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On the evening of August 5, 2018, esteemed photographer and founder of the Drik Photo Agency, the Pathshala South Asia Media Institute and the Chobimela International Festival of Photography, Shahidul Alam, was seized by about 20 plainclothes policemen from his home in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was arrested under the controversial Section 57 of the Bangladeshi Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for making statements in the international media about police brutality in putting down a protest by students in which more than 100 people were injured.

I got to know Shahidul in the early 2000s and together with an Englishman, Colin Hastings, we founded the Majority World Photo Agency in 2004. He is a highly accomplished photographer. As the UK’s Guardian newspaper said, “[h]is photographs have been published in almost every major western media outlet, including the New York Times, Time magazine and National Geographic in a career that has spanned more than four decades.” He is a humanitarian of great stature in his home nation of Bangladesh. He has also done more than any other person I know of to promote Majority World photography in the international media. In fact the very concept of the Majority World (as opposed to Third World or Two-Thirds World) was created by him.

Director of Drik Photo Agency, Pathshala photo festival and the Majority World picture library, Shahidul Alam (left) with his daughter at a restuarant in Florence, Italy during the CEPIC Congress or picture libraries that was being hosted in the city in June 2007.

Director of Drik Photo Agency, Pathshala photo festival and the Majority World picture library, Shahidul Alam (left) with his daughter at a restuarant in Florence, Italy during the CEPIC Congress or picture libraries that was being hosted in the city in June 2007.

Shahidul has won numerous international awards for his work including the 2018 Lucie Award for Humanitarian photography, the Harvey Harris Trophy in 1983, the Mother Jones Award for documentary photography in 1993, the Andrea Frank Foundation and Howard Chapnick Awards in 1998, Shilpakala Padak in 2014 by the President of Bangladesh, and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 7th Dali International Photo Exhibition in China in 2017. It is not surprising that his arrest has sparked significant international outcry from the likes of Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), PEN International, the South Asia Media Defenders Network and publications such as The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

A connection point for us as South Africans is that according to him, one of the highlights in Shahidul’s photographic career was photographing Nelson Mandela which he wrote about on his blog. Shahidul was accompanying Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank

Shahidul needs our help! Please sign the petition on Change.org below to add your voice to the many asking for his release and if possible, write to Bangladeshi government officials and the Bangladeshi High Commissioner in Pretoria H.E. Mr. Shabbir Ahmad Chowdhury.

Who is Shahidul Alam?
The New York Times Lens Blog on his arrest
Shahidul’s arrest
Provide medical treatment to Shahidul Alam
Sign the petition to free Shahidul
#FreeShahidulAlam
Who to write to

In May 2018 Robyn Keet, our picture library manager at the time, teamed up with the PhotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall, Rosebank, Johannesburg, to create an exhibition of photography that covered the apartheid period in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s. DocuFest Africa: The Exhibition, showcased at times rare and unusual images of life in South Africa taken by leading photographers at the height of apartheid. Curated by Reney Warrington, the Exhibition was drawn from collections represented by Africa Media Online. It covered a broad cross-section of society at the time, from the woman’s movement and boys on the border to protest action, the trade union movement and the development of Johannesburg.

The collection of images was at one time unfamiliar – speaking to us from a different time, a different political reality – and familiar, with so many of the challenges faced then being still with us in 2018. The exhibition included images from the Tiso Blackstar group Collection, Paul Weinberg, Gille De Vlieg, George Hallet, Eric Miller, Graeme Williams and a single image by me, David Larsen.

On Saturday, May 12, 2018 veteran Black Sash activist and photographer, Gille De Vlieg, conducted a walkabout of the DocuFest Africa exhibition, particularly her images. The walkabout gathered a small crowd including a number of Black Sash members who were able to share their experience of protest action under apartheid.

On Saturday, May 12, 2018 veteran Black Sash activist and photographer, Gille De Vlieg, conducted a walkabout of the DocuFest Africa exhibition, particularly her images. The walkabout gathered a small crowd including a number of Black Sash members who were able to share their experience of protest action under apartheid.

Our opening night was the same night that David Goldblatt was opening the “Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt” exhibition at the French Institute. The crowd seemed to move between to the two events. The contrast between the exhibitions fascinated me. Reney worked hard to present a different take of the apartheid era. There were no scenes of violent clashes or police brutality, rather images of new buildings in Johannesburg and scenes of everyday life were interspersed with images of protest. And she seemed to pay particular attention to images of protest by white South Africans. We were looking around the exhibition and my colleague, Bandile Sizani who is a young adult, commented that he had not been aware that so many white South Africans had protested against apartheid. It was a sentiment I heard more than once from young people attending the exhibition. Reney did well to present a view of the normal and the abnormal existing side by side. Yet when all is said and done, there was one big story in that era, the background against which the normal took place, and that was the absurdity and dysfunction of apartheid. At the end of the day, photographers of that era had a cause and the cause was clear.

Allan Boesak at a beach demonstration in 1989. The image was included in the Exhibition by Reney without her knowing, so I am told, that it was mine. It was my first year as a student at the University of Cape Town and I don't believe I even owned a camera. I am likely to have borrowed my brother's camera for the day. A group of us from UCT went to join the beach protest in Strand. It was August 1989 and beach protests had been organised on the "whites only" beaches of Strand and Bloubergstrand. About 300 of us made it through to the Strand before a heavy police presence prevented any more protesters from reaching the beach. The police also prevented the press from getting there. I seemed to be the only one with a camera that day. Allan Boesak was there and he sat down under a sign that said "Strand & See Net Blankes - Beach & Sea Whites Only". I took two shots of him alone beneath the sign before people piled in to be in the picture.

