African Photography: Documentary, Part 4

African Photography: Documentary, Part 4

Posted in Photography

In the 1970s, several South African artists, writers and photographers no longer have the will to support journalistic neutrality and committed themselves to the struggle. The canvas, the pen, and the camera rapidly became instruments of protest against the apartheid. Some photographers choose the exile to fight against the government from the outside. While other photographers stayed inside the country as activist and joined forces to record people’s dramas and experiences.

George Hallett

George Hallett was born in 1942 in Cape Town, South Africa. He developed an interest for photography from the movies he saw in his youth and started to take pictures in the streets. In 1962, Hallett began a correspondence course in photography with an institute based in London, United Kingdom to perfect his skills. Influenced by a friend, he extensively photographed people of District Six under apartheid before the destruction of that area. Many of these images were later published in the book: District Six Revisited (2007). Hallett also worked as a freelance photographer for Drum magazine but job opportunities were scarce due to the segregation. So he decided to leave for London in 1970 where he worked as a freelance photographer for The Times newspaper among other jobs. For many years, Hallett lived and worked in a variety of capacities in various cities in France, Holland, United States, and Zimbabwe before finally resettling in his hometown in 1995. Through his travels he met several exiled South African artists as well as African writers. Many of these encounters ended up in photographs of which were later compiled in a book: Portraits of African Writers (2006).  In 1994, Hallett was hired by the ANC to record the first democratic elections. A year later, the collection of images that resulted earned him a Golden Eye Award from World Press Photo in Amsterdam. Today, Hallett's work is exhibited in museums and galleries in South Africa as well as across many countries.

Nelson Mandela during the Campaign

Rodney Barnett

Rodney Barnett was born in 1943 in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he was twelve years old, he discovered photography after viewing an exhibition of the photographer Edward Steichen. Inspired by that exhibition, Barnett started to learn photography by himself. He perceived photography as a method to explore people through their body as well as their emotions and their interaction with the environment. In 1969, Barnett met and worked with the photographer W. Eugene Smith – a photojournalist renowned for his work that depicted human conditions – who he recognized as one of his leading influences. In fact, the work of Barnett illustrates a diversity of material, as his camera tracked his interests and his curiosity. It is a glimpse into the personal life of people he met during his various travels throughout the world in three decades: from the townships of South Africa to the streets of Turkey, from urban vista in United Kingdom to San people in Botswana, from rural life in Mexico to the slums in India. In 1976, Visual Books published his first book, Book 1, which includes photography produced in South Africa during the apartheid. Barnett’s work has been collected by the Photographers’ Gallery in London and has featured in numerous exhibitions. He died in 2000 leaving his remarkable legacy and contribution to the photographic world.

Young San Woman

Omar Badsha

Omar Badsha was born in 1945 in Durban, South Africa. Influenced by his father who was a pioneer artist, he started a career as an artist in 1965. His paintings and drawings have been featured in Art South Africa Today – the first non-racial national exhibition. He participated to other exhibitions the following years and gained recognition for his works. In 1970, Badsha worked with other activists in the revival of the Natal Indian Congress. Three years later, he became involved in the organization of the trade union movement. In 1976, Badsha started taking photographs to illustrate the history of the trade union movement. Two years later, the Institute for Black Research published his first photographic book, A Letter to Farzanah, which was immediately banned. In 1982, Badsha co-founded the activist photographers’ collective Afrapix, a group which played a leading role in documenting the popular struggles of the 1980s. Two years later, Afrapix published his second photographic book, Imijondolo, on forced removals and life in the massive informal settlements of Inanda. In 1987, Badsha moved from Durban to Cape Town where he was instrumental in establishing a centre for documentary photography at the University of Cape Town. Since then, Badsha has exhibited widely both locally and internationally. He has curated a number of exhibitions and is the author of a number of photographic books.

Street Performance


Posted in Photography  |  December 12, 2015