Apartheid photographer David Goldblatt dies | Arts | DW | 26.06.2018
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Apartheid photographer David Goldblatt dies

South African photographer David Goldblatt was renowned for the pictures he took during the Apartheid era. He has died at age 87 in his Johannesburg home.

He was "a legend, a teacher, a national icon and a man of absolute integrity," Liza Essers, director of the Goodman Gallery representing the South African photographer for many years, said in a statement. David Goldblatt died in his Johannesburg home on Monday at the age of 87.

His pictures went around the globe. The photographer unrelentingly documented what the Apartheid system had done to his country.

Documenting injustice

Descended from Lithuanian immigrants, Goldblatt was born on November 29, 1930. At age 18, he started out as a photographer and achieved world fame during the 1960s and 1970s.

His black-and-white photos documented how South Africa's white minority systematically oppressed the Blacks during the Apartheid regime.

In contrast to news pictures mostly focusing on acts of violence, Goldblatt opted for quiet scenes that were just as effective in demonstrating the effects of Apartheid's racist laws. 

"I was very interested in the events that were taking place in the country as a citizen but, as a photographer, I'm not particularly interested, and I wasn't then, in photographing the moment that something happens. I'm interested in the conditions that give rise to events," Goldblatt once said.

Ausstellung David Goldblatt - Intersections (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gambarini)

A photo Goldblatt shot in 1999: Viktoria Cobokana, house keeper, with her son Sifiso and her daughter Onica in the dining room of her employers, Johannesburg

He portrayed Black South Africans in situations in which, due to the racist laws, they couldn't move around freely.

He also took pictures of privileged whites in their homes. Interactions between the races were always shaped by the absurdity of the situation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, a close aide to Mandela and key negotiator in the early 1990s transition to democracy, said in a statement after Goldblatt's death that he was a "leading documenter" of the South African struggle.

"He captured the social and moral value systems that portrayed South Africa during a period of apartheid system in order to influence its changing political landscape," Ramaphosa said. "Our country remains proud of his contribution to the portrayal of its life through the medium of photography and for leaving an indelible mark in our inclusive literary culture."

In 1988, Goldblatt became the first South African to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

A year later he founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg, which has since become a hub for developing young talent in the city.

Today, Goldblatt's works can be seen at the MoMa in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and numerous other museums around the world.

A Goldblatt retrospective was shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in early 2018, followed by another exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.


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