… One had to evolve a different approach here, and this was clear to me at a fairly early stage. My photography became a political inquiry, an interest in real things. My concern was not to make “interesting photographs” but to probe the immediate world I lived in.
David Goldblatt in conversation with Okwui Enwezor January 1998
Goldblatt has done this with rare distinction for more than fifty years. He was born in 1930 in Randfontein, a gold mining town near Johannesburg. He became interested in photography at high school and dreamed of becoming a magazine photographer. In 1963, following his father’s death, he sold the family business and devoted himself fully to photography. Most of Goldblatt’s personal work consists of photographic essays in which he has critically observed some of the conditions and values underlying South African society, both during apartheid and since its demise and the birth of democracy.
This exhibition, David Goldblatt’s first solo exhibition in Scandinavia, consists of a selection of work from a number of Goldblatt’s essays.
Some Afrikaners: these photographs come from an attempt in the 1960s to explore the roots and contradictions of Afrikaner Nationalism and its ideological progeny, Apartheid, among mostly working class people.
Joburg People: from time to time over some 50 years, Goldblatt has focussed on aspects of the city in which he lives. Most of the photographs exhibited here reflect life under apartheid in three areas. Soweto, the vast ghetto in which Africans were forced to live. Hillbrow, which, in the 70s, was a densely populated white area, and Pageview, known to locals as Fietas, an ‘Indian’ suburb which was declared to be a ‘white’ ethnic area under the notorious Group Areas law, and from which the Indian people were forcibly removed in the 1970s.
The Transported: tells of the grinding daily journey, to and from work, of people forced by apartheid policy to live many kilometres and hours from centres of industry and employment. Apartheid has gone, but these journeys, which are its outcome, continue and will do so for many years to come.
Particulars: declare Goldblatt’s absorption in the sensuality of bodily details and of what is revealed of attitude, class and culture in body language, adornment and clothing.
The Structure of Things Then: here Goldblatt probed his belief that South Africa’s structures, both physical and conceptual, were often an almost naked expression of the values and ethos of its people.
I Boksburg: looking at life in a small-town middle class white community in 1979-1980, Goldblatt posed a conundrum. How it is possible to be law-abiding and decent while at the same time being complicit in a system overwhelmingly evil and insane?
Intersections: since 2000 Goldblatt has, for the first time, used colour extensively in his personal photography. In this continuing body of work he is concerned with intersections of life, values and spaces in post-apartheid South Africa. His use of this medium is, in part, an expression of the expansiveness that came with the transforming of South Africa into a freer and more democratic society. His way with colour reflects his sense of the light in those places.
A new book: David Goldblatt – Hasselblad Award 2006 with 40 colour plates and an essay by Professor Michael Godby of the University of Cape Town, has been produced for the exhibition in co-operation with Hatje Cantz Verlag in Germany.