Galería Elba Benítez

David Goldblatt

Randfontein, Gauteng Province, South Africa, 1930
Johannesburg, South Africa, 2018

David Goldblatt began photographing full-time in the early 1960’s, documenting the harsh complexities of South Africa with a combination of profound intimacy and profound outrage. From the onset his photography was based on protest – informed, passionate, yet never vitriolic or propagandistic — first against South Africa’s oppressive apartheid policies, and later against the post-apartheid conditions that continue to wreak havoc on the nation’s social fabric, such as poverty and untenable living conditions, the inequitable distribution of wealth, the unhealed racial fissures, and the horrific scourge of AIDS.

Goldblatt’s photographs, whether of people, places or buildings, are carefully, often beautifully composed, but they are never overtly constructed or self-consciously virtuosic. Instead, they possess the muted directness of the commonplace, an ease with emptiness, an affinity for the oblique and the quiet. Ultimately, through their combination of formal and conceptual delicacy, Goldblatt’s photographs draw the viewer into a closer visual reading of the appearance of absence, and from there to a deeper understanding of what, in fact, is present.

Taken together, Goldblatt’s photographic series can be seen as belonging to a larger, overarching act of portraiture – a portrayal of a country, as beloved as it is scarred. It is a composite portrait, composed of details and composed across time, but always rooted in a sense of place, and always informed by a deep sense of humanity.

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David Goldblatt. Nyassa miners going home after serving a... year’s contract in the gold mines. Mayfair railway station, Johannesburg. December, 1952
David Goldblatt. On the border of Fietas and Mayfair,... Johannesburg, April, 1952
David Goldblatt. On Twist Street, Hillbrow (3_4119).... April, 1962
David Goldblatt. The farmer’s son with his nursemaid,... on the farm Heimweeberg, near Nietverdiend in the Marico Bushveld,Transvaal (North-West Province), 1964
David Goldblatt. Café-de-Move-On, Croesus, Johannesburg, 1964
David Goldblatt. A baby in its crib in a rooming house on... Soper Road, Hillbrow, Johannesburg, 1973
David Goldblatt. A house painter at home, Pretoria... Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg. January, 1973
A woman in her parlour, Bezuidenhout... Valley, Johannesburg. March, 1973
David Goldblatt. JM Dippenaar, municipal official, in his... apartment, Bree Street, Johannesburg, 1973
David Goldblatt. Xhosa man and V N Zote’s children,... Flagstaff, Transkei, Eastern Cape. 9 October, 1975
David Goldblatt. Lavatory at the Indian Fruit Market,... Newtown. Kippies Nightclub was modeled on this Edwardian building. May (4_2269), 1975
David Goldblatt. Man on a bench, Joubert Park,... Johannesburg (2_24266), 1975
David Goldblatt. Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg... (2_21208), 1975
David Goldblatt. Women at play during their lunch hour,... Pieter Roos Park, Johannesburg (2_21221), 1975
David Goldblatt. In the home of Lulu and Barn Friedman,... Houghton (4_2536), 1978
David Goldblatt. Dancing-master, Ted van Rensburg,... watches two of his ballroom pupils, swinging to a recording of Victor Sylvester and his Orchestra, in the MOTHS’ Hall at the old Court House, 1980
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