Jurgen Schadeberg: A Retrospective

  March 1999

Image of Nelson Mandela by Jurgen Schadeberg from the exhibition at the Gallery of Photography March 3 to 20 1999

A large-scale retrospective charting the Apartheid years in South Africa as well as a selection of Schadeberg’s work from Europe, this exhibition encapsulates 45 years of contemporary world history.

Schadeberg is a major figure in photojournalism and film-making. Born in Berlin in 1931, he left Germany to escape the rise of Fascism and emigrated to South Africa. There he became involved with Drum magazine, the pioneering investigative magazine which was almost the only office in Johannesburg where blacks and whites met and worked on an equal basis.

Forever the people’s photographer, Schadeberg’s lens was a searchlight in the townships of the 1950s. Far from the ‘degenerate’, ‘lazy’, ‘layabout natives’ of the apartheid mindset, these people – be they jazz men, sportsmen, models, activists, or thieves – are always represented and celebrated as protagonists.

Newspaper clipping on Jurgen Schadeberg's exhibition at the Gallery of Photography 1999

Newspaper clipping on Jurgen Schadeberg’s exhibition at the Gallery of Photography 1999

In 1952, Schadeberg photographed an imposing lawyer in his office in Johannesburg. Five decades later, in May 1994, after twenty-seven years of incarceration, that man was inaugurated as the first president in a democratic South Africa. When he returned to visit his cell in 1994, Schadeberg was there to record a poignant moment in our history. As much as President Mandela embodies the aspirations and spirit of a new nation, so he reflects Schadeberg’s unbridled faith in humanity, his perseverance and relentless optimism.

The exhibition is organised in association with the African Cultural Project and supported by the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa.

Jurgen Schadeberg will give an Illustrated Talk in the Gallery on Saturday March 6th at 1pm.