our culture? Is it expressive enough or is it just confirming to mainstream entertainment?

To be honest I don’t even know how I would define “our hip hop culture.” And although I’m well entrenched in the culture now, I’m still new to the game. Not to mention any names, but a lot of the homies who are topping the charts seemed to be very influenced by the American culture, and they’re at the top of the charts so it’s obviously working and people are responding well. But then you get homies like BOYZNBUCK$ who are taking their own culture, their own heritage, their own UMSWENKO, producing and showcasing it on that “American” level, which is what makes me very excited to be part of the future of “Hip Hop culture”!

You studied advertising and art direction…did that fully equip you for the work you’ve been involved in or was a straight forward education not enough to completely prepare yourself to be a creative thinker?

What I’ve realised is tertiary education just developed your brain in a certain way, doesn’t matter what you studied. Your brain is moulded to view the world through a certain lens. Like my friend who studied architecture, for example, approaches situations in a very specific way. I studied brands and I think about situations through that way. I don’t think any course can fully prepare you, but it can give you the relative thinking tools, that through experience you can prepare yourself. 8699-7203174-EVE_JHB-9

Your successful “I AM SERIES” extends your level of documenting, not just intriguing scenes/moments, but focuses on specific characters and in a way introduces viewers to their lifestyles & habitat. What is the purpose of the series? Does it go beyond showing us interesting people?

 I’m not sure if I should answer that last part. And I don’t think it matters to be honest. The purpose was just to showcase some of the interesting people who I have met along the way, what it has become is something different. But I’d like the viewer to decide what that is by themselves.

If you had the opportunity to document anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

It would either be someone like Kanye West, because he’s life is exciting and I believe images of him will become very interesting and valuable as we look back on his journey. And let’s be honest, we all want to know what Kanye is like when he is not being Kanye – and Kim can hang around to… So either Kanye or someone nobody knows would be interesting to showcase. Being the first person to give people an insight into that life would be awesome.

Any future projects you currently working on that we can look out for?

I’m in Amsterdam now on tour with Jack Parow, and for the next two weeks we hit Belgium and Netherlands. Then I have a few interesting projects going down in Europe over the next two months. Back home we got some nice things going down but you’ll have to wait and see about those. But if you’re reading this then you probably looking in the right places. #theninefour

One word that best describes PAUL WARD?





Written by: Rudzani “RooAT” Netshiheni

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