Alan Boesak at a beach demonstration in 1989. The image was included in the Exhibition by Reney without her knowing, so I am told, that it was mine. It was my first year as a student at the University of Cape Town and I don’t believe I even owned a camera. I am likely to have borrowed my brother’s camera for the day. A group of us from UCT went to join the beach protest in Strand. It was August 1989 and beach protests had been organised on the “whites only” beaches of Strand and Bloubergstrand. About 300 of us made it through to the Strand before a heavy police presence prevented any more protesters from reaching the beach. The police also prevented the press from getting there. I seemed to be the only one with a camera on the beach that day. Allan Boesak was there and he sat down under a sign that said “Strand & See Net Blankes – Beach & Sea Whites Only”. I took two shots of him alone beneath the sign before people piled in to be in the picture.

That is not the case in post-apartheid South Africa. Whatever you think about the rate of progress since 1994, politically before and after the end of apartheid is like chalk and cheese. As I said in my opening address of the exhibition, though much looks the same, the huge change is that in that era the law was against what was right and in our day, on the whole, the law is with what is right. That is a sea change. But not having a massive common societal enemy makes for complexity. And that complexity is reflected now in what photographers choose to turn their lenses toward. After apartheid, for some years, many South African photographers found themselves at sea. The big story, the great cause was gone. It wasn’t just photographers who felt this. I remember post-1994 going along to a protest outside the President’s house in Newlands, Cape Town. I was marching along with two women who were part of the SADTU teachers union. We got chatting. Disappointed with the protest, one of the teachers said to me something along the lines of “… this is not like those days. In those days our fight was clear and we were on the side of what was right. Now it is more difficult to know.” And so it has been with photography. Documentary photography moved from the era of the collective voice against a common enemy, to individual voices highlighting diverse issues. This, for me, was reflected so clearly in the contrast between “DocuFest Africa: The Exhibition” and “Five Photographers”.

Black Sash activist and photographer, Gille De Vlieg converses with a fellow Black Sash member during the DocuFest Africa exhibition walkabout. Behind are images from the Tiso Blackstar (formerly Times Media) Collection.

Black Sash activist and photographer, Gille De Vlieg converses with a fellow Black Sash member during the DocuFest Africa exhibition walkabout. Behind are images from the Tiso Blackstar (formerly Times Media) Collection.

The DocuFest Africa exhibition at the end of the day was about one dominant thing, the injustice and preposterous nature of apartheid that even moved comfortable middle-class white South Africans to take to the street in protest. The Five Photographers presents four completely different visions with no discernable common backdrop besides, perhaps, the human condition. Alexia Webster turns her lens on portraits with passers-by using street studios in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Mexico, India, refugee camps in DRC and South Sudan, and rock quarries in Madagascar. Jabulani Dhlamini provides a post-apartheid reflection on the starkness of Sharpville, the site of an apartheid protest and massacre. Mauro Vombe focuses the daily cycle of survival photographing the press of people on public transport in Mozambique. And Pierre Crocquet explored pedophilia, both victims and perpetrators in his chilling “Pinky Promise” exhibition and book. The common backdrop to every story is no longer clear. Each photographer in the post-apartheid era has had to work hard to develop their own voice, their own cause or reflection of the world in which they live. In this sense, South African documentary photography has needed to return to what David Goldblatt argued for at the Culture and Resistance conference in Botswana in July 1982 – the integrity of individual artistic voice. In this sense, we have been forced to re-enter the mainstream of documentary photography around the world.

"Pnky Promise" the haunting work of deceased South African photographer Pierre Crocquet that focuses on child sexual abuse. As David Goldblatt said when curating his work: "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."

“Pinky Promise” the haunting work of deceased South African photographer Pierre Crocquet that focuses on child sexual abuse. As David Goldblatt said when curating his work: “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.”

David Goldblatt passed away of cancer on June 25, 2018. I only ever met him in person once. He was presenting at the Photo Encounters Festival at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in the early 2000s. I happened to be there, invited by Peter McKenzie who had a hand in organising the event. As Founder of the Market Photo Workshop in 1989, David presented some of his work on one evening of the festival. He spoke about dying of cancer during his talk. He had been working on a project that documented blue asbestos mining in the Northern Cape and its impact on the environment. Blue asbestos is lethal. If breathed in, tiny shards become lodged in the mesothelium, the lining of the lungs, and can lead to an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma. When asked if he wore a face mask while working on the project he said something along the lines of “No, mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop and I will be long gone before it does.” Born in November 1930, David was in his mid-70s at the time. He was correct. He passed away just over a decade later at 87 years of age.

David Goldblatt, photographer, Johannesburg, 10th February 1980. Times Media Collection / Museum Africa

David Goldblatt, photographer, Johannesburg, 10th February 1980. Times Media Collection / Museum Africa / Tiso Blackstar

While I only met him in person that once, we had an ongoing dialogue over the years. After Africa Media Online built the first online digital archive for South Photographs we came to represent his stock images primarily portraits of famous people. As part of our African Image Pipeline project funded by the European Union through the KZN Department of Economic Development in 2008 we digitised 577 of his images. He believed in what we were doing and would often refer other photographers to us to represent their images including the Paul Alberts collection and Margaret Courtney-Clarke. He was a private person who did not like the limelight. I asked him on several occasions to come and present his work at events like DocuFest Africa, but he always turned me down in a gracious way saying he does not do that sort of thing.

