The great photographer and portraitist Bill Brandt said, simply: I think a good portrait ought to tell something of the subject’s past and suggest something of his future.
And Evelyn Hofer, who has been called ‘the most famous ‘unknown’ photographer in America’ said: In reality, all we photographers photograph is ourselves in the other… all the time.
These two statements, an ideal and an understanding, offer something approaching a ‘philosophy’ of portraiture to which I subscribe.
- David Goldblatt
In a solo exhibition at Goodman Gallery Cape, titled simply Portraits, photographer David Goldblatt brings together old and new portraits of South Africans taken over the course of his 50-year career. The exhibition includes several commissioned portraits of well-known South African figures never shown before, and a curated selection of photographs spanning the 1960s ‘70s and ‘80s.
Also on show is the series Ex-Offenders, recently shown at the 54th Venice Biennale, in which Goldblatt invites convicted and alleged criminals to revisit the scene of the crime of which they’ve been accused, and to be photographed there. “I wanted to burrow under the statistics,” says Goldblatt, “to meet some of the doers of crime, do portraits of them, and hear from them about their lives and what they had done.” Most of his subjects in the series were trying to go straight under very difficult circumstances, which is why Goldblatt refers to them not as criminals or offenders, but as ex-offenders.
David Goldblatt was born in 1930 in Randfontein, South Africa, and since the early 1960s he has devoted all of his time to photography. He has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the New Museum in New York, and the Fondation Henri-Cartier Bresson in Paris, among others. He was awarded the Hasselblad Award for Photography in 2006 and the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2009, and he is the 2010 Lucie Award Lifetime Achievement Honoree. His work is included in major international collections, including those of the Bibliotheque National de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the French National Art Collection. He has published several books of his work.
2010 Silver gelatin photograph on fibre-based paper
David Goldblatt (1930 – 2018) was born in Randfontein, a small mining town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. He began exploring the medium of photography after matriculating in 1948 but only formally made photography his profession after his father died in 1962 and the family business, a mining concession store, was sold. In the years that followed, while Goldblatt supported his family through photography commissions and magazine work, he produced more than ten major photographic series, documenting the people, landscapes and structures of South Africa.
In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop, a training institution in Johannesburg, for aspiring photographers. In 1998 he was the first South African to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2001, a retrospective of his work, David Goldblatt Fifty-One Years began a tour of galleries and museums. He was one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. He has held solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and the New Museum, both in New York. His work was included in the exhibition ILLUMInations at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, and has featured on shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Barbican Centre in London. In 2017, Goldblatt installed a series of portraits from his photographic essay Ex-Offenders in former prisons in Birmingham and Manchester. The portraits depict men and women, from South African and the UK, at the scene of their crimes, with accompanying texts that relate the subjects’ stories in their words. In the last year of his life, two major retrospectives were opened at Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The Goldblatt Archive is held by Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.
Goldblatt is the recipient of the 2006 Hasselblad award, the 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, the 2013 ICP Infinity Award and in 2016, he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.