In our first exhibition of the year – To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light – Goodman Gallery Johannesburg will present two new related bodies of work by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. In 1970, Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for the Polaroid Corporation, stumbled upon evidence that her multinational employees were indirectly supporting apartheid. With the collusion of local distributors Frank & Hirsch, Polaroid was able to provide the ID-2 camera system to the South African state, to efficiently produce images for the infamous passbooks. The camera included a boost button designed to increase the flash when photographing subjects with dark skin. Alongside her partner Ken Williams they formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement, and campaigned for a boycott. By 1977, Polaroid finally did withdraw from South Africa, and the international divestment movement – which eventually crippled apartheid – was on its way. The radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself is interrogated by the artists Broomberg and Chanarin in this presentation of new works produced on salvaged polaroid ID-2 systems.
Early colour film was known to be predicated on white skin and in 1977 when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he famously refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the film stock was inherently ‘racist’. The title of Broomberg and Chanarin’s exhibition was originally the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe the capabilities of a new film stock developed in the early ’80s to address the inability of their earlier films to accurately render dark skin. In response to a commission to ‘document’ Gabon, Broomberg and Chanarin recently made two trips to the country to photograph a series of rare Bwiti initiation rituals, using only Kodak film stock that had expired in the late 1970s. Working with outdated chemical processes they succeeded in salvaging just a single frame from the many expired colour rolls they exposed during their visit. In this wide-ranging meditation on the relationship between photography and race, the artists continue to scrutinise the photographic medium, leading viewers through a convoluted history lesson; a combination of found images, rescued artifacts and unstable new photographic works.
With special thanks to David Rosenberg, Josh Ponte and Caroline Hunter.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are artists living and working in London. Together they have published nine monographs and have had numerous international exhibitions including The Gwagnju Biennale, the Stedelijk Museum, the International Center of Photography, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, The Photographers Gallery and are currently showing at Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art. Broomberg and Chanarin teach at the Zurich University of the Arts and are Visiting Fellows at the University of the Arts London. Their work is represented in major public and private collections including Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Musee de l’Elysee and the International Center of Photography. They were recently shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013.
The Late Estate of Broomberg & Chanarin is the entity that holds the collaborative work of Adam Broomberg (b. 1970, Johannesburg, South Africa) and Oliver Chanarin (b. 1971, London, UK) made over a twenty year period.
In February 2021 the artists announced the death of their partnership on the occasion of their first posthumous retrospective at Fabra I Coats Contemporary Art Center, Barcelona, providing an opportunity to survey two decades of collaborative work.
Their acclaimed body of work considered themes of surveillance, warfare, and institutional authority. Having stood at the frontlines of war, Broomberg and Chanarin captured zones of conflict not as documentarians, but rather as unassuming witnesses. Their body of work resisted the allure of being purely representational imagery and instead considered how a photograph can capture more than just a visual encounter. Tackling politics,religion, war and history, Broomberg and Chanarin examined the fault lines associated with imagery, creating new responses and pathways towards an understanding of the human condition.
Major solo exhibition took place at the Centre Georges Pompidou (2018) and the Hasselblad Center (2017). Their participation in international group shows included the Yokohama Trienniale (2017), Documenta, Kassel (2017), The British Art Show 8 (2015-2017), Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern (2015); Shanghai Biennale (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); Tate Britain (2014), and the Gwanju Biennale (2012). Their work is held in major public and private collections including Pompidou, Tate, MoMA, Yale, Stedelijk, V&A, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Baltimore Museum of Art.
Major awards included the ICP Infinity Award (2014) for Holy Bible, and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2013) for War Primer 2. Broomberg and Chanarin are the winners of the Arles Photo Text Award 2018 for their paper back edition of War Primer 2, published by MACK.
Both Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin continue to work independently, they are professors of photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg and teach on the MA Photography & Society programme at The Royal Academy of Art (KABK),The Hague which they co-designed.