Capturing Johannesburg

David Goldblatt on auction, 16 November

15/11/2023     General News, Live Auctions


A doyen of South African photography, David Goldblatt produced an unparalleled body of work within the city of Johannesburg, where he lived for 50 years. The artist began hitchhiking from his hometown of Randfontein to Johannesburg when he was just eighteen years old – exploring the city through photographing it. The artist’s first crucial subject, his unceasing images of the metropolitan reveal changes in the city during and post-apartheid. His documentation has become an incomparable archive and we are proud to present a significant set of photographs from this expansive project.


LEFT | David Goldblatt | At the Summit Club pool on Claim Street | Estimate : ZAR 150 000 - 250 000

RIGHT | David Goldblatt | The House Painter’ s Wife | Estimate: ZAR 120 000 - 180 000


At the Summit Club pool on Claim Street and The House Painter’ s Wife (LOTS 51 & 53) both represent Hillbrow in the 1970s. In the early to mid-1970s, over 20 years after first hitchhiking into the city, Goldblatt turned his camera to this Johannesburg neighbourhood. Hillbrow of the 1970s was a buzzing community: a 1960s building boom ushered in a large number of high-rise apartment developments, making the area a white-designated hub for young families and urban elites alike, with offices, cafes, shopping and dense housing all within the bustling city proper. Goldblatt’s images from this time are not documentary street scenes, but rather masterful portrait studies: the city documented through its people. These works are careful and nuanced observations of individuals who are clearly at ease with the photographer and, consequently, are more sitter than subject: autonomous, self-possessed and belonging wholly to the complicated political and cultural moment they inhabit.


LEFT | David Goldblatt | Fietas | Estimate: ZAR 120 000 - 180 000

RIGHT | David Goldblatt | Going home: Marabastad Waterval bus | Estimate: ZAR 120 000 - 180 000



Aspire is also proud to present a number of vintage prints of the larger Johannesburg area from the 1970s and 80s. The Housepainter’s Wife (LOT 53), Fietas (LOT 54) and Going home: Marabastad Waterval bus (LOT 55) are all a part of a special collection of works that David Goldblatt gifted to fellow photographer Paul Alberts, with whom he held an enduring friendship for nearly 40 years.

These highly collectible, early works were personally printed by Goldblatt in his darkroom. They are all signed, dated and titled on the reverse and also include inscriptions – notes and numbers – which were possibly the photographer’s records including information such as exposure times and indicating that they may have been test proofs where Goldblatt recorded information from the printing process.




20th Century & Contemporary Art

16 November 2023 at 6pm



9 – 16 November 2023
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 16:30


Discover more from 20th Century & Contemporary Art