The Reuters news agency has just announced its Best of the Year list -- that is, the best of the over 500,000 photos that its photographers made in 2010. (Seems a bit early, but so be it.) One of the images is from Finbarr O'Reilly's superb series on South African "poor whites."
FINBARR O'REILLY/REUTERS: Krugersdorp, South Africa. March 6, 2010. (Click directly on the photo to see a larger version.)
I wrote about the series last April. Here's what O'Reilly himself has to say about this particular photo, in a commentary that accompanies the photo in the Best of the Year list:
"While most white South Africans still enjoy lives of privilege and relative wealth, the number of poor whites has risen steadily over the past 15 years. White unemployment nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005. Seeking to reverse decades of racial inequality, the ruling ANC government introduced affirmative action laws that promote employment for blacks and aim to give black South Africans a bigger slice of the economy. This shift in racial hiring practices coupled with the fallout from the global financial crisis means many poor white South Africans have fallen on hard times. Many poor whites have ended up in places like Coronation Park in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg; a leafy former caravan site beside a water reservoir and a public picnic park frequented by middle-class families at weekends. These boys attend school and play rugby and cricket in their spare time, but this photo was taken on an idle Saturday when there was little else going on. It was my first day at the camp and the boys were bored and happened to congregate on this tire, which had been set up as part of a blockade to the entrance of their squatter camp." (Canon 5D Mark II, lens 24-70mm (at 28mm), f3.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 160.)
By the way, O'Reilly's photo is a fascinating, unconconcious echo of a 1947 photo of poor white South African boys that Constance Stuart Larrabee made for a local magazine. You can see Larrabee's photo, here, and read about the long history of photographing poor white South Africans, here.