21 Icons of South Africa —
Steirn and his team are planning to repeat the project every year. They say that the current multimedia exhibition is just the first in a collection, rather than a solitary selection of brilliant people from the nation.
"One of the big things to come out of this whole project for me was that at the end of it, together we are better as a community," says Steirn. "And the other thing that I understood is the power of individual thought. All these people I had interviewed, and all these people I had photographed, one was a nurse, one was a golfer, one was a runner but every single person had applied thought to their endeavors, their lives and that's what made them special."
That runner he refers to is 48-year-old Evelina Tshabalala. The hugely successful marathon runner and mountaineer started running to school as a child while living in the Free State province. She would go on to compete in countless events as well as scale Mount Aconcagua and Mount Kilimanjaro.
But she's had more than her fair share of tragic circumstances. A life of hardship and obstacles, including the death of her father during a Christmas day assault and the loss of her second son Emmanuel who suffered from epilepsy -- all before being diagnosed HIV positive in 1999. Despite all of this, Steirn explains that Tshabalala's unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity and keep moving forward became the narrative for her particular portrait shoot.
"It's a double exposure, so it's the same image taken on the same," says the 21 ICONS founder.
Elaborating further on the technical process of setting up the shot, he adds: "It's two frames on the same image. So in the old school days you wouldn't have rolled the film. You would just take the photo again. This and Kentridge are the two most technically difficult portraits by far.
"But the concept behind it was here's a woman that despite all adversity, keeps moving forward. [She's] one of the most beautiful, positive people I've ever met in my life."