David Goldblatt, Meeting of the worker-management Liaison Committee of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, 1980; gelatin silver print; Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa; © David Goldblatt
David Goldblatt, Willem Voster with friends, family, home and garden, Merweville, Western Cape. 2 March 2009, March 2, 2009; inkjet print; Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa; © David Goldblatt
David Goldblatt, An officer of the Voortrekkers, 1980, gelatin silver print; Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Mark McCain and the Accessions Committee Fund; © David Goldblatt
Ernest Cole, A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen., 1960-1966; gelatin silver print; Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden; © The Ernest Cole Family Trust
Billy Monk, The Catacombs, 5 February 1968, 1968, printed 2011; gelatin silver print; Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg; © Estate of Billy Monk
This exhibition illuminates a vital, difficult, and contested period in the recent history of South Africa from the perspectives of three photographers: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, and Billy Monk. The son of Eastern European immigrants, documentary photographer Goldblatt came of age under apartheid and observed the increasing entrenchment of racial inequality in his country. His early project In Boksburg (1982) portrays a typical suburban white community shaped by what the artist calls "white dreams and white proprieties." Included at Goldblatt's request, photographs by Cole and Monk expand the exhibition's field of view. Cole, a self-taught black South African documentary photographer, observed the other side of the racial divide in the 1960s, making photographs that are eloquently observant and deeply humane. Monk's work offers a raw and witty record of The Catacombs, a rowdy Cape Town nightclub where he worked as a bouncer in the 1960s. These three groups of pictures are complemented by a selection of Goldblatt's recent, post-apartheid photographs, sober yet hopeful records of an imperfect, still-evolving democracy.
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