Charting the role of photos in SA democracy

By Eva-Lotta Jansson | January 28th, 2013 is the home of a video project about photography and democracy in South Africa. On the site, you will be able to view a series of video interviews – to be published in succession – with some of South Africa's most influential photographers. They tell us about some of their work and share their thoughts about South Africa - then and now.

The first video published here is an interview with South African photographer Cedric Nunn, who describes how he became a photographer to engage politically in the struggle against Apartheid. Nunn will be followed by many other interesting South African photographers. Already on the reel, and showing soon, are interviews with two of the country's most renowned photographers, Jodi Bieber and David Goldblatt.

Made with South African photo students in mind, the interviews are a little longer than one would normally see on the TV news or information-age web publications. I wanted to try to capture and share the experience of listening to a mentor.

A photographer myself and sometimes a guest lecturer in photojournalism here in South Africa, I often wished I had more materials with which to prepare my lectures – especially when it comes to events here in South Africa. I like showing examples throughout history during which photographic documentation of events played a big role in protecting human rights and upholding democratic values.

There are few places where photography played as big of a role in shaping a democracy as it did here in South Africa. Photographers risked their lives to show the outside world what life was like under Apartheid, and to document the struggle against it.

Although a wealth of books and films has already been produced, these resources are not always accessible to everyone. So I thought this website might be useful to other tutors, students and photo enthusiasts in general. Fortunately many of the photographers I ask for an interview agree to participate. And luckily, the Open Society Foundation For South Africa thought it was a good idea too, and decided to sponsor the project.

Over time, I hope the series of video interviews will provoke interesting discussions about photography and South Africa’s democracy – in its current state, and for the future.

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