The Camera, Trauma and the Landscape

Event oriented documentary photography and photography of the land and cityscapes represent two major genres of photography in South Africa, with the latter growing in significance since South Africa achieved democracy in 1994. One of the early torchbearers of landscape and cityscape photography has been David Goldblatt, and in his seminal book, ‘The Structure of Things Then’, he clearly illustrates the link between society, history and the landscape as he recorded events of great trauma and marginalization (Goldblatt, 1998). These themes have since proven popular within South African photography.

In this paper, after placing some notable South African photographers within the context of international landscape photography, I will analyse images created by these photographers to establish the techniques they use to explore these themes, and to assess the potential values of photography of trauma and the landscape.

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