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Documentary photography: Capturing life, Vol. 14 - 2007, No. 3

Rediscovering the (Extra)Ordinary: Missed Experience and South African Documentary Photography

, pages: 7-30[open access]

Under apartheid, activist and commercial photographers confronted violent, traumatic events, and their exposure of these to the wider world played a key role in bringing about the downfall of the state. Post-apartheid, documentary photography has generally taken a diff erent direction, orienting attention to the surrounding society, and making good on all manner of missed experiences. In their move to peripheral situations, photographers dignify the culture-making of ordinary folk. The persons in the photographer’s gaze are frequently those caught in the shock waves of hostilities (Guy Tillim), affl icted by a dread epidemic (Kim Lubdrook), or exposed to a diff use condition of endangerment, like violent criminality (David Southwood). Photographers are themselves in a way fatally endangered from afar and their attempts to visualise what is out of frame can be seen as a form of self-defence and passionate search in a bid to come to terms with trouble. The essay probes the post-apartheid state of documentary photography and its current directions.

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