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A tribute to David Goldblatt

An exhibition of David Goldblatt’s personal selection of photographers opens in Johannesburg.

     David Goldblatt, South Africa’s iconic documentary photographer has devoted his photography career to observe and document his country for over 60 years.
     Globally known, respected and acclaimed for his work, Goldblatt has chosen four photographers from the region whose work he admires, to be featured in a new exhibition at the Gerard Sekoto Gallery in Johannesburg:
     “Every now and then I see photographs that fill me with admiration and a sense of gladness for the strength and insight of the vision of photographers working here, very often with little reward or recognition,” Goldblatt says.

Five Photographers

A tribute to David Goldblatt: an exhibition of Alexia Webster, Jabulani Dhlamini, Mauro Vombe and Pierre Crocquet is curated by John Fleetwood (and David Goldblatt)
     David Goldblatt has strong links with France. In 2016, he was awarded Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ambassador of France to South Africa. This year, as a way to acknowledge his contribution to the world of photography, an exhibition, looking back over his career through a selection of the major series of his body of work was presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
     David Goldblatt explains: “When the Ambassador of France to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, became aware that I was to have an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, he suggested that we should celebrate here. He was very open-minded about what form that could take. I thought then that this could be an opportunity to look at some of the photography – really a tiny fraction of the photography – coming from this part of the world today. So I suggested to the Ambassador and he agreed to an exhibition of photographs to celebrate some of that work. Then I asked John Fleetwood if he would curate the show which I am very happy to say he agreed to do.”

Every now and then I see photographs that fill me with admiration and a sense of gladness for the strength and insight of the vision of photographers working here, very often with little reward or recognition – David Goldblatt

     The exhibition is curated by John Fleetwood and David Goldblatt. John Fleetwood is the director of Photo: a photography platform for curatorial and educational projects that relate to the African continent. He is the convener for democraSEE, an award and mentorship programme for Southern African photographers. Fleetwood was the Head of the Market Photo Workshop between 2002 and 2015. He works closely with the Centres of Learning for Photography in Africa and other institutions of learning and mentorship. He participated in numerous national and international exhibitions.
     The Gerard Sekoto Gallery was established in 2004 with the objective to create a place to enhance dialogue between international artists – with a focus on South African and French artists – hosted at the Alliance Française of Johannesburg. The gallery has hosted many different exhibitions including September Jive, Koif, Sibyllines and Clement Garnung. The Gerard Sekoto Gallery annually hosts the winner of the Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award.
     The exhibition has been made possible by the French Institute of South Africa and the Alliance Française of Johannesburg.
     It opens to the public from 3 May at 18:00, and runs until 31 May 2018 from Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 19:00 and Saturdays from 9:00 to 13:00, closed on Sundays at the Gerard Sekoto Gallery, Alliance Française of Johannesburg, 17 Lower Park Dr, Parkview, Johannesburg, 2122. There are walkabouts on Saturday, 5 May at 11:00 with the photographers and the curator, and on Wednesday, 23 May at 12:30 with the curator.

About the photographers

David Goldblatt

     David Goldblatt’s personal work consists of a series of critical explorations of South African society, several of which have been exhibited and published in book form.
     His book, Particulars was awarded the Arles Book Prize for 2004. In 2006 he received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography and in 2009 the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award.
     In 1989 Goldblatt founded the Market Photo Workshop with the principal objective of teaching visual literacy and photographic skills to people disadvantaged by apartheid. His work has been exhibited in museums in South Africa, United States, Europe and Australia and is held in many public and private collections.
     “This occasion is a symbolic celebration of my exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris which came about largely through the interest and support for my work, of its Director, Bernard Blistene. That it is a complex and yet seemingly engaging exhibition is to a great degree due to its curator, Karolina Lewandowska, a woman of singular understanding and determination. To these two people, the Goodman Gallery and all who helped them, I am profoundly grateful.”