In viewing David’s work during the presentation he gave at Photo Encounters, I was struck by how many of his images were taken in the harsh light of mid-day. I asked him about this. As a journalist and photographer capturing images for outdoor adventure and travel magazines where the glamorous light of early mornings and late afternoons is preferred, I found this fascinating. His response was equally fascinating: “I like South African light just as it is,” he said. David never seemed to follow the crowd. He seemed quietly committed to thorough and independent observation of the social fabric of South African society. And his images were a piercing commentary on the dysfunction and the mundanity of life in South Africa under apartheid.

Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt was an exhibition of the work of four young photographers admired by David Goldblatt. The exhibition that was curated by John Fleetwood with assistance from David,  was on show at the French Institute in Johannesburg during the month of May 2018.

“Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt” was an exhibition of the work of four young photographers admired by David Goldblatt. The exhibition that was curated by John Fleetwood with assistance from David, was on show at the French Institute in Johannesburg during the month of May 2018.

The Culture and Resistance conference organised by the Medu Art Ensemble at the Botswana National Museum in Gabarone, Botswana, in July 1982, was a pivotal moment for artists and particularly photographers in their active resistance to apartheid. Peter McKenzie delivered a keynote address calling on photographers to set aside their claim to individual artistic expression and to take up their place in active resistance against apartheid. “No photographer can lay claim to any individual artistic merit in an oppressed society,”1 he said. In a real way, that was a call to arms and a watershed moment in the rise of struggle photography represented by such initiatives as the Afrapix Collective where such photographers often laid down their claim to accreditation and even to income from their work giving themselves to the greater work of fighting to bring down apartheid. Controversially, David disagreed with this approach and maintained his stance as a critic of the system he found repugnant, not as a missionary for liberation.2

This independence of perspective is certainly reflected in the fine balance and nuanced commentary found in his photography. His was not the photography of a campaign, rather it was that of biting critique that quietly brought his audience face to face with the merciless nature of a deeply dysfunctional political system. It was the subversive nature of his critique that was disquieting – one got to see the dysfunction in the midst of everyday life, not just at moments of conflict.

Listening to David just that one time change my own perspective on documentary photography and its role in society. Great documentary photography helps us to see, to really see the socio-political structures that most of us take for granted as the unchangeable nature of things. He was able to make us see them and their devastating outcome in the lives of our people – the true cost of a false ideology. And that gift won him acclaim all over the World. He was the first South African photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1998. He won the Hasselblad award in 2006, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2009, and the ICP Infinity Award in 2013 and he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France in 2016.

Part of Alexia Webster's striking work displayed at the French Institute in May as part of the "Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt" exhibition.

Part of Alexia Webster’s striking work displayed at the French Institute in May as part of the “Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt” exhibition.

Not only was David a master at helping us to see, but he was also a master at passing that ability to see on to others. To pass this gift on he founded the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in 1989. David spent time in the last months of his life focused on promoting the work of others. In Five Photographers: A tribute to David Goldblatt, presented at the French Institute in Johannesburg, John Fleetwood worked with David to curate the work of four young photographers whose work David admired – Alexia Webster,3 Jabulani Dhlamini, Mauro Vombe and Pierre Crocquet. Viewing their work it was clear that thoughtful documentary photography in the tradition of David Goldblatt is being carried forward in South Africa by the next generation. Hamba Kahle David Goldblatt!

1. Cited in “Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa”, Darren Newbury, UNISA Press, 2009, p. 219.

2. According to Newbury, David was able to maintain this view partly due to his age as a senior photographer and partly due to his unquestionable commitment to stand against apartheid.

3. What was exciting for us at Africa Media Online is that Alexia is a graduate of our African Photo Entrepreneur Programme.

A good friend of Africa Media Online, Peter Krogh, has recently launched an excellent book called “Digitizing Your Photos with Your Camera and Lightroom“. Peter is a master of digital workflow and many of us have benefitted over the years from his input on Africa Media Online’s Digital Campus training. He was also a major part of producing our Shutha free online training resource that we created with funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery via World Press Photo as part of the Twenty Ten project. Another good friend, Dominique Le Roux of Moonshine Media, who also worked with us on the Twenty Ten project collaborated with Peter doing the editing and layout for this book.

Over the years Peter has worked closely with the likes of Adobe, Phase One and Microsoft giving input to their products and in 2005 he authored The DAM Book which has just been released in its third version. That certainly put Peter on the map as a major source of help to photographers who were coming into the digital age. In “Digitizing Your Photos with Your Camera and Lightroom” Peter turns his attention to the preservation of photographic collections, particularly personal and family collections. For many professional photographers with large collections that sit as prints, negatives and slides, this resource is incredibly valuable as it provides a detailed and thorough manual on migrating those precious photographs into digital form where they can be repurposed for so much. So if you have a collection of photographs sitting in boxes or filing cabinets, here is the resource you need to make them come alive again! I highly recommend it.

This is not just a book, it is also a digital resource with demonstration videos and you can buy it in digital form as a PDF or ePub or you can order a physical book that comes with a DVD of demo videos. You can buy it directly from Peter on The DAM Book website, or you can purchase from Amazon.

