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African Photography: Documentary, Part 5

Posted in Photography  |  January 30, 2016

African Photography: Documentary, Part 5
In the 1980s, a young generation of South African photographers emerged to document anti-apartheid campaigns and resistance movements. Inspired by the work of their senior, they strove to depict one of the longest and most challenging periods of resistance and the subsequent state backlash. The young photographers were instrumental in presenting atrocities perpetrated by the state to the international community by using their cameras as a weapon for those denied basic human rights.

Cedric Nunn

Cedric Nunn was born in 1957 in Nongoma, South Africa. He grown up in a mixed-race family and prematurely left school in 1972. Two years later, Nunn began working in a local sugar mill where he became active in the trade unions. In 1982, he moved to Johannesburg to work as a professional photographer and went on to cofound Afrapix – a progressive collective of photographers, with Omar Badsha, Paul Weinberg, and Peter McKenzie. Nunn’s work depicted social life both in rural and urban regions, with a focus on the people in KwaZulu-Natal. He strove to represent people that the majority of media were ignoring or portraying with stereotypes. Nunn also documented political conflicts among the black population as well as the resistance against apartheid. Through some of his projects, he also reflects on identity by photographing coloured people in Cape Town. In 1994, Nunn was among the photographers who documented the first democratic election of South Africa. Since the beginning of this professional career, Nunn has participated in many exhibitions and published several photographic essays. In 2012, he published the book Call and Response, which features his photographs from the late seventies to the present day.

Hospital in Cuito Cuanavale by Cedric Nunn

Paul Weinberg

Paul Weinberg was born in 1956 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa into a progressive Jewish family. He learned how to take and develop pictures in high school. In 1973, he began a 4-year military service in Upington and Walvis Bay, and obtained a diploma in photography on his return from the army. In 1978, Weinberg started to photograph several events for newspapers and news agencies. He also taught photography in a non-profit organization to train young black in the arts. In 1982, he cofounded the photographic collective Afrapix that played a key role in documenting and supplying foreign newspapers with images of resistance to apartheid. He also started Afrascope, an anti-apartheid video unit which produced low-budget films about the struggle of people living in townships. In the nineties, Weinberg increasingly focused his work on feature rather than news photography. He has built up a large body of work portraying various people, places, and social environments. Today, Weinberg continues to work as a documentary photographer and film-maker. His most recent films include Dancing for God, documenting an annual church pilgrimage in KwaZulu-Natal; Trancing in Dreamtime, a look at San and Aboriginal musicians; and Double Vision, exploring the concept of the South African diaspora.

Children Playing by Paul Weinberg

Eric Miller

Eric Miller was born in 1951 in Cape Town, South Africa but spent his childhood in Johannesburg. In 1981, he began his career in the corporate sector after graduating in psychology. A few years later, he quit his job to use the photography against the injustices of apartheid. Miller then joined the photographers’ collective Afrapix, which already started to document the realities of apartheid. Interested to document the struggle, he covered various events for foreign newspapers, news agencies, and non-profit organizations. He focused his work on photographing strikes, protests, and funerals which were also a manifestation of people’s opposition to the apartheid regime. In 1990, Miller changed his focus when the country was working to end apartheid. He began to cover transformation issues related to labour, health, and education. Miller also travelled across Africa to work extensively on different projects assigned by various foreign publications. For instance, he documented the damages of the famine in Sudan, the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, and the horrors of the war in Sudan. Miller has been involved in several photographic exhibitions as well as publication projects.

Woman in Mourning by Eric Miller

Guy Tillim

Guy Tillim was born in 1962 in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1983, he graduated from the University of Cape Town. Tillim started photographing professionally in 1986 and joined Afrapix, a collective of South African photographers with whom he worked closely until 1990. Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer in South Africa for both foreign and local media. Tillim is best known for his photographs of Africa, such as his series set in Johannesburg. He captured the effects of apartheid on the Hillbrow suburb in Johannesburg by showing the residents’ struggle to rebuild their neighborhood. Since 2001, Tillim has produced both colour and black and white images that bear witness to what he has seen and experienced in various troubled spaces such as war torn Angola and Congo-Kinshasa, as well as time spent in Sierra Leone, Malawi, and Eritrea. Tillim’s images are often of harsh realities, but he is seldom invasive or confrontational in his approach. He tends to look at situations from a side view, as a passive but empathetic spectator, and seeks an unusual yet humane moment to provide a lingering disquiet to the image. Tillim has received many awards for his work and participated in several international exhibitions.

Tin Miners by Guy Tillim