I think Sabelo Mlangeni is probably the best young(ish) photographer in South Africa. If you don’t know his work go and look at his projects, Country Girls, At Home/Ghost Towns (links included at the end of this post) and even his first project, Invisible Women, made when he was still studying at the Market Photo Workshop. It is very hard to think of anyone else who has so consistently produced nuanced, thoughtful images that actually expand our understanding of modern day South Africa. This image, Shuanny Hifive, No 20 Freeda Road, is one that underlines this class.Read More
What this work taught me is immeasurable. It showed me the monumental loss that apartheid forced onto the world. It showed me that so much that we accept as truth is actually quite far from it.
Most importantly though, it taught me that it while it is important to report a known truth, there is nothing more subversive than undermining an accepted lie.Read More
I recently got my hands on a copy of Murphy’s book, The Republic, a lyrical photographic depiction of his home, the rapidly changing Ireland. What immediately stood out for me is the lack of any contextualising information. While there is a short quote by James Joyce to introduce the images there are no captions to accompany them and an all too short (in my opinion) afterword by Murphy.
So what does this mean? Everything and nothing. It is a powerful and fascinating depiction of an old, conservative country becoming a young, liberal country. It is full of humour and life. It is a very accomplished collection of images. I just wonder if it gets as under the skin of Ireland as it could if it had explanatory captions?Read More
Jo Ractliffe has long been one of my favourite photographers. Her more recent photographic projects like As Terras do Fim do Mundo and The Borderlands were hugely inspirational projects for me with their stark explorations of the landscape and the memories they hide. Yet, there is something about this image from Nadir, one of her very first artistic projects, that catches my imagination and refuses to let it go.Read More
There is a fascinating conflict being played out at the moment. Thankfully, this conflict does not involve fear, death or the might of the industrial war machine. Instead, it's being fought by two works of art and is being fought on the plains of context, history and the present.Read More
People tell stories. That is something we have grown up to accept and believe wholeheartedly, and it is true, people do tell stories. For a long period of my photographic career I was told that I needed to photograph people to tell stories that would interest viewers. I believed it. As a documentary photographer what else can one do? Lots! While people do tell stories, both actively and passively, it is often the space around them, frequently so subconsciously created, that can tell a much deeper and more nuanced story.Read More
Since I started working in the museum there was something I found quite humorous in this bird display but for a long time I couldn't work out what it was. Eventually it struck me. It was very much like a baroque painting but without any of the painting.Read More
After chatting to the museum's entomology curator a few days ago I came away a little horrified. I've long known that insects are generally very vulnerable and that it doesn't take much for a species to go extinct but to hear that the number of insects on the planet has plummeted by about 45% since 1973 was quite shocking. Needless to say, all of these animals had an important part to play in the many ecosystems that make life on this planet function.Read More
I spend my days working at the Iziko South African Museum. That it is a natural history museum should give away that I'm surrounded by a fair amount of history. Yet, sometimes, history still finds a way to surprise me.Read More
How are we still having this debate? How is it that in the year 2014 after photography has been exhibited in every major gallery from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Venice Biennale in... um... Venice that this arts journalist is still wondering if photography has arrived as 'art'. How is it that even though we live in the uber post-modern present where someone's bed covered in bodily secretions and a pair of slippers is considered art, we are still discussing whether a photograph can be art? What is so un-art about photography?Read More