The front cover of Peter Krogh's book "Digitizing Your Photos with Your Camera and Lightroom.

The front cover of Peter Krogh’s book “Digitizing Your Photos with Your Camera and Lightroom.

Veteran documentary photographer, Peter McKenzie, passed away on Tuesday morning October 10, 2017 after a long fight with cancer. I first met Peter in Mozambique in 2004 at the Foto Festa put on by the Associação Moçambicana de Fotografia. Cedric Nunn had invited me to join him and Peter on the trip. Peter was there with his French wife and adorable young son. Although he was probably a decade or so older than me, we had a great connection around photography and activism. I had done some work as a journalist and photographer in Wentworth with Groundtruth and Wentworth was Peter’s home area in Durban.

Peter McKenzie (left) and me at Restaurante Costa do Sol in Maputo. We were there for the Foto Festa in 2004. It is likely that Cedric Nunn took this picture with my camera.

Peter McKenzie (left) and me at Restaurante Costa do Sol in Maputo. We were there for the Foto Festa in 2004. If I remember correctly, Cedric Nunn took this picture with my camera.

Peter was an activist at heart. He used his photography to highlight injustice. He also had a heart for people and particularly passing on the decades of experience that he had gained as a photographer to the next generation. He had worked for Drum magazine as chief photographer, co-founded Afrapix Photo Agency, worked as co-ordinator of the Photojournalism Department at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, in Johannesburg, and as Chief Photographer at Panapress, Pan-African news agency. In recent years he founded the Durban Centre of Photography (DCP) where he trained young photographers in the craft of documentary photography. He invited me from time to time to present to his classes, and it was always a privilege to do so.

The last time I saw Peter was at DocuFest Africa 2017. When I first approached him to help by suggesting young photographers in KZN that we could feature in the festival, Peter was going to be in France and so was unavailable to present at the festival himself. Once the programme was already finalized, however, Peter contacted me to say he would be back early and could make it after all. I managed to create an extra slot on the Saturday afternoon for him.

At DocuFest Africa Peter presented a very personal, almost mystical journey he had been on relating to death. As he told us, he grew up in a very rigid Pentecostal home. His dad was a minister and although he and his siblings were allowed to attend local Hindu festivals, they were forbidden from eating the food. It was to those festivals, particularly that of Theemeri – fire walking that he turned in his final months. He spoke about how the image of fire from his Pentecostal background had been associated with the fires of hell. But his exploration of Theemeri was transforming fire for him into an image of refining and cleansing. His pictures of the Theemeri ceremony were experimental. He used a long lens and allowed the camera to focus where it would as he engaged in the ceremony in what he described as a semi-trance state.

The ever expressive Peter McKenzie during his presentation at DocuFest Africa 2017. By the way he looked none of us there would have believed that in just a couple of weeks he was to pass away.

The ever expressive Peter McKenzie during his presentation at DocuFest Africa 2017. By the way he looked none of us there would have believed that in just a couple of weeks he was to pass away.

Death is not something we readily speak about, yet it is all around us. Here in South Africa many of our people spend long hours on evenings and weekends at wakes and funerals. Just the other day I was at the wake of the security guard I had got to know well. Zalisile Cakucaku (Bra Z to all who knew him) guarded the NAHECS building at the University of Fort Hare (UFH). And he did so with dignity and grace. I had given him a lift home on a number of occasions and been into the home he built with his own hands. So when he suddenly passed away I and my digitisation team, who have been working on the ANC Archive at UFH, went to the wake to bring what comfort we could to his devastated wife and two children. Death does that. It brings devastation. There is little good we can say about it and so we avoid it as much as we can.

It’s been my observation that what we believe about death determines how we deal with it. For instance, if we believe we are the result of chance material evolution and that consciousness is constituted entirely of the firing of synapses in highly developed brain, then it is quite reasonable to be terrified of death, or at least loath to contemplate death, because death brings an end to one’s particular instance of material existence. That is the belief system inherent in most of our Western-based education.

If, on the other hand, one believes that if one has maintained good relationships in the community within which one exists and that the memory of that community will keep one present with the community after death as a “shade” (a living dead), then death holds considerably less fear for one. Many with a traditional African belief system hold that view.

It seems to me that Peter rejected the Pentecostalism of his upbringing. I did not get to engage him very much on it, but I am familiar with such churches. Some can be found to teach that one’s sins are weighed against one’s good deeds and if one is found wanting, then one’s destiny is the eternal fires of hell. This concept of the weighing of deeds on a scale that determines one’s ultimate destiny is not unique to some particularly religious strands of Pentecostalism, but is evident in many religions. If this was what Peter grew up with, it is understandable that he leaned away from that view in the last months of his life. There is little more burdensome than trying to please an unpleasable God! As Peter contemplated his end he seemed to lean toward a Hindu understanding of endless cycles of reincarnation.

Peter's last portrait. As far as I know the last portrait taken of Peter McKenzie taken by Harry Lock after Peter's lecture at DocuFest Africa as part of his project to document participants in the Hilton Arts Festival. Peter's good friend, Rafs Mayet (left) assists Harry (at the camera). None of us suspected this would be the last time we would see Peter.

