African Photography: Street Photography, Part 2

African Photography: Street Photography, Part 2

Posted in Photography

In the 1970s, South Africa was already a major flourishing place of jazz in the international music scene alongside the United States. The jazz subculture was popular in several cities until it was finally crushed by the apartheid regime. Many artists moved outside the country or the continent and most never returned. Before their exodus, some photographers genuinely captured the mood and the feeling of the music performed by those artists.

In essence, jazz photographers and musicians shared a similar aesthetic approach to their art and developed their ability to embrace different contexts. Jazz photographers had to love what they do from the outset in order to take genuine pictures in a repressive political environment. They had to be persistent about what may represent the photographs, especially knowing that it was challenging to capture the essence of music in a picture.

Basil Breakey

Basil Breakey was born in 1938 in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1962, he started to learn photography as a photojournalist at Drum magazine. Following the advice of his mentor, the photographer John Brett-Cohen, he chose to focus his work on the jazz. Consequently, he met and became friend with many jazz musicians including Chris McGregor, Nick Moyake, and Johnny Dyani whom he would often photograph, performing or practising or discussing together. His house also became a residence for a circle of musicians when they had to hide due to apartheid segregation laws. In 1964, the core group of that circle would soon go into exile. From that point onwards, Breakey sporadically picked up the camera since he had less to photograph. In 1968, he moved to Cape Town where he started a family after spending 2 years in Swaziland. For several years, Breakey worked as a freelance photographer for a variety of newspapers. Then, he seemingly dropped out of any formal employment until he worked for the Cape Times newspaper in the seventies. In 1988, the first retrospective exhibition of his work was held in Cape Town. A year later, another exhibition was held in Johannesburg. In 1997, Beyond the Blues was published by David Philip Publishers. The book presents rare photographs by Breakey of live jazz concerts in different cities of South Africa and Swaziland during two decades. Today the book is now out of print and is a legacy of the exceptional work of Breakey who passed away 3 months ago.

Nick Moyake by Basil Breakey

Rashid Lombard

Rashid Lombard was born in 1951 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In 1962, his family moved to Cape Town where he grown up surrounded by music and often kept the company of older musicians. Initially trained as an architect designer, he developed an interest for industrial photography when working for a construction company in Cape Town. In the eighties, Lombard worked as a freelance photographer for international news agencies as well as national newspapers. He travelled extensively around Africa to cover cultural and political events. When traveling abroad, Lombard took the time to discover local sounds and often bought music off the street. In the nineties, his connection with the music industry was amplified when he became a station manager at a local radio station. Lombard covered several jazz festivals from which he captured poignant images of wonderful moments. He has photographed numerous musicians with a preference for South African musicians exiled during the apartheid like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1998, Lombard approached the director of the North Sea Jazz Festival to stage a local festival in Cape Town. A year later, he founded the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, now in its 16th edition. Although he recently stepped down as director, he is helping to grow music festivals in other African countries. In 2010, he published Jazz Rock, a book which intended to display the important role that music played in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Winston Mankunku by Rashid Lombard

Ian Bruce Huntley

Ian Bruce Huntley was born in 1939 and raised in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In 1959, he worked as a map maker in Cape Town by studying and charting the local mountain ranges bordering the city. While working in such inspiring scenery as he did, Huntley was encouraged by his mentor to photograph his working environments. That naturally sparked his interest for photography and he soon purchased his own camera to capture his neighbourhood. In 1964, Huntley already developed a good friendship with many musicians of the local jazz scene such as Ronnie Beer, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Kiepie Moeketsi. He genuinely took pictures of them during the rehearsal or the performance without commercial interest but for the love of music. Huntley produced remarkable pictures considering that he often worked in very low light and sometimes without electricity. He captured many memorable events during what is to be considered a golden era in South African jazz history. Huntley also recorded many hours of live music during performances or jam sessions and often play it back after the shows in the sixties and seventies. Those records as well as the photographs taken during that era represent memories and stories that would have been lost forever, along with the musicians and fans that have since passed away or are unreachable. In 2013, his photographs have been gathered in the book Keeping Time: 1964 - 1974 published by Electric Jive.

Abdullah Ibrahim and Chris McGregor by Ian Bruce Huntley


Posted in Photography  |  December 19, 2015