African Photography: Social Documentary, Part 2

African Photography: Social Documentary, Part 2

Posted in Photography

In the 1980s, the emergence of worldwide disasters pushed several photographers to embrace more social topics related to health such as pandemic and famine. In the awake of AIDS, they participated to various projects and programmes to document the impact of the disease on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. Their photographs act as a reminder that the struggle is not over yet.

Gisele Wulfsohn

Gisele Wulfsohn was born in 1957 in Rustenburg, South Africa. She studied graphic art at the Johannesburg College of Art but she turned to photography. In the 1980s, she started a photographic career at The Star newspaper and continued at Style magazine before joining Leadership magazine as chief photographer. In 1987, Wulfsohn went freelance and joined the photographic collective Afrapix, which documented the anti-apartheid struggle and social issues such as poverty and illness. She specialized in portraiture taking portraits of some of the most prominent women activists during the struggle, as well as health and gender issues producing groundbreaking work that dealt with the stigma of HIV/AIDS. In 2000, while working for the Department of Health’s Beyond Awareness Campaign, Wulfsohn documented a series of portraits of South African who had publicly disclosed their HIV status. Her Living Openly photographs were published in various newspapers and magazines, and were exhibited extensively. Wulfsohn's commitment to document the manifestations of HIV/AIDS in South Africa continued until her death in 2011.

Anna Zieminski

Anna Zieminski was born in 1957 in Cape Town, South Africa where she grew up and learnt photography. In 1985, she moved to Johannesburg to begin a career as a freelance photographer. She later joined Afrapix, a photographer’s collective who documented the resistance to apartheid in the 1980s. In that time, her photographs were widely published in the local newspapers as well as the international press such as Newsweek, The Guardian, NY Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and Die Zeit. She also worked on personal documentary projects including the Women’s Hostel in a township of Johannesburg and the Inner City in Johannesburg. After the collective disbanded in 1992, Zieminski returned to Cape Town where she continued her photographic activities. She worked for various national and international publications and pursued personal projects such as documenting the sick children in HIV/AIDS Orphanage, the migrants from neighbouring countries in Illegal Migrants, and the newlyweds in Wedding Parties. Zieminski has participated in various group exhibitions and her work is featured in several permanent collections and public archives.

Lesley Lawson

Lesley Lawson was born in 1952 in Durban, South Africa. In 1971, she attended the University of Natal in Durban and later became involved in the work of the Student Wages Commission, which played a major role in the emergent trade union movement. In 1974, she pursued her studies at Manchester University in UK where she developed an interest for photography. In 1976, returning to South Africa after the Soweto uprising, Lawson resolved to become actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle. As part of an independent educational project, she received training in photography and audiovisual production and participated in a photographic workshop supported by David Goldblatt. In 1980, after the workshop was disbanded, she started freelancing photography, writing, and editing for various organizations including trade unions, health, and literacy organizations. In 1985, Working Women, a book of photographs and interviews on the emerging women’s movement in the trade unions was published. In the 1990s, she started working in several projects related to HIV/AIDS. She lived in London, UK and continues to work on health and HIV initiatives. Her book Side Effects: The story of AIDS in South Africa was published in 2008.

Gideon Mendel

Gideon Mendel is born in 1959 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He studied psychology and African history at the University of Cape Town. In the 1980s, he began his career as a freelance photographer by documenting the violent resistance to apartheid in South Africa and, later, the country’s first free election. In the early 1990s, Mendel moved to London, UK, from where he continued to document social issues globally and, mostly in Africa. He first began photographing the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, moving away from a documentary practice toward more overtly activist work. Mendel cooperated and worked with various AIDS-prevention organizations, and his work took on stronger conceptual undertones. In 2001, he published his first monograph, A Broken Landscape: HIV & AIDS in Africa. Since then he has produced a variety of pioneering projects, often involving a mix of photography and video, working with charities and campaign organizations. For instance, Through Positive Eyes, which he considers the final chapter of his work on HIV/AIDS, is a global project that involved working with groups of HIV positive people who use cameras to document their own lives with the goal of challenging stigma. In the past twenty years his work has been widely recognized and has earned him international acclaim including six World Press Photo Awards and the Amnesty International Media Award for photojournalism.


Posted in Photography  |  May 28, 2016