Peter’s last portrait. As far as I know the last portrait taken of Peter McKenzie taken by Harry Lock after Peter’s lecture at DocuFest Africa as part of his project to document participants in the Hilton Arts Festival. Peter’s good friend, Rafs Mayet (left) assists Harry (at the camera). None of us suspected this would be the last time we would see Peter.

We know what happens to the body after death. There is plenty of evidence for that. But if we had to look for what happens to our consciousness after death, there would not be a lot of evidence that one could gather. The one exception, that I am aware of, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that could be established as historical fact, that would provide some concrete evidence of life after death and would certainly give some cause for hope. And, in my view, the hope would be particularly solid if it is true that the qualification for inheriting such life after physical death is not dependent upon my performance in this life, but on Christ’s life and sacrifice on my behalf – in other words, if it were a gift, and not something I needed to earn. I don’t know of any other historic event from which one could extract such hope regarding death. For at the end of the day death is our ultimate enemy and the ultimate enemy of all that we most cherish.

And so it is that death has taken Peter McKenzie from us. And we can all feel he was taken too early. Yet in the few short years and decades that we still live, we will cherish the memory of Peter, his life and energy and sense of humour and the passion and compassion that he brought wholeheartedly to the photographic community here in Southern Africa. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time. Hamba kahle umfowethu!

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This past Saturday I spent a day at the Durban Art Gallery conducting tours of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017. Participants included members of various camera clubs in the wider Durban area and professional commercial and documentary photographers. The Exhibition was opened last week and is expected to remain in place until at least the end of October when it will be shipped to Kenya to be exhibited on the street in downtown Nairobi.

Me introducing the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 to photographers and photography enthusiasts at an installation of the Exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery.

Me introducing the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 to photographers and photography enthusiasts at an installation of the Exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery. PHOTO: Harry Lock

Sponsorship by the World Press Photo Foundation and Africa Media Online means that entrance is free of charge. All are welcome. The Exhibition is an important educational opportunity for school groups. World Press Photo have produced educational materials relating to the Exhibition that can be downloaded here.

The Exhibition can be viewed at:

The Durban Art Gallery
2nd Floor,
City Hall,
Anton Lembede Street,
Durban
Tel: 031 3112264/9

We had some lively discussion regarding various images in the Exhibition.

We had some lively discussion regarding various images in the Exhibition. PHOTO: Emil von Maltitz

Thank you to Harry Lock and Emil von Maltitz for the photographs of the event and to Vanessa Cracknell and Heinz Benecke for organising such enthusiastic groups.

This is an interview conducted by Africa Media Online’s Robyn Keet with Femke Van Der Valk former head of exhibitions at World Press Photo and David Larsen, Managing Director of Africa Media Online who speak about the importance of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at the Hilton Arts Festival.

DLA_20170915_6499_720p from Africa Media Online on Vimeo.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 was opened at the Hilton Arts Festival last week. This was the gist of the address I gave at the opening which may give some insight into why I believe that the World Press Photo Exhibition is helpful to us in South Africa at this time to strengthen our democracy and to help us to value a free and independent, yet accountable, press:

Curators Femke van der Valk (left) of World Press Photo and Charmaine Naidoo (right) contracted to Africa Media Online start the process of hanging the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 in the Raymond Slater Library at Hilton College ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Curators Femke van der Valk (left) of World Press Photo and Charmaine Naidoo (right) contracted to Africa Media Online start the process of hanging the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 in the Raymond Slater Library at Hilton College ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Opening Speech, World Press Photo Exhibition 2017,

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this event. I particularly want to thank Mr George Harris, Headmaster of Hilton College for coming to officially open this exhibition considering that on this evening he has been asked to be at two other events at the same time. I also want to thank Femke van der Valk from World Press Photo for being here, guiding us in putting up the exhibition and being part of this launch. At the start of this evening I would like to say a few words about the importance of this event and the significance of having this Exhibition here at this time in the history of our nation.

Few would argue that a free press is not fundamental for democracy. An empowered population is an informed population. And one of the quickest ways to make a society servile is to starve them of access to an accurate record of what is going on around them – to the “truth” as we like to say.

Africa Media Online staff members Solomon Chinga, Angela McEwen and Karabelo Lenong hanging the World Press Photo Exhibition in the Raymond Slater Library at Hilton College ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Africa Media Online staff members Solomon Chinga, Angela McEwen and Karabelo Lenong hanging the World Press Photo Exhibition in the Raymond Slater Library at Hilton College ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

South Africa has seen some erosion of these freedoms in recent times. Certainly the press feel under pressure in our country as in many parts of the World. Recently, however, at Africa Media Online we have experienced an erosion of these freedoms not at the hands of the State, but at the hands of personal and commercial interests.

Africa Media Online runs a picture library. Some of our biggest clients are textbook publishers. In the past few years, however, we were told by these clients that they want model releases for all people in the pictures that we supply to them. These publishers have been coming under pressure from lawyers representing people who have found themselves in pictures used in the textbooks and who now want financial reward for the use of their image.

When the textbook publishers ask us to supply model-released pictures, they are not speaking about pictures of people taken in private homes or at private functions (the kind of pictures that the paparazzi take), they are speaking of the kind of editorial pictures generated by editorial photographers mostly in public spaces – real people on a real beach or a real street or a real factory worker in a real factory. They don’t want the real worker any more, they want a model pretending to be a factory worker or they want the real factory worker to sign a document that says that his image can be exploited for any use in any media ad infinitum. What they are doing is swapping a recording of reality for an acting-out of “reality”. Swapping a photograph for an illustration. Swapping a relationship based on trust between the photographer engaging with the subject, for a commercial transaction – turning an editorial photographer into a commercial photographer.

