Monday, April 23, 2007

David Goldblatt Photographs by Contrasto


David Goldblatt has won the Hasselblad Award for 2006. Goldblatt, a white South African, has been photographing his home country since the 1950’s. He has documented the struggles and changes in his country as it stood under the social and political system of apartheid through to the present day.

Goldblatt’s approach to photography and documentation is not to clobber you over the head with events or photojournalistic evidence of injustice. Instead, his cool gaze and obsessive documentation of everyday life in South Africa slip in their politics under the radar.

Contrasto has recently published a monograph entitled David Goldblatt Photographs. This book, which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at Arles photography festival in France in 2006, presents us with eight distinct bodies of work in over 135 black and white and color photographs

Goldblatt is the author of eight books. Each chapter of David Goldblatt Photographs is dedicated to a different body of work that originally appeared as a book. As a photographer, Goldblatt approaches each new project as if starting from a different angle and line of thinking both in subject matter and the photographic material he utilizes.

In The Transported of KwaNdebele: A South African Odyssey, Goldblatt photographed on buses with black workers who, due to apartheid laws, were often forced to spend eight hours a day traveling to and from work. In In Boksburg, He shows us small town life in a middle class white community. In his book Particulars, he concentrates on close-ups of hands and feet and clothing. He remarks this work came out of his days as a men’s outfitter where “the outfitting skills have rusted but the awareness of the body, of its proportions, size and build and what is declared in stance, clothing and ornamentation, has become sharper and broader…”

In South Africa: The Structure of Things Then, we are presented with descriptions of how colonial and apartheid values are reflected in the architecture of South Africa. His latest work is in color using a large format camera. Intersections is comprised of portraits and landscapes that reflect the societal, political and economic changes since apartheids demise. All of these individual projects intersect to provide the most complete visual record of South Africa and its people from the last half century.

David Goldblatt Photographs is elegantly designed and the reproductions are very well done. There is an interesting lengthy essay on the books of David Goldblatt by Rory Bester. In the back of the book there is a chronology of his life which is written in his own words which makes for a fascinating read. All in all this is a very handsome title which I highly recommend for those unfamiliar with his work. This book is a wonderful introduction to one of the most important photographers working today.

Appropriately, there have been a couple retrospective type books about David Goldblatt’s work that have appeared in recent years. One of which is David Goldblatt: Fifty-One Years which was created for the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in 2001. This book, with over 100 images, covers all of the projects as well but provides an interview with Goldblatt and several in-depth essays by J.M.Coetzee, Chris Killip, Nadine Gordimer and others. I prefer this book to the Contrasto title only because of the texts. The reproductions here are functional but not great. This title unfortunately is now rather hard to come by and is very pricey if you can find it.

One very good book of his that can be found very cheap is his fourth book called Lifetimes: Under Apartheid. I purchased a hardcover, shrink wrapped copy last year for around $10.00 off of an Amazon listing. South Africa: The Structure of Things Then is also listed very inexpensively.

Lastly, there is a publication celebrating his winning of the Hasselblad Award that is supposed to be out but I have not seen it. I hope that they bring something new to the table from this great photographer. Though, with work this compelling, I’m not sure they could fail.

Book Available Here

3 comments:

Takashi Seikohara the third said...

Especially the 'Transported' book is interesting to me ,Mr.Whisket.I wonder if you've seen this cheap paperback copy .It has a functional design and inexpensive printing technique.Outstanding are the repetitious blurry bus interiors (the harsh uneven road).I think the impact on the viewer (to understand &imagine the books content) is based on its untidy layout and poor'touch'.Your praised contrasto version (which is a fine &sleek coffetable book for the advanced connoisseur) does not ask me for anything but simple minded admiration .

Mr Whisket said...

I like the "Transported" book a lot. It was released in both hardcover and paperback. (Which can be found very inexpensively on the web by the way) You have an interesting view of the books design in relation to the viewers understanding of the photos. As for me, I tend to like the richer prints in the Contrasto edition (with the exception that it is not the complete book being represented) in that to me they convey a darker, stronger weight to the images. The way the book is designed we take one trip out and one trip back. If I have a criticism of that book it would be, I think the book should have been more repetitious in its imagery. That connotation of trips being made everyday and that they are repetitious and that these people basically would see the same things each day might be a strong image to some viewers.
I like that you commented about Goldblatt as he has become one of my most favorite artists working today. I just saw a copy of the hasselblad award book and it is a different body of work than we have seen. Color, large format landscapes. I have yet to buy it but probably will soon.

ziskar said...

Mr whisket, thank you for your meticulous, as always, review of this book. I riffled through it in a bookshop the other day and I was immediately attracted by the imagery and the reproduction of the prints.
I didn't know the photographer but I sensed that he was worth investigating.