‘The Other Camera’ at Commune. 1: A Participatory View of Africa

WILLIAM MATLALA  (3)

William Matlala, Wedding, greater Johannesburg, Gauteng (c. 1990). Courtesy William Matlala.

 

The Other Camera is a group show that explores a vision of the world from a communal and participatory point of view. It questions the manner in which photographers from communities in Africa (particularly South Africa) photograph their own people, environment, cultures and events. More importantly, it seeks to uncover how the ‘other camera’ has been acculturated and adapted to a modernised, globalised and transforming Africa. To curate the show, Paul Weinberg sifted through various collections and archives.

 

An extract from the exhibition text reads:

 

“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.”

 

Paul Weinberg himself is a South African-born documentary photographer, filmmaker, writer, curator, educator and archivist. His career began in the early 80s, working for local NGOs and photographing current events for news agencies and foreign newspapers. Paul was a founding member of Afrapix and South; the collective photo agencies that gained recognition for their uncompromising role in documenting apartheid and popular resistance to it. His large body of work portrays diverse peoples, cultures and human environments. His current position is as a senior curator of Visual Archives at UCT Libraries who have supported the research and curation of The Other Camera.

 

In Africa the ‘other camera’ is prevalent and all pervasive and in SA, with its strong migrant and urban historical lines, the ‘other camera’ has evolved into a genre itself. This is a camera you will find at events, rituals, traditional celebrations and social occasions. Although the photographers who work this way are known as ‘street photographers’ they generally hustle for a living in the same way the informal sector survives and they tend to mix two distinct styles: the documentary approach on the one hand, the formal portrait on the other. Integrally part of modern African culture and linked to assertions of identity, class and status; these images fundamentally challenge the more traditional views of representation – of outsiders picturing the lives of ‘others’, particularly indigenous communities.

 

The Other Camera features works by David Goldblatt, Dave Southwood, Paul Weinberg, Ronald Ngilima, Daniel Morolong, Bobson Sukhdeo Mohanlal, Lucky Sipho Khoza, David Selepe, William Matlala and Linda Qampi as well as photographs from various collections (Ruth Sack, Angus Gibson) and projects (Ikamva Youth Project, Isolezwe Collective).

 

See the show in person at Commune. 1 from 21 July – 11 August 2015 and for a more in-depth read view the exhibition catalogue.

 

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Dave Southwood, SIR Photo Studio, Phillipi, Cape Town, Western Cape (1999). Courtesy Dave Southwood.

 

Paul Weinberg

Paul Weinberg, ‘Take me a photo’, Durban beach, KwaZulu-Natal (1995). Courtesy Paul Weinberg.

 

LUCKY SIPHO KHOZA

L + R: Lucky Sipho Khoza, Double-image portrait portfolio, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (c. 1999). Courtesy Garth Walker Collection.

 

DANIEL MOROLONG 'The Other Camera'

L: Daniel Morolong, Portrait at Eastern Beach, East London, Eastern Cape. R: Daniel Morolong, Portrait of a boxer, Eastern Cape. (c. 1950s-1970s). Courtesy Daniel Morolong and FHISER.

 

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Daniel Morolong, Body builders, East London, Eastern Cape (c. 1950s-1970s). Courtesy Daniel Morolong and FHISER.

 

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Bobby Bobson, Studio portrait, Bobson Studio, est. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (c.1965-1975). Courtesy Axis Gallery.

 

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Bobby Bobson, Studio portrait, Bobson Studio, est. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (c.1965-1975). Courtesy Axis Gallery.

 

Ruth Sack Collection (2)

Photographer unknown, Studio portrait (c. 1990s). Courtesy Gisele Wulfsohn and Ruth Sack Family Collection.

 

Ruth Sack Collection (1)

Photographer unknown, Studio portrait (c. 1990s). Courtesy Gisele Wulfsohn and Ruth Sack Family Collection.

 

The Other Camera

L+R: Photographer unknonwn, Studio portrait, Marabastad, Gauteng (c. 1970). Courtesy Angus Gibson Collection.

 

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Ronald Ngilima, Portrait, Wattville, Gauteng (c. 1960s). Courtesy Ronald Ngilima Family Trust.

 

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Ronald Ngilima, Portrait, Wattville, Gauteng (c. 1950s). Courtesy Ronald Ngilima Family Trust.

 

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L + R: William Matlala, Portrait, greater Johannesburg, Gauteng (c. 1990). Courtesy William Matlala.

 

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William Matlala, Birthday celebration, greater Johannesburg, Gauteng (c. 1990). Courtesy William Matlala.

 

Ikamva Youth Project

Assorted photographers, Khayalitsha township, Cape Town. Courtesy Ikamva Youth Project.

 

The Other Camera commune 1

L: Unknown photographer, Portrait in a shebeen, Bloemfontein (c. 2007). R: Unknown photographer, Portrait, Bloemfontein (c. 2007). Courtesy Isolezwe Project and Human Sciences Research Council.

 

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Lindeka Quampi, Portrait, Khayelitsha, Cape Town (c. 2008-2013). Courtesy Lindeka Qampi’s Street Culture Project.

 

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Lindeka Quampi, Portrait, Khayelitsha, Cape Town (c. 2008-2013). Courtesy Lindeka Qampi’s Street Culture Project.

 

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