Two people have done more to shape South African photography than any others. They have no peers. The first is David Goldblatt, who received the International Center of Photography's Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. The second is Jürgen Schadeberg, who'll be honored with the same award tonight.
Both richly deserve the recognition. I wrote about Goldblatt last year, for Photo District News. Today, I'd like to say a few words about Schadbeberg.
Jürgen Schadeberg: Nelson Mandela, 1958.
Like Goldblatt, Schadeberg's impact on South African photography had two dimensions -- as a photographer and as a mentor. When he arrived in Johannesburg, in 1950, he brought modern photojournalism with him. It was a kind of photojournalism that small 35mm cameras -- such as the Contax and the Leica -- made possible. It made every effort to hide the photographer's presence. You could imagine that the photographer simply caught life on the fly -- unposed, natural, the unvarnished truth. In fact, this photography was sometimes posed and directed. But it usually didn't look that way. (That photo of Nelson Mandela above is almost certainly as unposed and undirected as it seems to be.)
The new photojournalism found a home, during the 1930s, in influential magazines such as France's Vu and America's Life. As the chief photographer and director of photography for Johannesburg's Drum magazine, Schadeberg brought this decidedly modern visual style to South Africa.
While he was Drum's director of photography, in the 1950s, Schadeberg hired, trained, and mentored photographers such as Bob Gosani, Ernest Cole, and Peter Magubane, each of whom went on to have important careers of their own. It's impossible to imagine South African photography without them.
This short video captures something of the feel of what is sometimes called the Drum decade:
Here's what the International Center of Photography has to say about Schadeberg:
Jürgen Schadeberg, whose career spans more than 65 years, has been called the father of South African photography. Schadeberg emigrated to South Africa from Berlin in 1950 at age 19. There, he became chief photographer, picture editor, and art director at Drum Magazine. During the 1950s, he documented pivotal moments in the struggle against Apartheid. He photographed key political figures including Nelson Mandela, Dr. Moroka, Walter Sisulu, and Yusuf Dadoo as well as jazz and literary stars Dolly Rathebe, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Kippie Moeketsi, and many others.
Schadeberg left South Africa for London in 1964. From then until his return in 1985, he served as a freelance photojournalist for leading publications in Europe and America; taught at the New School in New York, the Central School of Art & Design in London, and the Hoch Kunst School in Hamburg; and curated several exhibitions, including "The Quality of Life" at the New National Theatre Complex in London.
His work has been exhibited widely, including in a major retrospective at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town in 1996. In 2007, Schadeberg was awarded the Officer’s Verdienst Kreuz First Class by the German President. He now divides his time between Berlin, Paris, South Africa, and Spain and continues to actively work on new photographic projects, books, and exhibitions.
And here's the trailer to a documentary about to the man and his work: