‘Achieving Gender Parity Requires a Conscious Effort’ – Lindelwa Khanyile 

University student Lindelwa Khanyile is a Wits Football Photographer and she is navigating the male-dominant Sport Photography industry while pursuing her studies in BA Media and Politics. She hopes to one day inspire young girls to chase their dreams. All Photos: Supplied

Campus sports hold significance in shaping character, instilling discipline, and fostering a sense of community among students. It goes beyond competition, contributing to holistic personal development. Campus sports also gives rare opportunities to gain experience to students who want to learn and develop themselves in the industry.  

The importance of sport at University level in South Africa is understated, from the likes of Tatjana Schoenmaker to Caster Semenya, that’s where their superstardom was nurtured and activated. We’ve seen them during their early days of donning the green and gold on international stages, all the way to the Olympic Games. 

Lindelwa Khanyile is one of the few in the know, she and those iconic long lenses can be spotted on the sidelines at Wits University under the banner of Wits Sport, making history by taking iconic shots of Mzansi’s future stars.

Hailing from Umlazi township in Durban, Khanyile is a final year BA Media and Politics at Wits University, and has been working with Wits Football FC as their Media Officer since 2022. From the streets of Umlazi to Wits University in Johannesburg, she is building a name for herself, one shot at a time.

Kids from South African townships will have one of two factors that inspire them: 1: A role model, someone that has been incredibly impressive in their respective fields and has motivated generations to also carve a path that they can be proud; or 2: Sometimes it’s dire circumstances that will motivate young kids to work hard enough to make their dreams come true, in spite of an absence of role models around them, as is the case with Khanyile. 

“More than anything in my career I want to be a role model to young women and men, because I grew up with no role models but people I didn’t want to end up like.”

University student and Wits Football Photographer, Lindelwa Khanyile

“Where I’m from, inspiring stories are never told. I’m from the dusty streets of Umlazi and it’s said, “Girls from our hood never make it far.”, and I had to prove them wrong. It’s not just photography, its memories being taken, talent being recognised.” 

In this age of Social Media’s YouTube channels and Instagram Reels, we are easily fooled into believing that taking photos is easy as a couple of selfies and cute poses. 

The world of photography is broad, wildlife photographers, studio photography to the paparazzi. But what drew the Wits scholar to sports photography?

“Photography became my passion because it offers a unique way to convey narratives. Choosing sports was a natural extension, as it adds an unparalleled layer of intensity and emotion to visual storytelling. 

“Sport photography stands out due to its ability to freeze dynamic moments in time. It goes beyond aesthetics, becoming a medium to convey the raw passion, skill, and drama inherent in athletic performances.”

That said, photographers, even with their subjects in motion like athletes, often hunt for the Money Shot, the shot that will be most memorable and possibly even paid for by brands. Khanyile lets us in on how they manage to get these iconic photo’s that will sometimes end up on billboards, TV ads or a front page of a newspaper.  

“The elusive “Money Shot” demands a keen sense of anticipation, strategic positioning, and precise timing. It’s about capturing that singular moment that encapsulates the peak of action or emotion, demanding both skill and intuition.”

The likes of Wits, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria have made strides in growing women’s team particularly in athletics, swimming, football, netball and rugby. As a person closest to the action, Khanyile says there’s room for improvement. 

“There’s a need for more equitable attention, resources, and coverage for female athletes in campus sports. Achieving gender parity requires a conscious effort to address existing imbalances. I believe it’s time to do away with certain gender stereotypes, I believe women do belong in the sport industry too.   

“Advancing women’s sports necessitates increased media coverage, equal financial backing, and challenging stereotypes. Creating an environment that encourages participation and support irrespective of gender is crucial.”

Sport media is still very much male dominated and on campus it’s no different. “As a female sports photographer, challenges include breaking gender norms and overcoming preconceptions.

“Achieving a level playing field requires industry-wide recognition of talent, irrespective of gender, fostering inclusivity. Ever since I started working as a sports Photographer for Wits football I’ve had to prove myself to not only the university but the industry at large that I can do a men’s job. Wits football has given me the platform to grow, improve my skills and exposed me to a lot of opportunities. “

As she continues to hone her craft, she’s seen the rise and growth of some athletes. Some of the people she’s captured are making waves in South African Football. One of her greatest dreams is to work for Orlando Pirates.

“Capturing iconic athletes like Kgwadi Molepo who now plays for Orlando Pirates and is the DDC captain, Lesego Nkoane (TS Galaxy Queens), Sifiso Mazibuko (Supersport) has been particularly enjoyable. Their combination of skill, charisma, and influence in their respective teams makes for compelling visual narratives.”

“Working for Orlando Pirates has always been a dream for me. Their media team is everything and more. I would love to work alongside them one day. Players like Relebogile Mofokeng, Hotto, Aubrey Modiba and Tebogo Mokoena, I would love to capture their images.

“The overarching dream is to continue shaping powerful sports narratives, contribute to breaking barriers for female photographers, and serve as an inspiration for others to pursue their passions unencumbered by unnecessary obstacles. Most importantly show young girls that it’s all possible.” 

Here’s to seeing Khanyile’s images go beyond the borders of South Africa and who knows maybe soon we’ll see her signature or logo on a photo she captured of a future Serena Williams or Penny Heyns. 

Photo Caption: University student Lindelwa Khanyile is a Wits Football Photographer and she is navigating the male-dominant Sport Photography industry while pursuing her studies in BA Media and Politics. She hopes to one day inspire young girls to chase their dreams. All Photos: Supplied

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