Me (David Larsen) addressing the guests at the opening of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Me (David Larsen) addressing the guests at the opening of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

What this does to textbooks, of course, is to remove them one step further away from reflecting reality or reflecting “truth.” You are no longer dealing with primary sources. You are dealing with reflections of primary sources or reenactment of primary sources. While this certainly has impact of the reliability of textbooks, what this does to the ethics of journalism, is perhaps even more serious.

We deal with editorial photographers – photojournalists and documentary photographers. They maintain the strict ethics of journalism – of being a witness to reality. Of being there in as unobtrusive a manner as possible to witness and to carry the record of witnessing the actual event back to the public so that all can see and be informed and make decisions based on the “facts”. In terms of that ethic paying models to reenact a scene is anathema to editorial photographers and an undermining of the ethic of being an unobtrusive witness. Not so commercial photographers whose job is to enable products to be sold or appetites to be created or heightened.

You might say that editorial photographers are in the pursuit of truth and commercial photographers are in the pursuit of propaganda.

In a world of “fake news” and “alternative facts” that is a very important distinction to make. But it is not a very easy distinction to make nowadays post Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault and the other deconstructionists. Postmodern philosophy has left us asking, like Pilate did of Jesus “What is truth?” Is there such a thing as truth? And if there is, is it accessible to us? Is it knowable by us?

Mr Jonathan Manley, headmaster of St Mary's DSG in Kloof views the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 during the launch event ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Mr Jonathan Manley, headmaster of St Mary’s DSG in Kloof views the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 during the launch event ahead of the Hilton Arts Festival. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Of course the question is an important one. If we arrogantly assume we stand on neutral ground of some higher point of objectivity when we approach a subject as journalists, we fool ourselves. We all come to the subject matter we are to “witness” with presuppositions and a particular angle. As Paul of Tarsus once wrote “we see through a glass darkly – we know in part.”

Being mindful of that, the question that still needs to be asked is, when does an “angle” cross over into being propaganda – no longer reflecting reality but doing violence by manufacturing opinion or consent? When does exegesis become eisegesis? When does allowing the subject to speak for him- or herself stray into putting words in the subject’s mouth? When does reflecting events taking place before one’s camera cross the line into actively (rather than inadvertently) influencing events before one’s camera? I would suggest that as the press we stray into this area far more often than we care to admit.

These are important questions to ask ourselves. Yet in spite of that at the end of the day we can say that we are witnesses to something, and that that something is not just inside our own eyelids. Reality does exist as an objective actuality outside our own minds, however subjectively we may perceive it.

Guests engage with the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at the launch event ahead of the opening of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

Guests engage with the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at the launch event ahead of the opening of the Hilton Arts Festival 2017. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

And so the concept of truth and the pursuit of truth is not something we can dispense with lightly. If we do, we very quickly hand ourselves over to the propagandists – the wealthy and the powerful who can manufacture consent and manufacture taste and manufacture desire and manufacture our patterns of consumption. And just as they do in the commercial space they can do in the public sphere – in politics and in society – influencing what we believe about one another and about groups that are different from our own social group.

Which brings me back to the request by textbook publishers. What they should be doing is fighting, fighting to reflect primary sources about the World around us, and fighting to support those who are faithful witnesses to that reality.

This is why I love World Press Photo and why I believe it is timely that we bring this exhibition to South Africa regularly. Because if we are in a situation where even the publishers of books, and textbooks at that, are no longer fighting to present independent witnesses to their audience, then what hope do we have that the person on the street understands the value of such work. So many of our photojournalists have given up, they no longer work, or they work part time, because the work they do is not valued and because it is not valued it is not paid for. And so we are losing them in droves to other pursuits that may have less consequence for upholding democracy, but at least they can put food on the table. The work of many of our finest photographers can no longer be seen in the press but only in the rarified air of art galleries. It is not the masses that their images challenge and inform, but the few looking for an enduring investment or enhanced status in the eyes of their clients or colleagues!

A presenter from Yo-TV interviews young representatives from Africa Media Online on their impressions of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017. The Exhibition received good coverage from both local and national media. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

A presenter from Yo-TV interviews young representatives from Africa Media Online on their impressions of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017. The Exhibition received good coverage from both local and national media. Africa Media Online partnered with World Press Photo to bring the Exhibition to KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa for the first time in almost 20 years.

The World Press Photo Exhibition has great value in not only holding up some of the World’s best images, but also in holding up the ethic of a verifiable and faithful witness to global events, a witness that is critical for all of us if we are to maintain democracy and freedom around the World. So I am so delighted that we have been able to bring this exhibition to the Hilton Arts Festival and to expose the importance of this work to so many young enquiring minds who need to be able to discern, in the deluge of information they are exposed to every day, what constitutes a reliable source! And we are doing that, at the Hilton Arts Festival, not just with the Exhibition, but with DocuFest Africa. Over the next three days we will have 9 of South Africa’s top documentary photographers and curators speaking about long-term project that they have been working on. And it is not just the topics that they are going to be speaking about that is so valuable, but it is the process of getting to the facts and uncovering the truth and of being a faithful witness that is going to be so instructive to us the audience over these next few days.

