David Goldblatt – A legend has fallen


The Market Theatre FoundationThe Market Theatre Foundation is saddened by the passing of David Goldblatt, legendary SA artist, photographer, activist and founder of the Market Photo Workshop.

In between the States of Emergency of 1985 to 1989, South African political activism and anti-apartheid struggle evolution was moving towards an open civil war as many more people saw no other option but to fight back. Township and rural communities experienced the most brutal effects of the apartheid regime during this period.

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David Goldblatt
David Goldblatt (Photo source: New York Review of Books)

These communities saw more local and international photographers entering, documenting and leaving with visual content of their lived daily experiences. Very few of these photographers were from within these communities, which resulted in major imbalances in terms of visual voices, diversity and representation. One could say that the Market Photo Workshop was born out of this turmoil to create a new kind of teaching and learning environment in support of diversifying and empowering local visual content production. The apartheid system made it impossible for black people to enter institutions of higher learning to study such technical disciplines as Photography, both through unjust racial segregation laws and high tuition fees.

Through David Goldblatt’s vision and energy over several years, together with some of his counterparts attached to the Market Photography Gallery at the Market Theatre – Carol Hacker and later Gillian Cargill, the Market Photo Workshop was established.

“The Photography Workshop wasn’t a sudden idea. It was a gradual process that took several years to take shape. A number of black people who came to the exhibitions at the Market Photography Gallery had asked where they might learn photography. That was the spark to a vague idea that had been germinating for some time. I started working on it and looking for funds in 1986….” said David Goldblatt.

David Goldblatt - © Siphosihle Mkhwanazi.
David Goldblatt – © Siphosihle Mkhwanazi.

It took Goldblatt just over 2 years to finally establish the Market Photo Workshop in 1989 as a school for photography that offered high-quality critical photography – Visual Literacy at most minimal cost. Almost three decades later, many photographers, artists and educators have contributed to the Market Photo Workshop being regarded as one of the most significant photography schools and photography project development spaces in Africa. The global photography industries and enthusiasts continue to be actively engaged by influential practitioners that lived through this space over the past 29 years. It also remains one of the most important visual literacy and visual culture spaces in South Africa, both in its photography curriculum and public engagement programming.

Up until his passing, David Goldblatt made time to interact with young photographers at the Market Photo Workshop through numerous critique sessions hosted by the school. His passion for mentoring young photographers is a memorable legacy.

“This is such sad news. David was such a nice man and such an ardent supporter throughout the years of the institution that he founded. I worked with him on the board for a long time and he was always so cooperative about anything to do with the MPW. He will be sorely missed”, said Penny Morris, the Market Theatre Foundation’s Fundraiser Manager.

Rest in Peace Mkhulu David Goldblatt. We appreciate your legacy and its flames shall be kept alive throughout time.

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