11 Dec ‘Bill of Rights’ | A Book by David Southwood
“But, what the law and legal rights can do, when invoked with creativity and integrity, is to play a humanising, expansive, and inspiring role in human society. The law can create the conditions for humans flourishing.” These are the words of Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, from the foreword of Bill of Rights. The book, published in November, is the culmination of a photographic exploration by David Southwood.
We interviewed David earlier this year about a few of his other long-term projects that came before this one. As a photographer, he is committed to presenting projects that are thorough and Bill of Rights is no exception. The book contains a combination of photographs and text, designed to present situations that direct the sensibility of a late high school reader, and upwards, towards the South African Bill of Rights. It does so in a way that presents the failures in the Bill or in its implementation, and on the other hand, it salutes the majorly transformative force the document exerts on individuals and institutions 20 years after the advent of Democracy in South Africa. Each photograph in Bill of Rights implies rights, or a right. A constellation of these are presented in the book alongside captions combining statistic, quote and observation to extend the relationship between the photographs and the rights being illustrated.
In the foreword, titled ‘What you can do with rights’, Judge Cameron goes on to say: “Through legal agency, even if applied imperfectly, material benefits can accrue to human lives. Legal rights can change social practice, by altering discourse. And most deeply, when applied with a seemly blend of ambition and caution, of hope and humility, the law can lay the foundation for moral agency and civic dignity. To deny these possibilities in the law is to take a too miserly, too cautious, and too crabbed a view of its potential – and of what we, as lawyers and judges can do. The law cannot offer transcendence from human toil and limitation. But it can offer us the chance to be better than ourselves. And that is surely something worth celebrating.”
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Selected photographs from Bill of Rights: