The 21 Icons Team
Behind the Scenes
21 Icons is a visual celebration of the lives of men and women who have shaped the world around them for the better. Inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela, it tells the stories of people who have continued his legacy – whose lives have made the world a better place. The project seeks to celebrate those who have achieved success and widespread recognition, as well as individuals whose work has been conducted without prior acclaim.

A unique concept, the project combines fine-art portraits, short films, behind the scenes photography, written narrative and a feature length documentary. The hope was to capture in an immersive manner the lives of the people it features. This meant striving for intimacy during the portrait shoots and interviews, to ensure that the charm, humility and sincerity of South Africa’s most remarkable people came through.
In 2009 a group of young men and women in Cape Town became captivated with the human spirit in South Africa. They set out to document and photograph the incredible men and women making a positive impact on their South African communities in the 21st century. The concept slowly grew from a living room idea to a global reality as the team grew in confidence with every shoot.
In 2013, with South Africa celebrating two decades of democracy, the team is looking to documenting the hope and positivity in South Africa for many years to come. The 21 Icons project is an honest, organic and beautiful insight into one group of people's South Africa that has become an open invitation to a global audience to engage, educate and inspire those around them.
At the core of the 21 Icons project is the spirit of generosity represented by its icons – whose lives have been dedicated to bettering the world around them, and the ceaseless endeavour of giving back to their communities.

In order for the project to embody this, one of its key goals is the support of charitable organisations in South Africa whose work reflects that of the icons the project celebrates. In light of this, each icon’s portrait will be auctioned with the proceeds going to a charity of their choosing. To date, the sale of Nelson Mandela’s portrait alone has raised R2 million for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and WWF South Africa. The remaining portraits from Season I will be auctioned together later this year.
A series of behind-the-scenes images reflecting the 21 Icons team at work.