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20 June 2014

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A very insightful interview John.

I'd seen some of Sarah's work previously, and was really intrigued, so thank you for taking the time to pursue this interview.

It could so easily be titled 'Love to Manenberg' - because that concern for the 'subjects' (her friends!) shines through this work. This is a wonderful example of a photographer accepting that her work may not ever change anything, but it can be honest in its portrayal of the complexity of others lives, capturing both the dramatic and the crushingly mundane realities of their daily life. And I think that it's in the tension between those polar opposites that the magic lies.

It's that documentary 'thing' I mentioned on the duck some time back - the difference between the "please ignore me" approach and the "please accept me" tack. And of course with the latter comes the question "why should we accept you?". Which must of necessity force the photographer to reveal so much more about themselves.

Sarah's comment nails it:


"To sum it up I think we recognize the differentiators¬ of nationality, class, and color, but have tacitly agreed not to let them be barriers between us.

The people I photograph in Manenberg and I connect on so much -- parenting, care for our own parents, friendships, the consequences of choice, the difficulty of loss -- it seems to outweigh other barriers."

This is work founded on the similarities that exist between the lives of the photographer and subject, rather than the few differences, and it is precisely that which gives it it's strength. A lot of so-called 'documentary' photographers could learn a lesson from this work.

Sarah's started something with this project that will run and run, and it would not surprise me that in 20 years time we'll be considering it in the same way as we do 'On the Mines': for having captured a slice of SA's human history with an integrity that honours and respects the subjects and their hard-won place in their land.

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