So on behalf of Africa Media Online I want to say, thank you to World Press Photo for partnering with us and thank you to Hilton College and the Hilton Arts Festival for hosting this important event which I hope will be an important event on the KZN calendar in the years to come.

We are thrilled to have nine of South Africa’s most talented photographers and curators presenting at the second edition of DocuFest Africa at the Hilton Arts Festival from September 15-17, 2017. DocuFest Africa is a visual storytelling festival presenting to the public important African documentary projects and the curation of significant African archives. It is being run as a companion to the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 which is also going to be on display at the Hilton Arts Festival.

Veteran South African documentary photographer, Paul Weinberg, presenting a personal project at DocuFest Africa 2013 held at Michaelhouse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Veteran South African documentary photographer, Paul Weinberg, presenting a personal project at DocuFest Africa 2013 held at Michaelhouse in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

The line-up includes both veteran photographers and young talent, curators of important historic visual collections and the creators of new documentary work.

Veteran photographers include:

  • Multiple winner of World Press Photo awards and overall winner of the World Press Photo of the Year Award in 2011, Jodi Bieber;
  • Senior Curator at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for African Studies and founding member of the Afrapix, Paul Weinberg;
  • Fellow Afrapix member and Black Sash activist, Gille De Vlieg; and
  • Photographer Ian Bruce Huntley who documented the multiracial “underground” jazz scene that persisted in areas such as District Six at the height of grand apartheid
  • Co-founder of the Durban Centre for Photography, Peter McKenzie

Young photographers include:

We also have those who are curating or publishing on significant visual collections:

  • Chris Albertyn who runs the popular Electric Jive African music blog will be assisting to present Ian Bruce Huntley’s work;
  • Siona O Connell is director of the Centre for Curating the Archive at the University of Cape Town has been working to curate archives on forced removals in Cape Town’s Harfield Village; and
  • Historian, former first-class cricketer, former CEO of Robben Island Museum and former CEO of Western Province Cricket Association, Andre Odendaal is preparing a four-volume work on the history of multiracial cricket in South Africa
Jodi Bieber presenting at the World Press Photo Award Days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She presented two bodies of work, Challenging Stereotypes and Soweto and also spoke about photographing Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by her husband's family.

Jodi Bieber presenting at the World Press Photo Award Days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She presented two bodies of work, Challenging Stereotypes and Soweto and also spoke about photographing Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by her husband’s family.

In 2013 we ran the first edition of DocuFest Africa. In that event we also had a wonderful line-up of presentations and all who participated thoroughly enjoyed it. It provided an excellent platform for interaction between visual storytellers and the public. Right from the start the concept was to not only to provide a platform for leading African visual storytellers and curators to present their work and their collections to a wider audience, but we also wanted to connect that with global best practice. In that regard we invited Michiel Munekke the then Managing Director of World Press Photo to present on “Africa and Africans in World Press Photo” building on a relationship we had developed with World Press Photo during the Twenty Ten project in which we worked together with other partners to train over 100 journalists ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup here in South Africa. He understood the vision we had to build an event that can marry the inspiration of global best practice with the promotion of local practitioners.

World Press Photo Managing Director, Michiel Munekke, presenting at DocuFest Africa 2013. World Press Photo wanted to support an initiative that showcased the best of African visual storytelling.

World Press Photo Managing Director, Michiel Munekke, presenting at DocuFest Africa 2013. World Press Photo wanted to support an initiative that showcased the best of African visual storytelling.

While DocuFest Africa 2013 was well received by the participants and those members of the public who came, what we lacked was the crowds. We held it at Michaelhouse in conjunction with Africa Media Online’s Heritage Digital Campus. While the Digital Campus was well attended, we found it challenging to pull the crowds to the Festival. Ever since then I had been dreaming about doing it again, once again in collaboration with World Press Photo and particularly with the World Press Photo Exhibition, and this time in a venue where the crowds were already gathered. In our part of the World, the most obvious place to do this is at the Hilton Arts Festival.

Amsterdam in the Spring. Love locks on the Staalmeestersbrug that crosses the Groenburgwal. I was there for the 2+3D Photography - Practice and Prophecies 2017 conference at the Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam in the Spring. Love locks on the Staalmeestersbrug that crosses the Groenburgwal. I was there for the 2+3D Photography – Practice and Prophecies 2017 conference at the Rijksmuseum

I made two trips to Amsterdam earlier this year in which I reconnected with World Press Photo after a break of some years and got to meet Lars Boering, the new Director. Both of us were looking for ways in which we could continue our collaboration. Even before I went to Amsterdam in January, I had made contact with the Hilton Arts Festival to flight the idea. They loved it and so I went to Amsterdam with some assurance that we had a good venue and a gathered crowd already lined up. The idea, then, of our hosting the World Press Photo Exhibition at the Hilton Arts Festival as an anchor around which to build other events seemed the obvious place to start, and the obvious first event to connect to it was DocuFest Africa. And so DocuFest Africa 2017 was born!

Click here for the DocuFest Africa 2017 programme and ticket information

Click here for the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 programme and ticket information

 

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We are thrilled to announce that from September 15-17, 2017 Africa Media Online will be playing host to the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at the Hilton Arts Festival, the first time in many years that the Exhibition will be presented in KwaZulu-Natal and the first time at the province’s foremost arts festival.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, earlier this year.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, earlier this year.

