The Getty Museum has acquired eight photographs by David Goldblatt (b. 1930), one of South Africa’s most important photographers. His candid photographs of racially divided neighborhoods and cities during apartheid are enduring historical documents, influencing a generation of photographers through images that provide a clear vision of the social and economic dichotomies that shaped South Africa under apartheid and continue to shape it today.
The eight gelatin silver prints the Museum acquired represent some of Goldblatt’s earliest and best-known projects from the 1960s to the 1980s, and all have been in his personal collection since they were created. They focus on poor communities in Johannesburg and Soweto and affluent towns such as Boksburg. A bridal party, mining employees, a Methodist congregation, and leisure pursuits of the middle class are among his subjects.
Goldblatt began working in photography in 1948, the same year the National Party came to power in South Africa, bringing with it sweeping laws that created the apartheid state. Avoiding the sensational and violent scenes that often found their way into international media, Goldblatt’s photographs documented everyday occurrences in black and white communities, revealing the banalities of a complex and unjust society. An example is the following image, which features Saturday afternoon lawn work in Sunward Park, a prosperous neighborhood in Boksburg.
This acquisition was made with funds provided by the Getty Museum’s Photographs Council. Founded in 2005, the Photographs Council is a dynamic group of supporters who actively assist in the expansion of the Museum’s collection.
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