A social media post by veteran photographer Robbie Aspelling triggered uproar and the subsequent Facebook page Photographers Unite against Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens provided a platform for photographers and photography enthusiasts to express their frustration and grievances regarding the R250-R380 fee and the apparent dismal state of the Botanical Gardens, Maritzburg Sun reports.
The botanical gardens’ spokesperson, Siphuxolo Ngqasa, said the fee was introduced for photographic shoots as the photographers were earning an income from the use of the garden.
“While the garden is there for recreational use, it is after all an entity that is run as a business. If photographers are going to use these facilities for a shoot, for which they earn money, then they must be charged. Not everyone who walks into the park with a camera is going to be charged for a shoot – it’s quite evident to our gatekeepers when people are there for a photoshoot and when they are there for a picnic and just bring their camera along,” said Ngqasa.
Photographers, however, are not so sure about the charges claiming they were told it was for the “use of the unique and beautiful venue”, which they claim is in a total state of disrepair and shabby.
Posting pictures of the unkempt location, Aspelling said that he had spoken to the botanical gardens’ management and received a “textbook response”.
“When speaking to management, I was told that we have to pay to use the venue because it is so unique and so beautiful, which is a total contradiction to what is being presented,” he said.
City residents and regular users of the gardens who saw the post agreed with the grievances of the photographers.
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Aspelling asserted that the fee needed to be overturned, and that they would continue with their mobilisation until the botanical gardens heeded their call.
Ngqasa added that while she understood the frustration expressed by photographers, the botanical gardens were under “development”, and all of the development and construction going on there certainly looked like it was unkempt, but she could assure that was not the case. “There are several renovations which will make the fee charged worth it,” said Nqgasa.
She added the Garden’s Clivia hall was under renovation and extension.
“This building was previously used as the garden’s tea room and later for weddings and functions. Due to the increased demand SANBI has responded by building a bigger hall for weddings, conferences and other functions. This building will be a 400 seater, and the construction will be completed later this year,” she said.
“The cover charge has been reviewed and aligns with the quality the botanical gardens brings and aims to continue to do so,” she added.
Ngqasa encouraged people to continue to visit the gardens and not be put off by the temporary construction phase.
– Caxton News Service