A Conversation With Travolta, The Head Honcho At Vigorous Youth; Turning A Hobby Into A Brand



Paul Caponigro sagely observed, “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are”. The words of Paul Caponigro are close enough to the feeling invoked when you come consume Travolta’s photography. In the era where everyone with a camera assumes they are photographers, it take a special level of technique and skill to rise above the ‘rubbish pile’. Born Lamech, a man with a heart and soul for creativity which he grew to use as a medium to express his shy and quiet existence. I have known Lamech aka Travolta for as long as l can remember,  he has done some of my personal shoots and professional shoots. A comedic character with a Canon eye-piece is the image that comes to mind as l pen this. 

We caught up with Travolta to talk about his inception, journey, challenges and discussed how he turned his hobby into a brand while leading a group of vigorous creatives to add the creative conversation in Zimbabwe. He also talked about his endeavors in artist management which goes on to show how he is such a creative at heart who respects and has the eagerness to interact with all facets of the game. He echoed his frustrations on the photography industry in Zimbabwe and weighed in on its sustainability. Checkout our interaction with the all-round creative, Travolta.

Introduce yourself to our readers, who is Travolta?

Travolta is 25 year old Zimbabwean Creative, I would prefer to use the word creative because people think I am into photography only but I'm also into videography, graphic design, artist management and other things. I studied Political Science in University even though people always assume that I studied Media or something related to that. 

Wow, so many hats for one man; Where does this work ethic come from and what inspired you to choose the career path of a creative?

[laughs] it's just one big hat for one big headed kid... My desire to create comes from the natural human urge to express oneself, I wasn't much of a confident person whilst growing up and I'm still the quiet type. I only speak when there's really need to and when I finally speak you would just wish that I had kept quiet..[laughs]

So since I wasn't that confident; Art came as way for me to express myself, I was into poetry and Rap before I fell in love with Cameras.

At what point on your journey did you decide to turn a medium you used to express yourself as a brand?

In  2016, when I dropped my first EP. I was looking for a title that would communicate the kind of person I am and the experiences I've had in a few phrases so I came up with; Vigorous Youth. And it's funny how I got to that name.


Backtrack a bit, how did the name Travolta come about? 

As For Travolta, I got this name from my Uncles but it didn't stick at first because I actually didn't like the way it sounded... it sounded so foreign, rare and right out of a movie script  besides that John Travolta who I didn't like anyway... I only started using the name in high school at that age where people start discovering themselves and how they want other people to view them and it stuck with the people because it was a unique name

Indeed a 1 of 1 unique name. Unpack the story of how Vigorous youth came about

Vigorous Youth was the name of my first EP. So my government is Lamech, I got that one on my Christening, so when I looking for a name for my EP I just looked up what the name Lamech meant in Hebrew and Greek and voila it directly translates to Vigorous Youth and I'm indeed one Vigorous Youth. So when I wanted to turn my photography into a business I just settled for Vigorous Youth since the initial idea was to start a collective of vigorous creatives

So unpack Vigorous Youth, what components, roles, type of work and team make up the initiative?

Well, we want to venture into every Art form that we can get our hands on  but for now we are mostly into visuals and visual experiences, photography, music videos and set design and for that we changed from Vigorous Youth just being the name of the movement to the name of the Company and then Vigorous Aesthetics being the brand name for the visual side


Dope! So would it be correct to say you are the Head Honcho at Vigorous Youth? How many creatives make up your team?

Well yes... right now we have a team of 4 photographers who also dabble in set design and cinematography interchangeably and a span of other creatives who we usually collaborate with

Which brands, creatives, models and clients has Vigorous Youth worked with so far and what would you consider your biggest professional success so far?

We have collaborated a lot of artists and models, most of our input has been on music videos and artworks, we've been on a number of Ishan projects and my favourite one being his 7:30 (Waiting)  with Tamy Moyo... most of Ishan's photography is done by us in collaboration with Be Heard, we have also had our input on a number of Director Simdoc music videos, like Scrip Mula's King Santa which had sick visuals and set direction. We have also worked clothing brands like Chasers way before they blew up, currently working with Madzimambo Clothing and you will see in the streets soon. Our Main focus is breaking out new talent so that's one of our major success because everyone else who has came through has made notable moves just by working us. We also have a trail of our work in corporate Zimbabwe. You might not see it on the streets unless you on the business side. Our main client is a marketing company called Boxnation, it's the one that brings us most of our corporate clients

What do you think sets Vigorous Youth apart from the rest of collectives in Zimbabwe?

The aesthetics bro 😂😂 our focus right now clean   visuals, something that's not noisy but makes you pop your eye balls when you see it. That's quality that makes you ask if it's Zimbabwean or not


What challenges have you experienced along the way as a collective?

Economic constraints, people are not earning enough and the kind of service that we offer is more of luxury so people prioritizes are less even businesses too and also that inturn affects our production because it also relies on capital injection. 

What would you say is the biggest misconception of photography?

That you cannot have a successful career and a lucrative income with photography. Generally most Zimbabweans are used to those Harare Gardens and passport photo camera guys... they don't fully understand our kind of photography. There is a process behind it; more so some think most photographers are pervets or cheats so you get viewed with such an eye

Why do you think there is a rise in digital photography in Zimbabwe? And does a sustainable industry exist?

Because of high unemployment rates and people are trying to get their hands or anything that can make them an extra buck. We can have a sustainable industry but it is hard to maintain where there is no standard for pricing and quality. Anyone who gets their hands on a camera is calling themselves a photographer and even worse a professional so you find that a client I would have charged USD$200 will get their work done for USD$45 and that cycle continues until people are used to the mediocre quality and work


How has social media added to your craft?

Social media has actually taken away from my craft because I am more of an abstract artist but because social is always pushing glamour so I'm forced to go that route.

Interesting take, I was of the opinion that you would benefit from all the exposure your photography gets on socials such as Instagram and Facebook 

Exposure doesn't always translate to monetary value or social capital, so exposure  might actually lessen your uniqueness

How have you been navigating your career in light of the Covid-19 pandemic? Any jewels of wisdom picked up?

You can only live once and so create as much Art and memories as you can so than you can leave something for people to remember you with. Also the world is changing fast so you have to adapt quickly so that you won't be caught off guard

What does the future hold for Travolta and Vigorous Youth?

We are hoping to grow and outgrow the Zimbabwean market into the international space and learning more to stuff that expresses the Zimbabwean experience and exporting it for consumption globally like how the Nigerians and South Africans are doing it


What do you want people to feel when they consume your art?

Originality, Belonging and the Zimbabwean experience

Any final words?

Don't be afraid to go after your dreams because you only get one shot at this life.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Gerald Muchandiona

twitterinstagram How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement - no matter how temporary - Craig Thompson


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