Alexia Webster

The Ambohitrombihavana granite rock quarry, outside of Antananarivo, Madagascar, 2014. PHOTO Alexia Webster

     Alexia Webster is a South African photographer. Her work explores intimacy, family and identity across the African continent and beyond. She was awarded the Artraker Award for Art in Conflict, the CAP Prize award for Contemporary African Photography, and she received the Frank Arisman Scholarship at the International Centre of Photography in New York City. Her work has been exhibited in South Africa, United States, Europe and India. Most recently she travelled to Juba, South Sudan and Tijuana, Mexico as part of an International Media Foundation fellowship.
     John Fleetwood: “Since 2012 Alexia Webster has made portraits around the corner and in some of the more remote places of the world with a simple knock-down studio background, a flash and reflector, and her camera. People from the area become assistants and often bring subjects to her to be photographed. In a refugee camp some years ago a man complained vociferously to Webster that in his 15 years in the camp he had been photographed many times, yet had never been given one photograph. She now travels with a digital printer and gives prints to all of her subjects. With flowers and pot plants, cloths, pictures on the wall, her painted or textured backdrops she creates a minute world of almost dreamlike peace. Within it people seem to find themselves, some, as though for the first time. No longer denizens of the street or camp or township of the world beyond, fragments of which Webster often includes at the edge of her photograph, they are in a kind of self-aware tranquillity. Perhaps they take a little of that with them when they return.”

Jabulani Dhlamini

Dhlomo, Putswastena, Sharpeville. Recapture Series, 2015. PHOTO Jabulani Dhlamini

     Jabulani Dhlamini was born in Warden, South Africa in 1983. He lives and works in Johannesburg. His work deals with memory and remembering, traumas of the past and photographs as monuments. He is the Manager ‘Of Soul and Joy’, a project teaching photography skills to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in Thokoza. After his studies at the Vaal University of Technology, Dhlamini was the recipient of the Edward Ruiz Mentorship 2011/12 at the Market Photo Workshop. He has exhibited his earlier series uMama at The Photo Workshop Gallery and Goodman Gallery Cape Town and Recapture at the Goodman Gallery Cape Town.
     David Goldblatt: “When Jabulani Dhlamini was a youngster he frequently heard the names of Biko, Hani and Sobukwe; but without knowing who they were he assumed them to be relatives. He grew up with these assumptions and today has a feeling for them of a certain closeness. Something of that closeness permeates his essay on Sharpeville, the place where 69 black people were killed by the police in 1960 and where Dhlamini was brought up and lives. Sharpeville was and is still a harsh and unbeautiful place. In his pictures Dhlamini shirks none of this but conveys nevertheless the intimacy of family, memory and belonging.”

Mauro Vombe

PHOTO Mauro Vombe

     Mauro Vombe, born (1988) and based in Maputo, Mozambique, started photographing in 2006. His work connects to his earlier experience in theatre, unveiling hidden feelings and creating a form of collective or individual representation, and finds resonance from his work as news and events reporter. Vombe has received numerous awards locally and internationally. He participated in an exhibition dedicated to the 40 years of Mozambican photojournalism at Foundation Fernado Leite Couto in 2015. In 2017 he was an invited participant in the ‘Catchupa Factory’, in Mindelo, Cape Verde. In 2018 he was shortlisted for the democraSEE 2 award.
     David Goldblatt: “John Fleetwood introduced me to the work of Mauro Vombe of Maputo in Mozambique. Many photographers, including some of great fame, have photographed people in crowded trains and buses, but none that I know of has achieved the sense of survival made monumental of which Vombe’s photographs speak. They are completely of the moment and yet beyond time. They put me in mind of Cartier Bresson’s timeless 1948 photograph of people in Shanghai climbing and shoving at any cost to get to the bank and the gold.”

Pierre Crocquet

     Pierre Crocquet was born in Cape Town in 1971, grew up in Klerksdorp and died in 2013. Early in his career he focused on countering stereotypes of Africa in his publications ‘Us’ (2002) and ‘On Africa Time’ (2003). Crocquet spent considerable time photographing jazz and in 2005 exhibited this as Sound Check with a book published in the same name. In Enter/Exit, he documents ‘Karatara’, a tiny community on the edge of the Knysna Forest. It was published in 2007. Crocquet started working on ‘Pinky Promise’, dealing with childhood sexual abuse in 2009 and in 2011/12 published his book/exhibition.
     David Goldblatt : “Pierre Crocquet tried to interest me in his work at a time when I was heavily committed to a major project. To my shame I failed to respond and when I finally tried to do so, he was dead. There can be few who engaged with paedophilia and child abuse so plainly, frankly and yet delicately as Crocquet. Seldom has any piece of work in photography and words been more frighteningly titled than Pinky Promise. Survival in Pinky Promise is in utter contrast to survival in Mauro Vombe’s buses.”


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