13th Sep, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 19
Lot 19 - Paul Alberts (South Africa 1946-2010)


Paul Alberts (South Africa 1946-2010)
David Goldblatt, 1979

archival pigment ink print

Artwork date: 1979
Signature details: signed by the artist and David Goldblatt, dated, numbered 1/3 and inscribed with the title in pencil in the margin

Sold for R35,175
Estimated at R30,000 - R40,000


archival pigment ink print

Artwork date: 1979
Signature details: signed by the artist and David Goldblatt, dated, numbered 1/3 and inscribed with the title in pencil in the margin


image size: 24.5 x 36 cm; framed size: 40.5 x 49.5 x 3.5 cm


The Paul Alberts Trust.


This intimate portrait of David Goldblatt, at work in his darkroom, was taken by fellow photographer Paul Alberts.

Alberts and Godlblatt first met while he was working for the arts pages of Die Burger in Cape Town in the 1970s. The two were to become lifelong friends, and it was Alberts who first published Goldblatt’s now-famous book, In Boksburg.

The photographs were initially going to be published in Anglo-American’s Optima magazine as an accompaniment to an essay written by Alan Paton. A new editorial direction, however, squashed this opportunity. Alberts, concerned about the poor state of photographic book publishing in the country, had just started The Gallery Press to publish photo books. Disillusioned by Optima’s refusal, he courageously took on the venture, publishing In Boksburg in 1982. Later, Alberts and Goldblatt would collaborate on another seminal South African photo book, South Africa: The Cordoned Heart in 1986. Also published by The Gallery Press, the book was a product of the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa. The project included several photographers and was headed by artist and activist Omar Badsha.

Over the years the two photographers would share a lot. When Alberts went to Johannesburg, he would often stay at Goldblatt’s home and when he passed in 2010, Goldblatt gave a long talk at his funeral. More than a decade after his death, Alberts’ wife found a box labelled ‘David Goldblatt portfolio’ in his darkroom, in their home. A remarkable collection the box included photos of Goldblatt, in the darkroom and posing for Alberts taken from 1975 until 2009 shortly before Alberts’ death. Amongst this find was the current lot, from 1979. Each photo is signed by both Alberts and Goldblatt and the collection stands as a testament to the unique and enduring friendship between the two men.

One of South Africa’s leading social documentary photographers, in his own right, Alberts, was born in 1946 in Pretoria. He worked as a journalist on newspapers, including; Die Vaderland, Die Transvaler, The Cape Argus and Die Burger. In 1975, Alberts turned to freelance photography with his main interest being social documentary and theatre photography and, in 1981, dedicated himself to the publishing of social documentary photography and special interest books.

In 1979, he presented a solo exhibition of portraits of South African artists at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. An important show, it was one of the first at this prestigious gallery where photography was presented as art. A major retrospective of Alberts’ work was presented at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein in 2000. This exhibition was later shown at the Bensusan Museum of Photography at MuseumAfrica, Johannesburg, and at the Sanlam Art Gallery in Cape Town, both in 2021.

Alberts was elected by the University of the Orange Free State as one of one hundred leading South African citizens of the Free State and the Northern Cape of the past millennium, in December 1999. In March 2002, he was awarded a Medal of Honour for his work as a social documentary photographer by the South African Academy of Science and Arts.

Sarah Sinisi

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