DAVID GOLDBLATT - South Africa
Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime
Curators: David Goldblatt and Michket Krifa
Very many of us in South Africa have been the victims of crime, often violent. With much stress and cost we try to protect our persons and property. Nevertheless we remain extremely vulnerable to attack by people who would seize our property and damage or end our lives. Having been a victim I asked myself who are the people who are doing this to us? Are they monsters? Ordinary people? Could they be my children? Are they you and me? I wanted to burrow under the statistics and meet some of these doers of crime as individuals, do portraits of them and learn about their lives. Who to photograph? I did not want to photograph prisoners in jail. I wanted to meet perpetrators as ‘ordinary’ people such as one might encounter in a street or supermarket. So I came to people who had done crime or been accused of it. If they had been in prison, they were now free or on parole. Where to do the photographs? I wanted to do them in situations that were somehow related to the crimes they had committed or of which they had been accused. It seemed to me that the scene of crime would likely be a place of special significance. Life-changing events would probably have been experienced there, both by victims and perpetrators. Hence these photographs and the accounts of the people within them. Most were trying, often in desperately difficult circumstances, to go straight. Consequently I call them not criminals, not offenders, but ex-offenders. I have paid each of these subjects R800 (about 80 Euros) and each has signed a release giving me permission to publish and exhibit the photographs and their life stories. I warn each of my subjects that publication and exhibition might, at some later stage in life, damage them, and I proceed only if they fully understand what they are doing and agree to doing it. I undertake to make no money out of this work. Any proceeds above gallery commission will be given to an organisation dealing with the education and rehabilitation of prisoners.
The series Ex-Offenders has been produced with the support of the Prix Henri Cartier-Bresson, in association with the Wendel Group. The exhibition is presented in Bamako in association with Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
David Goldblatt lives in Johannesburg. He was born in Randfontein in 1930, the third son of Eli and Olga Goldblatt, who came to South Africa as children with their parents to escape conditions in Eastern Europe. After matriculation at Krugersdorp High in 1948 he attempted to become a magazine photographer, a field then almost unknown in South Africa, but failed and went to work for his father who had established a men’s outfitting store in Randfontein. While working in the shop he took a B Comm degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and maintained his interest in photography. His father died in 1962 and David sold the business in 1963 to become a photographer. He gradually built up a professional practice, mainly in the field of photojournalism, specialising in work outside the studio photographing for magazines, corporations, advertising agencies and institutions. His personal work has consisted of a number of critical explorations of South African society, several of which have been exhibited and published in book form. Recognising the need for a facility to teach visual literacy and photographic skills particularly to people disadvantaged by apartheid, he founded the Market Photo Workshop in 1989. He regards himself as an unlicensed, self-appointed observer and critic of South African society, which he continues to explore with his camera.