World Press Photo (WPPh) runs the World’s largest professional photojournalism contest. The winning pictures from that competition are included in the World Press Photo Exhibition that travels to a 100 cities in 45 countries and is seen by an audience of over four million people. The exhibition brings to a global audience the very best of photojournalism and visual story telling taken by the World’s foremost professional press, news and documentary photographers. The Exhibition  is run according to a strict code of ethics that upholds best practice for press photography.

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, earlier this year.

An image by Paul Bronstein leads at the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 at De Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, earlier this year. I got to know Paula as we were on the judging panel of another international professional photographic competition in 2103.

For the 2017 Contest 5,034 professional photographers entered 80,408 photographs that were adjudicated by specialist juries from many of the World’s leading publications. The World Press Photo Foundation receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and is sponsored worldwide by Canon.

A panoramic of the award ceremony for the 2011 World Press Photo Awards was held at the prestigious Musiekgebouw opera house in Amsterdam, Netherlands. South African photographer, Jodi Bieber won the World Press Photo of the Year Award, that year. In her acceptance speech she made a heartfelt appeal to all in the audience, including editors from some of the foremost global media publications and the Patron of World Press Photo, His Royal Highness Prince Constantijn of The Netherlands, to do everything in their power to secure the release of fellow South African photographer Anton Hammerl who had gone missing in Libya. Sadly, unknown to all present Anton had already passed away from injuries sustained while carrying out his duties as a photojournalist in the conflict zone.

A panoramic of the award ceremony for the 2011 World Press Photo Awards was held at the prestigious Musiekgebouw opera house in Amsterdam, Netherlands. South African photographer, Jodi Bieber won the World Press Photo of the Year Award, that year. In her acceptance speech she made a heartfelt appeal to all in the audience, including editors from some of the foremost global media publications and the Patron of World Press Photo, His Royal Highness Prince Constantijn of The Netherlands, to do everything in their power to secure the release of fellow South African photographer Anton Hammerl who had gone missing in Libya. Sadly, unknown to all present Anton had already passed away from injuries sustained while carrying out his duties as a photojournalist in the conflict zone.

The hosting of the exhibition here in South Africa builds on a relationship we at Africa Media Online have developed over the years with WPPh. In 2009-2010 we were the local partner to WPPh and Freevoice in another Dutch Postcode Lottery funded project called Twenty Ten in which we trained journalists and visual storytellers ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The output of that project became a special traveling exhibition which was showcased at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in 2010. Since then we have worked on a number of projects together large and small. Africa Media Online produced Shutha.org a free resource for professional photographers in the Majority World with support from WPPh and funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. I was invited by WPPh to present a workshop for Mozambiquan photographers alongside the World Press Photo Exhibition in Maputo in 2010. I became a nominator for WPPh’s Joop Swart Masterclass and we hosted then-World Press Photo Managing Director, Michiel Munneke, at our first DocuFest Africa festival in 2013. For a number of years though, our collaboration went quiet as most of the senior management at WPPh that we had built relationship with moved on. So when I had the opportunity to travel to Amsterdam in January this year for The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision’s Winterschool for Audiovisual Archiving, I took the opportunity to go and meet the new MD of World Press Photo, Lars Boering, and his associate David Campbell. One thing led to another and the outcome is a fresh collaboration with us jointly bringing the WPPh exhibition to the Hilton Arts Festival along with the second edition of DocuFest Africa.

Guests at the opening of the World Press Photo exhibition 2011 view some of the images at Die Oude Kerk, Amsterdam.

Guests at the opening of the World Press Photo exhibition 2011 view some of the images at Die Oude Kerk, Amsterdam.

We have a fabulous line-up for DocuFest Africa 2017 including the only woman African photographer who has ever won the World Press Photo of the Year Award, Jodi Bieber presenting some of her recent work. The mix of the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 and DocuFest Africa 2017 brings the best of global visual storytelling together with the best of South African visual storytelling, creating a wonderful platform for Africans telling Africa’s story. While it has all come together somewhat at the last minute, I am thrilled that it has come together at all and I trust that we can create enough momentum this year to keep doing this in the years to come adding more elements around the core that nurture African photojournalism and visual storytelling.

Jodi Bieber presenting at the World Press Photo Award Days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She presented two bodies of work, Challenging Stereotypes and Soweto and also spoke about photographing Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by her husband's family.

Jodi Bieber presenting at the World Press Photo Award Days in Amsterdam, Netherlands. On that occasion she presented two bodies of work, Challenging Stereotypes and Soweto and also spoke about photographing Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by her husband’s family.

Exhibition: The World Press Photo Exhibition 2017
Venue: Raymond Slater Library upstairs in the Centenary Centre at Hilton College
Dates: Friday September 15 – Sunday September 17
Time: Friday and Saturday 9 am – 8:30 pm, Sunday 9 am – 6 pm
Tickets: Tickets are available at the door and NOT from the Hilton Arts Festival ticket office. A ticket gives you entry into the exhibition and all 8 of the DocuFest Africa presentations by leading South Africa photographers and curators.
Charges: 
R120 pp for adults
R65 for children under 16 and pensioners with a pensioners card
R40 per child for school groups over 10
Information: 
Click here for the World Press Photo Exhibition 2017 programme and ticket information
Click here for the DocuFest Africa 2017 programme and ticket information

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