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Figures and fictions


This major review of South African photography at the V&A presents an opportunity to see work by big name photographers such as David Goldblatt, Jodi Bieber (ironically better known for her World Press winning image of Aisha than her South African work) and Pieter Hugo (better know for his Nigerian work ‘The hyena and other men’ than his South African work) and names which are certainly new to me.
The V&A website provides some fascinating research material and this video from the curator Tamar Garb provides a fascinating introduction

(Full marks to the V&A for providing a transcript here something we just don’t have the resources to do here at the OCA)
Jose Navarro will be leading a study day at the V&A on 2 July starting at 11am. As usual the study day is free and will include entry to the exhibition and refreshments.
To book a place please email enquiries@oca-uk.com – please do not use the comments box below to ask for tickets, it complicates things.


Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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15 thoughts on “Figures and fictions

  • > please do use the comments box below to ask for tickets, it complicates things.
    Did you mean to write ‘do not’, Gareth? Or have you been practising your sarcasm technique? 😉

    • Whoops, corrected now. Well spotted Stuart. Those who know me would probably suggest that I have done too much practice in that area already 🙂

  • Hi Gareth
    An interesting post, for sure I wish I could make it, I have not even seen a real photography exhibition when I lived in SA!
    It would be interesting to see what you guys come back with, since you may / will probably be more objective that I could be.
    Sabelo Mlangeni, Jodi Bieber and Zanele Muholi’s work pulled me, the limited material I can access from here… (yes, I can’t view any of the videos).. since it seems to be about the people, and not so much about just poverty / apartheid. (There is so much I can add here, but I’d rather not, I’m sorry).
    Personally I always stay clear of work from photographers like Pieter Hugo, which I would rather not comment on.

    • Thanks Dewald
      I am certainly looking forward to seeing the exhibition. The Pieter Hugo work, and in particular the image of the family group chosen by the V&A, does make me feel uneasy. Hugo himself says some interesting things about the image here but one can’t (or at least I can’t) help but think there is something deeply unsettling in his vision of Africa.

  • Thanks Gareth,
    Pieter Hugo captures his view in a really strong way, exactly that which made me leave (again there is much more to be said), and I personally feel that he may not be portraying objectively, but then again, there is no rule (that I know of) that says all photography has to be objective… I may be wrong.
    I do think that his work carries a lot of tension, which can easily spark very strong debates, or more, and it is probably that unease or fear (or I can even add ‘shame of being part of it all through some connection’), that pushes me away.
    Once again, I’m not objective about this, but will keep an eye on this post.

  • This exhibition looks really interesting. I think I understand what you mean Dewald, but will hold off commenting until I’ve seen the works and thought a bit more about it. In the meantime, for anyone interested, here is a useful and thought-provoking collection of articles on visual representations of ‘Africa. http://www.david-campbell.org/2011/02/28/the-back-catalogue-representing-africa/
    I think David Campbell’s blog is a really useful respouce for anyone with an interest in photojournalism generally. I don’t always agree with him, but what he writes is always stimulating and interesting.

    • Thanks for that link Eileen.
      The V+A are running some related events to accompany this exhibition.
      June 1’st an afternoon talk @ 13.15 with Tamar Garb, professor and curator, for an illustrated talk on the themes of the fascinating V&A exhibition Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photograph (Free)
      June 24’th – 25’th a conference entitled “Portrayal: The Ethics and Poetics of Photographic Depictions of People” which is described as about how contemporary South African photography has influenced multi-disciplinary fields. Speakers include Achille Mbembe, Elizabeth Edwards, Tamar Garb and artists Jo Ractliffe and Zwelethu Mthethwa.
      As an OCA student, I find such events helpful!

  • Am glad to see other parts of the world being represented and that the V+A are launching another major photographic exhibition.
    Photography maybe American but it is not entirely American! Other parts of the world are making significant contributions and reminding us that photography is democratic even if the art-world want us to see it otherwise!?

    • “Photography maybe American”
      I thought it was British? Or maybe French…
      Seriously, Paris Photo looks at different world photographies, I went a couple of years ago and it was Middle Eastern – really quite interesting as I’ve not really seen much from that area (noted – there was also some at Derby Format)

      • Rob
        Michael Freeman wrote a piece for the OCA about the Americaness of photography and I was referring to that.
        Could not help noting that while India’s most renowned photographer, Raghu Rai, was represented at the Derby Format Festival, his exhibition was held in Nottingham.
        Surely photography belongs to no nation but humanity as a whole! Hence its worth.

  • Brian, it’s mentoned at the end of teh post above (2nd July, starting at 11am, email the OCA at the address given above for a place).

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