Friday, 26 September 2014

David Goldblatt and an Early Upskirt

David Goldblatt. 'Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg' 1975

I went to see David Goldblatt in conversation with Martin Parr at IC Visual Labs in Bristol last night.

( See more IC Visual Lab events here, and check out  the Propaganda Event at Photobook Bristol here).

It was a fantastic talk, a mix of incredible images, the stories behind them, with some up-skirty shots of women's legs thrown in for good measure. Goldblatt talked about text, image (how do they work together? We're still figuring that one out), his work in the UK for Multistory and paying for images. He didn't pay 20c for the picture above. "Can I photograph your hands?" he asked.  He did photograph her, er, hands, but he didn't pay the the 20c. He didn't take up the woman's offer of a weekend away in Swaziland either. But now he will pay 80 Rand for a portrait; times change and in modern South Africa, payment legitimises photography and provides access.

I really enjoyed that. It made me rethink Goldblatt's work and take it beyond the iconic into something more human, three-dimensional and thoroughly modern. Especially the legs. But (and I'm adding this after the fact), the legs are a digression - his photography of the body goes way, way beyond my lascivious take on the legs pictures. And we saw that in all his other pictures, especially his portrait of Zanele Muholi and her partner. But I like the fact that an icon of anti-apartheid photography can go beyond the saint-photographer discourse. It makes him a better man and a better photographer. And much more interesting.

To end the week here is a quote from Georges Sand (via Laurent Binet and HHhH). It fits Goldblatt's work and it seems to fit the UK right now

'Poor workers or sick people, you must always struggle against those who tell you : "Work hard to live badly"'




The woman worked in a shop in Soweto, 1972.

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