The Other Camera
21 July - 11 August 2015
Angus Gibson Collection, Ikamva Youth Project, Isolezwe Collective, Lucky Sipho Khoza, William Matlala, Bobson Sukhdeo Mohanlall, Daniel Kgomo Morolong, Ronald Ngilima, Lindeka Qampi, The Ruth Sack Collection and David Selepe.
‘The Other Camera’ explores another vision of the world from a communal and participatory point of view. Curated by Paul Weinberg, the show poses the important question: how do photographers from communities in Africa and specifically South Africa photograph their own people, environment, cultures and events? More importantly, how has the ‘other camera’ been acculturated and adapted to a modernised, globalised and transforming Africa? The exhibition is comprised of rare collections and archives that have been digitized, researched and curated at Visual Archives of UCT Libraries.
The camera, like the gun and the bible, has historically been viewed as a tool of colonialism. Destruction of indigenous value systems, cultures and its often-romantic reconstruction through images, is mirrored in many colonial experiences throughout the world. ‘The Other Camera’ offers another perspective and explores a more nuanced approach to the role of the camera, images and their attendant value. This focus brings the concept of indigenous media (insider perspectives on identity and representation) to the fore. Drawing on a number of years of research and variety of private and public archives scattered throughout the country, the research opens up new vistas beyond the dominant approaches of 19th and 20th century photography. It explores an array of dynamic relationships and shifts focus from how outsiders photographed the other to how the other photographs and represents itself.
In Africa the ‘other camera’ is prevalent and all pervasive. In South Africa with its strong migrant and urban historical links, the ‘other camera’ has evolved into a genre itself. You will find this camera at events, rituals, traditional celebrations, and social occasions. The photographers who work in this way are called ‘street photographers’; they generally hustle for a living in the same way the informal sector survives and tend to mix two distinct styles of photography: the documentary approach, photographing events and rituals on the one hand and the more formal portrait on the other. These images are integrally part of modern African culture, linked to assertions of identity, class and status. Fundamentally they challenge the more traditional views of representation – of outsiders imaging the lives of ‘others’, particularly indigenous communities.
Paul Weinberg is a South African-born documentary photographer, filmmaker, writer, curator, educationist and archivist. He began his career in the early 1980s by working for South African NGOs, and photographing current events for news agencies and foreign newspapers. He was a founder member of Afrapix and South, the collective photo agencies that gained local and international recognition for their uncompromising role in documenting apartheid, and popular resistance to it. Weinberg has built up a large body of work, which portrays diverse peoples, cultures, and human environments. He has published more than 10 books and has exhibited widely within South Africa and abroad. He currently works as senior curator of Visual Archives at UCT Libraries who have supported the research and curation of this project.
Bobson Sukhdeo Mohanlall founded the Bobson Studio in Durban in 1961. The studio catered mainly to Zulu clientele, who posed in their own beadwork and costumes for formal portraits that were also made into postcards. Many of the clients belonged to the Ndwandwe people, a subgroup of the Zulu people who live in the region known as Valley of a Thousand Hills, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Ronald Ngilima was born in the Eastern Cape and moved to Gauteng in the early 1930s, where he became initiated into photography. While employed at Dinglers Tobacco Company, he dedicated his free hours to his trade as an ambulance photographer, cycling to various parts of Benoni. The present collection only starts in the 1950s, when he moved to a house in Wattville big enough to set up his own dark room. Ngilima died in 1960 and in subsequent years Ronald’s wife Sarah Ngilima has carefully kept the 25 boxes of negatives locked up in a cupboard. They re-emerged some thirty years later, in 1999, when his grandson, Farrell Ngilima, re-discovered them by chance.
Filmmaker Angus Gibson happened on a studio of an unknown photographer from Maribastad (Pretoria). Gibson made a number of images for a film he was making on township life and printed up a selection. He soon established that the photographer’s entire archive of negatives had been thrown away; all that remains of this one–time popular studio is what Gibson had printed up.
At first photography was just a pastime for Daniel Kgomo Morolong, but his interest grew as he started started taking photographs for IDs and licenses. He later worked part-time for the Daily Dispatch, Bona magazine, Ilanga, Imvo Zabantsundu and other newspapers. Having acquired the skills required of a professional photographer, he opened his own studio when he moved to Mdantsane in 1976. Over the years, he built up a huge collection of photographs, which helped him and other township residents to remember the past. Unfortunately, he lost his studio and most of his photographs during the looting that followed Brigadier Gqozo’s coup.
Lucky Sipho Khoza was one of the most innovative street photographers of his time. As a street photographer who operated in the greater Durban area, Khoza specialised in double exposure photography. Khoza died in the early 2000’s and all that is left of his legacy is his album. Garth Walker has made this collection available.
William Matlala worked as a shop steward in the food industry, Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and started taking pictures for his union between 1980 and 1986. As the trade union movement became more actively embroiled in the political and economic front, Matlala’s photography gravitated from portraiture to documentary. His training includes several workshops at Photo Teach, Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and with Afrapix. In 1989, he became a full-time photographer with Cosatu and later worked for the South African Labour Bulletin from 1992 to 1993.
Lindeka Qampi is a single mother and a self-taught photographer living in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. She began taking photographs in 2006, when she met members of the Iliso Labantu photo collective, established to provide photographic training and opportunities for individuals. Her work has evolved from ‘street photography’ and she often sells her images as postcards and stand-alone images. She is presently supported by Erdmann Contemporary Gallery.
David Selepe was born 1954 in Limpopo and moved to Johannesburg 1973. He worked as a photographer in Joubert Park, Johannesburg since 1980. Prior to digital photography, his specialty, like Lucky Sipho Khoza was the ‘double exposure’ technique but since the digital age, has abandoned this style.
Yettie Saunderson was proprietor and airbrush artist at Aqua Portrait Studios in central Johannesburg operating from the 1970s until the 1990s. The airbrush technique that emerged in South Africa around the 1930s took off in the townships 1960s, but began to fade from fashion in the early 1990s. On the occasion of her death she left a collection of unclaimed portraits to her niece and artist, Ruth Sack. The Ruth Sack Collection was in turn purchased by the late Gisele Wulfsohn.
‘The Other Camera’ features a number of photographers from the Isolezwe Collective. The organization is an informal, self-help group of township street photographers and enthusiasts with links in the Western, Eastern Cape and Free State, who since 2006 have been working together to promote their members’ technical and business skills. Many members did not own or know how to use a camera when they joined the collective, and are now regularly taking part in street exhibitions and distributing their work through select outlets.
The Ikamva Youth Project is co-ordinated by Dr Marion Walton of the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town worked with high school students in Khayalitsha township, Cape Town. The students use cellphone cameras to explore self-identities, desires and dreams. Ikamva, an award winning non-profit organization, focused on the empowerment of youth through education, e-literacy training and career guidance.