Surely the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be one of the most photographed events this year. All eyes are on the games’ host country: South Africa. Yet do you know of the country’s role in photography history?
During the 1980s, photography became a weapon against apartheid. This creative form of activism was coined “struggle photography” and was influenced by the 1960’s documentary photography of Ernest Cole in later published as House of Bondage (1967) and reportage of the 1976 Soweto Uprising by Sam Nzima.
The “Struggle” Photographers
This 2008 Duke University exhibit, Then & Now – Eight South African Photographers is a large survey that featured 160 images from 8 photographers who risked their lives photographing life in apartheid South Africa. I’ve featured 2 photographers from this group below:
In 1995, Hallett was awarded the Golden Eye Award from the World Press Photo in Amsterdam for a series of photographs of Nelson Mandela taken during the 1994 elections. He had been commissioned by the ANC to photographically document their coming to power.
Co-founder of the Afrapix Collective which later became an agency, Nunn’s most personal work is “Blood Relatives” – a series in which he used his extended family to explore his identity as a South African of mixed heritage during the height of the struggle against apartheid in the 1980’s.
Several photographers (many from mixed and immigrant families) featured in the “Then & Now” exhibit emerged from the Afrapix Agency.
Here’s a partial list of this generation of image makers who documented the rise and fall of apartheid: Lesley Lawson, Rafik Mayet (b. 1955), Jeevenundhan (Jeeva) Rajgopaul (b. 1952), Paul Alberts (b. 1946), Chris Ledochowski (b. 1956), Paul Grendon (b. 1954), Rashid Lombard (b. 1951), Santu Mofokeng (b. 1956), Guy Tillim (b. 1962), Gideon Mendel (b. 1959), Anna Zieminski (b. 1952), Eric Miller (b. 1955) among others.
Photography of Today’s South Africa
Zwelethu Mthethwa attended the whites-only school of fine art at the University of Cape Town under special ministerial consent. He then went on to pursue his Masters as a Fulbright scholar at RIT. His (mostly portrait) work seeks to capture with dignity the life of South Africans in the post-apartheid era.
This year, Aperture published a self-titled monograph of his work to date. Watch a 4-part series interview with Zwelethu Mthethwa by the curator and dean of academic affairs of San Francisco Art Institute, Okwui Enwezor. Also check this video of Mthethwa in his studio.
South African Photographers Interviewed on Dodge & Burn
I’ve had the priveledge to interview two young South African men. Both were deprived of artistic educations under the later years of apartheid but despite that are continuing the photographic legacy of their predecessors.
“When I was schooling we had no introduction to a lot of artistic mediums. Apartheid kept a lot from us, so not having any form of introduction to various outlets I had to search for that myself.”
Read the full interview with Rushay Booysen.
“The colour of my skin as a black South African was a slight set back simply because I was not culturally enriched in the arts at a young age. I had to live in London to achieve the knowledge and enthusiasm.” Read the full interview with Neil John Smith.
Wikipedia’s Category of South African Photographers
Did I miss any photographers?
I’m sure I did, so leave your comments below and share!
STAY IN TOUCH
Get updates on new photographer interviews plus news on contests, art shows and informed commentary on what’s happening with diversity in photography. Subscribe to Dodge & Burn Photography Blog: Diversity in Photography by Email
Follow me on Twitter @mestrich for more on photography.