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 (1930 – 2018) was born in Randfontein, a small mining town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Through his lens, South African he chronicled the people, structures and landscapes of his country from 1948, through the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism, the apartheid regime and into the democratic era – until his death in June, 2018. In particular, Goldblatt documented the people, landscapes and industry of the Witwatersrand, the resource-rich area in which he grew up and lived, where the local economy was based chiefly on mining. In general, Goldblatt’s subject matter spanned the whole of the country geographically and politically from sweeping landscapes of the Karoo desert, to the arduous commutes of migrant black workers, forced to live in racially segregated areas. His broadest series, which spans six decades of photography, examines how South Africans have expressed their values through the structures, physical and ideological, that they have built.
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.Download full CV