Market Photo Workshop wins international accolade

Artlooks & Artlines is a monthly column written by Ismail Mahomed, CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.

The 29-year-old Market Photo Workshop, founded by the late David Goldblatt, has been announced as the winner of the prestigious 2018 Principal Prince Claus Award. The Award honours outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development and is presented annually to individuals, groups and organisations whose cultural actions have a positive impact on the development of their societies.
   The Market Photo Workshop was selected by an esteemed international panel that adjudicated 85 nominations from across the globe. 

Ismail Mahomed
©Sipho-Gongxeka

   Founded in 1989 by Goldblatt, the Market Photo Workshop – a training institution of the Market Theatre Foundation – instils and promotes the ideals of socially committed photography. It was the first South African institution to provide photographic training, equipment and support to black South African photographers during the apartheid era, giving huge impetus to the visual expression of black perspectives on local realities, expositing discrimination, injustices and oppression in powerful images. Its graduates, which include Zanele Muholi, Jodi Bieber and Sabelo Mlangeni, are among the most influential photographers on the African continent.
     The Market Photo Workshop stands to honour the legacy of its founder and now, under the leadership of Lekgetho Makola, the Market Photo Workshop continues to break new ground as it develops innovative methodology that combines technical training with social consciousness raising and extends its presence through collaborations and exchanges that extend into the continent.
     Last year, Makola participated in a number of international events, including a three-day conference on Art, Public Space and Closing Societies in Morocco. He was a member of the curatorial advisory committee for the eleventh edition of Bamako Encounters and was invited to the 2017 Lubumbashi Biennale in the DRC as part of stakeholder relationship building between like-minded photography organisations in order to enhance the growth of the practice collaboratively in the SADC region. Makola also sits on the International Advisory Committee to the Board of the California-based visual storytelling organisation CatchLight.

     Under Makola’s leadership, the Market Photo Workshop offers critical photography courses to communities, weekend classes, an interactive module on archiving photography to practitioners and intensive incubator programmes for emerging artists. Many of its students and alumni explore complex issues such as state violence, migration, homelessness, memory and identity in a transitional society, capturing post-apartheid realities.
‘This Award gives the Market Photo Workshop and its community of photographers the ultimate recognition of the impact of its intensive and relevant programmes. It also endorses energies of the Market Photo Workshop on both continental and global levels. The outstanding creative and administrative contributions and funding support from progressive individuals and organisations have created a new type of artistic knowledge cultivation realm, championed by critical, compelling young minds and attitudes inspired by lived dynamic experiences of this continent and we are delighted that the Prince Claus Fund has honoured us with this glorious accolade,’ Makola says.
     The Award presents the Market Photo Workshop with the opportunity to further diversify its programmes and solidify its activities by investing in the research, development and activation of a critical, post-apartheid, Pan-African photography archive that represents the artistic and advocacy energies of the 25 years of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. Through its three decades of revolutionary work, the Market Photo Workshop has created a vast image archive of unique historical and social importance.

Ismail Mahomed
Graziano-Villa and Francesca F. Fellini, Market Photo Workshop, Market Square, Johannesburg, 2017 ©Siphosihle Mkhwanazi

     The verdict from the Prince Claus Fund is that the ‘Market Photo Workshop is honoured for its political courage and historically significant act of opening photography to black South Africans during apartheid; for sustaining the radical spirit and ideals that grew out of the struggle against apartheid, stimulating critical reflection and enabling a continuing evolution of photographic expression of social realities and injustices; for creating a dynamic education process that propagates the role of photography as a proactive agent in social development; for providing access to essential storytelling tools and supportive networks, enabling young people, including the marginalised and disadvantaged, to envision and share their experiences; and for its integrity over 30 years of dedication as a catalyst and springboard for talent, consistently empowering generations of remarkable photographers.’
     The Award, which carries a prize of 100 000 Euros, will be presented to the Market Photo Workshop on 6 December at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in the presence of the Royal Family.

Read more about the Market Photo Workshop by purchasing our October 2018 issue, or continue supporting Creative Feels role in the arts and culture sector by subscribing to our monthly magazine, or our e-newsletter.