To everything there is a season, and South African photography's New York season begins in mid-September, with two terrific openings: Cedric Nunn's show at David Krut Projects, on September the 6th, and The Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at the International Center for Photography, on September 14th. Both are sure to be important, fascinating exhibitions.
Nunn's best known for his understated, but powerful documentation of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and of social changes since the coming of democracy in 1994. Blood Relatives, an intimate look at his own family and racial identity, is one of my favorite documentary projects -- strong, beautiful, and moving. You can see that work, here.
In recent years, Nunn is finally being recognized as the great artist that he is. As he and many others have shown throughout their careers, there is no necessary contradiction between documentary and art. You can find several online galleries of his photography, here.
It makes me happy to have a chance to say that he's also a wonderful teacher, mentor, and friend.
The Rise and Fall of Apartheid is something completely different. It's an exhibition on a giant scale, incorporating hundreds of photos, films, and other media from dozens of photographers. The curators are Okwui Enwezor and Rory Bester, two of the most creative minds in the business.
For at least the last thirty years, people have been singing the praises of South African photography. The number and quality of the photographers that this relatively small country has produced really is astonishing. September's events won't actually be New York's introduction to South African photography. Individual photographers have had solo shows in the city and South Africans have been included often in group exhibitions. In addition, a number of exhibitions have been appeared at museums throughout the US. (I reviewed one of those exhibitions, here.)
These shows will, however, be a chance to look deeply at the work of a single extraordinary photographer, on the one hand, and to survey the landscape of South African photography as a whole, on the other. If you care photos, you won't want to miss them.