David Goldblatt (1930–2018) is a leading documentary photographer, admired and recognised worldwide for having reinvented this genre of photography. Goldblatt started taking photos when he was just a teenager, with a camera his parents had gifted him. He studied commerce at the University of the Witwatersrand after which he worked as an assistant to a wedding photographer until 1963 when he was able to begin photography full-time.
Stylistically, Goldblatt was greatly inspired by the images he found in 90s magazines, specifically the likes of the famous American Life magazine. Thematically, his works are politically charged, but in a uniquely subtle manner – this was his form of protest against apartheid. Throughout the 1990s he dedicated himself to portraying the conditions endured under the regime – the implicit acts of oppression as opposed to explicit scenes of violence. Goldblatt’s images from the apartheid era were produced exclusively in black and white, as colour was something he deemed inappropriate until the late 90s when he started capturing landscape images more predominantly.
Although he personally preferred to be perceived as a documenter and an observer as opposed to an artist, recognition of Goldblatt’s artistic legacy reaches far and wide. In 1998, he became the first South African to have a solo exhibition at MOMA in New York. Other major museums where his images have been exhibited include SFMOMA, San Francisco and The Barbican Centre, London. He participated in Documenta 11, 2002 and Documenta 12, 2007, as well as in the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Numerous monographs have been published on his work, and he is represented in several institutional collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
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