David Goldblatt, renowned South African photographer, has died at the age of 87. 

Team leader (left) and mine captain (right) on a pedal car, Rustenburg Platinum Mine, Rustenburg, 1971

Born in Randfontein in 1930, Goldblatt began his photography career at 18, when he focused on the landscape and people of South Africa. Before long, he turned his lens to the apartheid regime, which is the subject matter he became known for. His unusual take on documenting apartheid was what set him apart.

‘I was very interested in the events that were taking place in the country as a citizen but, as a photographer, I’m not particularly interested, and I wasn’t then, in photographing the moment that something happens. I’m interested in the conditions that give rise to events.’ – David Goldblatt

His work produced during the apartheid era was most reflective of this and it offered a rare view into the reality of the brutal regime. His photographs shed light on the daily lives of those living under the harshest rule at the time and gave a face to the struggle.

A farmer’s son with his nursemaid, Heimweeberg, Nietverdiend, Western Transvaal. 1964
With half of his building destroyed under the apartheid regulation that had declared this suburb “White”, Hassimia Sahib, butcher, continued trading and refused to move until given the site he had selected in the declared “Asiatic” suburb to which he was to be consigned. Housing for Whites already occupied. Pageview, Johannesburg. 8 March 1986

Over the course of his 70 years of photography, he received countless awards and accolades, and his works hang in many esteemed museums across the world, including the South African National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Getty Museum. Among his long list of recognitions, Goldblatt received the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2009 and was honoured as Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France in 2016. Locally, most of his works are exhibited at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, whose team are among those that feel this loss the most. “A legend, a teacher, a national icon, and a man of absolute integrity has passed,” says Goodman’s Liza Essers. His death will be mourned across the world, as well as at home in South Africa.

Going home: Marabastad-Waterval route: for most of the people in this bus, the cycle will start again tomorrow at between 2 and 3 am. 1984

The legacy he leaves behind him will continue to shape the future of art and culture in South Africa and beyond. His Market Photography Workshop, set up in 1989, has helped establish many young South African photographers, and a digital archive of his work will be created in South Africa and made available to the public for free as part of an initiative named the Photographic Legacy Project.

We are told that David Goldblatt passed away peacefully in the early hours of the 25th of June in his home in Johannesburg. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren. We wish them long life and keep them in our thoughts.

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