David Goldblatt, 1930–2018

David Goldblatt, 1930–2018


The photographer David Goldblatt, who documented the abuses of apartheid-era South Africa, has died aged 87, the Guardian reports. Goodman Gallery issued a statement on Monday to confirm that ‘He passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning at his home in Johannesburg’. Goldblatt is best known for his work that chronicled the racial divide of his home country, making the reality of apartheid-era South Africa more visible to the wider world through his photographs of exhausted miners, people travelling under racist laws that restricted their movements, as well as scenes of everyday interactions and incidents of prejudice.

Considered a national treasure and the first South African artist to present a solo exhibition at New York’s MoMA (1988), Goldblatt has been ‘credited with bringing a strong moral and ethical dimension to his work’. In 2011 he turned down the Order of Ikhamanga award, criticising the establishment of a Secrecy Bill which curtailed free speech and stating in a letter to President Jacob Zuma, ‘I decline the award in protest against what has been done to the spirit in which the award was created. South Africa’s rebirth was characterised by its march towards humanity, a new culture of human rights and a respect for human dignity. The government and the party which had passed the bill were in contempt of that spirit – which was the spirit in which the national orders were conceived. To accept the Order of Ikhamanga from you... would be to endorse your contempt. I refuse to do that and, very sadly, I decline the honour.’

Goldblatt took up photography at the age of 18, the same year apartheid was enforced and since then worked almost entirely in black and white to produce photographs that reflected on the trauma caused by South Africa’s racial divide. 

26 June 2018